One of the worst things a quarterback can do is spend too much time trying to make a decision in the pocket. With the weapons at the disposal of Penn football’s Alek Torgersen, there’s undoubtedly a heightened risk of that pitfall.
Of course, most of that conversation revolves around star receiver Justin Watson. But to only focus on him would overlook some of the most interesting weapons flyingunder the radar in the Quakers’ air raid.
“The guys at the top can’t slip up,” senior wide out Adam Strouss said. “There’s somebody chomping at the bit, trying to take those reps. I think that one of the strengths of our receiving corps is our depth.”
Some may remember Strouss as an underclassman quarterback who lined up primarily in rushing schemes — logging a pair of two-touchdown games in the process.
During his freshman spring, he started getting more and more time as a scout team wide receiver. Eventually he found himself lining up wide as a target for Torgersen, appearing in all 10 games in 2015. Against Fordham last Saturday, he made his way into the starting lineup.
“I kind of always wanted to play receiver,” he said. ”It was an interesting position to me. I never had a quarterback that I wanted to run routes for — until I got to Torg, obviously.”
Strouss is not the only converted quarterback out wide for the Quakers.
Cam Countryman could have called it quits after last year. He would have been able to bookend his career with Ivy titles as a freshman and senior. But that wasn’t enough.
Now, he’s back for a fifth year as one of the team’s three captains, ready for one last run at a ring.
“I knew how much enjoyment this game brings to me, how much these guys mean to me,” he said. “So to have the opportunity to come back and play and feel that camaraderie and just the brotherhood that we get every day from this game, there was no doubt that I wanted to do that.”
Countryman brings unique experience to the team. Like Strouss, he was once a quarterback, but Countryman made the transition to wide out before embarking upon his Penn career. After missing the large part of his junior season, Countryman elected to stick around for an extra season — and was named one of the team’s three captains heading into the year.
“Cam’s a great leader,” sophomore wide out Christian Pearson said. “He was my big brother, actually, on my official visit. He’s always been there for me, always showing me the ropes. It’s great to have him back for a fifth year.”
It is Pearson who makes up the third part of Penn coach Ray Priore’s not-so-secret triumvirate.
He showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman last year — including back-to-back 100-yard performances against Columbia and Yale — and is now tasked with avoiding the classic sophomore slump.
The three receivers have kept quiet through two games — though Penn’s passing attack has also been relatively limited. Nonetheless, they represent some of the first options Priore eyes when the game is on the line. That’s why it was Strouss lined up for the snap in the Wildcat as Penn faced a goal-line situation in a tight game against Fordham.
But that calm does not necessarily reflect what is yet to come. Each receiver has posted career games in Ivy play in the past. They’ll be the weapons to watch out for while defenses pay attention to the now-famous Torgersen-Watson combination.
They seem to each go off in turn. When one has the hot hand, opposing defenses must pay him mind — at which point another rises up to take his place. Regardless of who Priore throws out there, the objective remains constant.
“Obviously we want that Ivy title,” Pearson said. “All out this time, none of that tie.”
Heading into Dartmouth this weekend, someone will need to need to take over if the Red and Blue hope to knock off the undefeated Big Green.
Thankfully, they have options.
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