It might not be wise of you to tell Louis Vecchio what he can and can’t do.
After all, have you seen the guy?
The senior defensive end is listed at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, but those numbers pale in comparison to the presence he commands. Vecchio is possibly the most talented player on the Penn football team, and he’s not thrilled about the way outsiders have been talking about him and his squad.
“We’re not worried about how the league views us,” Vecchio said. “Ever since I’ve been here we’ve always been projected low in the polls and I don’t think that affects us at all. We know what our goals are.”
That goal has been met – at least in part – in each of the last two seasons. The Quakers have two straight co-Ivy League titles thanks in large part to a dependable defense with Vecchio on the front line. But with former QB Alek Torgersen now in the NFL, the defense will have to step up as an even more dominant unit.
“I think the defense has to raise their game. We have to get better. Our goal is to become a dominant presence in the Ivy League and continue the improvement we’ve made in the last two years,” defensive coordinator Bob Benson said.
That defense returns eight of last year’s starters, five All-Ivy selections, and seventeen letter winners. The unit retains core leadership at each position, with Vecchio on the line, last year’s leading tackler Colton Moskal at linebacker, and second team All-Ivy selection Sam Philippi leading the defensive backs.
Benson was also quick to mention linebackers Nick Miller and Connor Jangro as players to watch as the season progresses.
Graduation, however, claims a never-ending supply of star athletes in college sports. The Quakers were lucky to only graduate two of last season’s starters, but it’s the transfer that hurts the most. Penn lost an emerging star cornerback Mason Williams to Duke when he decided to transfer this summer. Williams led the Ivy League in interceptions in 2016 and provided the Quakers with a game-breaking shutdown corner. Instead, the Quakers have a hole to fill.
“I think you got a really good group competing [for William’s spot],” Benson said. “Eric Marx, who missed his freshman year due to injury; he and [Connor] O’Brian are excellent, excellent football players. We feel real good about it.”
Benson also mentioned freshman Jared Noble as a candidate to fill in alongside mainstay Jyron Walker at corner.
In terms of superstar potential, Louis Vecchio has an opportunity to expand on his First Team All-Ivy selection last season. One of the two captains of the 2017 team (along with wide receiver Justin Watson), Vecchio leads the defense in more ways than his sack total.
“I think you couldn’t come up with two better captains. Those are wonderful men and tremendous student-athletes. I think [Vecchio’s] leadership is key,” Benson noted. “Vecchio might be the best player in the Ivy League. One, he might be the best defensive lineman, and he might be the best overall player in the league.”
With the amount of veteran experience and depth at essentially all 11 spots on defense, the leadership and skill of Vecchio, and the rookies waiting in the wings, the Quakers are poised to wreak havoc on the offenses in the Ivy League. This defense is entirely capable of carrying Penn football to another Ivy title.
And they won’t let a preseason poll tell them otherwise.
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