The FBS season may be underway, but for the Ivy League, we have yet to kick off. With the Quakers’ first test coming Sept. 17 against Lehigh, precious time remains for players to prove themselves in training down at Franklin Field to earn themselves a favored spot on coach Ray Priore’s roster.
While certain roles may have been locked up for a while by Red and Blue veterans, position battles wage on for those guys looking to find some decent minutes for the title defense of this 2016 season.
No questions here. After being named first team All-Ivy last year, Alek Torgersen will be under center for his farewell season at Penn. His progression has really accelerated as of late, boasting 69.1 percent pass completion last year, good enough for best in the Ivies and fourth across the nation. In addition to excelling in the pocket, Torgersen scrambled for 320 yards and six touchdowns, one against Dartmouth resulting in an early exit. Should anything happen to Torgersen, junior Will Fischer-Colbrie should be at the ready, but he has yet to see any varsity action, so there are no second thoughts about a position battle here.
Things are a bit murky on this one, but there are solid options to choose from. Junior Tre Solomon and senior Brian Schoenauer both posted excellent production last year, rushing for 453 and 652 yards respectively. While both got in all 10 games, Schoenauer claimed the second most yards per game in the Ivies while Solomon was fifth in that category. Both saw plenty of action, so perhaps the differentiating factor is that Solomon can double as a short range target, hauling in 12 catches for 82 yards and two scores. Look out for Schoenauer to claim the number one spot in his final season while Solomon will look to return to his pinnacle a full year removed from his season-ending ACL tear in 2014.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
After a phenomenal year, junior Justin Watson is sure to still be the team’s top target. The unanimous first team All-Ivy receiver put up numbers worthy of leading the Ivy League in receptions (74), receiving yards (1,082) and receiving touchdowns (nine), so he’ll be looking to somehow improve on that. Also, Cam Countryman is back as a fifth-year senior and should build on his 25 receptions for 239 yards from 2015, perhaps looking to boost those numbers by getting time as kick returner. As far as tight end, this one could be up for grabs. After graduating Ryan O’Malley and Ryan Kelly, it’s time for a fresh face to step up, perhaps the likes of juniors Jonathan Lilley and Nick Rittenhouse or sophomore Logan Sharp. Lilley walked on to the team after playing sprint football in 2014 and 2015, so look out for a surprise here.
The veterans here should show off their experience. 280-pound senior Nick Demes, who played in all 10 games last year and earned himself All-Ivy honorable mention, will help lead the line again. Stepping up at right guard should be senior Nick Whitton, who contributed to Torgersen’s line in eight games last year. Perhaps the six-foot-five fellow senior William Bishop can increase his workload from five games this time around. The squad certainly put in a shift last year contributing to the Ivy League’s second-best rushing attack (169.2 yds/gm) while only allowing 12 sacks.
Things are mostly settled down here. Senior Corey Power will continue to make an impact, as he did with 16 tackles in 10 games in 2015 along with three pass breakups. Another playmaker will be Tayler Hendrickson, who racked up four sacks and 20 tackles during his eight games this past season. With defensive leader Dan Connaughton graduating, there may be room for guys like junior Lukas Sontich or sophomore Cooper Gardner to make more of an impact this time around.
Some old and new faces will be backing up the D-line this season. Senior and 2015 honorable mention All-Ivy player Donald Panciello will aim to improve upon truly impressive season recording 61 tackles along with a fumble recovery, a blocked kick and a touchdown. Another key will be the success of Colton Moskal, who finished nine games with 44 tackles, including 11 against Lehigh in his first season last year after transferring from Syracuse. Look for outside linebacker Nico Ament to get more action after a bright freshman campaign with nine tackles in five games.
We’ll see a bit of mixing-and-matching in the secondary for Penn this time around, as the Quakers return three starters in Mason Williams, Jyron Walker and Sam Philippi. Expect the 6-foot-3 junior Ephraim Lee to improve upon his 11 tackles in eight games, including one tackle for a loss. In his final year, maybe Alex Moore will prove himself worthy of more time than the six games he was given last year where he totaled five tackles. Lastly, the sophomore Justin Morrison will look to break into the starting squad after a debut of five games with eight tackles and a forced fumble.
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