Over the course of four seasons with Penn football, Joey Grosso left his mark on Franklin Field. Now, less than a month after the 2013 College graduate and former Red and Blue linebacker’s death, the Quakers have crafted a plan to honor the recent graduate’s memory.
At the team’s media day on Monday, Penn revealed that no player will wear Grosso’s former number 11 jersey in 2014.
Since 2011, the linebacker was one of several Quakers to share a number with a teammate; Grosso and now-senior quarterback Patton Chillura both wore the number 11 jersey for the Red and Blue.
But after Grosso died as the result of a diving accident off the coast of Florida in late July, Chillura opted to switch jersey numbers — he will now wear number 12 — while the Quakers elected to keep the number off the field to remember the two-time Ivy League champion.
The decision to move forward in 2014 without the number 11 jersey on the field was one of several notable announcements to come out of Penn’s media day.
While speaking to reporters, coach Al Bagnoli — who will retire at the end of the upcoming season — confirmed that sophomore quarterback Alek Torgersen will start the Red and Blue’s season opener against Jacksonville on Sept. 20. The Huntington Beach, Calif., native has seen limited action in his Penn career. In his only appearance, which came in the season finale against Cornell in 2013, he completed six of 10 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns.
“Alek Torgersen is our number one guy, and Patton Chillura is our number two guy,” Bagnoli said. “Alek has a world of ability and it was a nice two-man competition, but if we had to start our season tomorrow, we’d go with Alek backed up by Patton.”
Unlike in previous years, Bagnoli does not expect to consistently utilize a two-quarterback system.
“If you look back to recent history, we had to protect ourselves in the event that a running quarterback got hurt,” Bagnoli said. “That’s what really got us into a two-quarterback system. If your number one quarterback is going to carry the ball 15 or 20 times per game, you need to treat him like a tailback.
“This is a little bit different — our quarterbacks are going to be asked to run, but not as much as we relied on Billy [Ragone] to run last year.”
On the other side of the ball, senior defensive lineman Jimmy Wagner will not be on the field this season. Defensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting Ray Priore ruled the veteran tackle out for the season due to a shoulder injury.
It will be difficult for the Red and Blue to replace the Wagner’s production this year. The Victor, N.Y., native started all 10 games for Penn in 2013, recording 16 tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks.
In addition to Chillura’s change, several other key Quakers will also be sporting different numbers this season. Torgersen, like Ragone before him, will wear number 10 as he attempts to bring the Red and Blue back to the top of the Ancient Eight.
Junior wide receiver Cam Countryman — who wore number 3 as a freshman before switching to 13 following then-senior quarterback Ryan Becker’s return from injury last season — will again sport number 3 in 2014.
Senior Spencer Kulcsar, the team’s second-leading rusher in 2013, has shifted from running back to wide receiver and will now wear number 18. Along with Countryman, Kulcsar will attempt to fill the void left by wide receiver Ryan Mitchell, who graduated in May.
Perhaps the biggest news of the weekend, though, came from the revelation of the team’s new fourth jersey — grey duds with blue numerals.
A video capturing the Red and Blue’s reaction to the uniform reveal went viral earlier this week, and the Quakers took a team photo before the media day began while wearing the new jerseys.
“They’re awesome, they’re clean and I hope we wear them a lot,” Kulcsar said. “I love them, they’re sick.”