The sun was shining down on Franklin Field on Sunday afternoon for Penn football’s annual intersquad spring game. Unlike most traditional Division I spring games, the Quakers don’t keep score, but rather simulate realistic in-game situations with full contact and referees.
The game marks the culmination of spring practice and gives the coaching staff one final look at the team in pads until preseason begins in August.
“You look for consistency in the team, and that’s really hard as you’re going through just twelve practices,” coach Ray Priore said. “We saw both the offense have success and the defense have success. Good consistency across the board.”
Of course, the focus today was on the quarterback position. The biggest question entering the 2017 season will be who takes over for graduating senior Alek Torgersen.
Freshman Tyler Herrick and junior Will Fischer-Colbrie both took snaps today. But Priore wouldn’t name a frontrunner for who secured the upper hand entering the summer.
“Right now it’s still open game,” Priore explained. “I think anytime you have a transition at the quarterback position we’re not gonna make those decisions until we’re into camp. Guys have worked really hard going through the spring, have showed great promise, understanding what we do offensively, which is the most important part.”
While the transition will undoubtedly be difficult given Torgersen’s pedigree as a potential NFL quarterback, junior wide receiver Justin Watson spoke highly of the two new potential gunslingers.
“It’s a little bit different, but we’ve been doing it all offseason so I think at this point we’re kinda getting used to it,” Watson said. “Will and Tyler have both done a really good job of being leaders.”
Building chemistry between the receiving corps and the new quarterbacks will be key to continuing the Red and Blue’s recent track record of success, which includes two consecutive seasons that ended with shares of the Ivy title.
“It’s a repetition thing and we’ve really noticed that we have a lot of guys staying after practice throwing after balls, getting in here on our days off,” Watson said. “You can tell we’ve gotten a lot better from practice one to two, two to three and all the way to practice twelve.”
But, while there’s no early indication of who will take the reigns under center in the fall, many other players stood out on Sunday.
One position group where there will be a lot of holes to plug next season is the offensive line. But, Priore and Watson were both excited by what they saw from the young potential starters.
Additionally, three freshmen: tight end Matt Norton, defensive lineman Taheeb Sonekan and especially running back Abe Willows caught the eyes of coach Priore. Willows took a significant amount of snaps during the spring game and also drew the attention of Watson.
Watson, of course, will be entering the final season of what has already been an illustrious career. He is a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year finalist and has two conference titles to his name. This season, as the undisputed number one wideout, he will have the opportunity to show off in front of NFL scouts much like Torgersen did in 2016. However, Watson will be focusing on winning another title, not his potential professional career.
“[Torgersen’s] advice was ‘the best thing you can do is win a championship.’ So that’s what we’re focused on,” Watson recalled the senior saying to him.
After a three-way tie in 2015 and a traditional tie last season with Princeton, the Quakers will be focused on securing sole possession this time around.
“We’re tired of sharing,” Watson said. “The goal is not just a championship this year. The goal is outright championship.”
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