Roundtable: Reflections from Penn football Media Day

Penn’s four captains — Evan Jackson, Mitchell King, Conner Scott, and Dan Davis — will be heavily relied upon for leadership in Al Bagnoli’s last season as head coach. They were a significant point of attention at media day on Monday.

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The specter of coach Al Bagnoli’s impending retirement is certainly hanging over Penn football. But at this Monday’s Penn football media day, there were more than enough other talking points. Here are the key takeaways our sports editors gleaned from the day’s proceedings.

Sports Editor Colin Henderson: A lot of attention has been focused off the field with coach Al Bagnoli’s retirement, but there’s plenty to be excited about for the team on the field as well.

The secondary — and defense as a whole — had a subpar year last year, finishing fifth in the league in passing yards allowed, and both coaches and players readily admitted that. But with key veterans returning on the back seven, including fifth-year senior cornerback Dan Wilk and 2013 first-team All-Ivy linebacker Dan Davis, Penn’s defense should be a force this year. What in particular caught your ear, Steven?

Senior Sports Editor Steven Tydings: Things seemed to be business as usual for the Red and Blue, at least as far as coaching was concerned. Neither coach Bagnoli nor head-coach-in-waiting Ray Priore seemed to have lost any focus for a second when it comes to the upcoming season. Other than Priore gaining a little more input on recruiting matters, both coaches are rearing and ready to go for 2014 in their current roles.

I was more interested in a few odds and ends coming from Bagnoli. It seems that Penn will move away from the two-quarterback system it’s used for the last two years since Alek Torgersen is more of a pocket passer than Billy Ragone was, making him less of an injury risk. And with that in mind, the Quakers moved sophomore Adam Strouss from quarterback to wide receiver, which utilizes his athleticism while still allowing him the occasional play in the wildcat formation.

Sports Editor Holden McGinnis: While I can see how things seemed like business as usual for the Quakers, there was plenty of change to be found if you looked in the right places. Strouss wasn’t the only player to make a positional change, as senior Spencer Kulcsar, formerly a running back, made the shift to wide receiver as well. Adding those two to a large wealth of returning receivers, like Conner Scott and Cam Countryman, will provide Torgersen with plenty of weapons in his first season under center.

But when it comes to the most interesting positional change for the Quakers, it’s got to be former defensive lineman Tanner Thexton, who finds himself on the other side of the line of scrimmage as a likely-starting offensive lineman for the Quakers. It’ll be interesting to see how the shifts pan out for the Quakers, but at the very least it adds a new layer of excitement to the upcoming season.

Sports Editor Ian Wenik: I think I’m more interested in what’s staying the same than what’s changing. We’re still going to see the same defensive scheme as usual with virtually the entire back seven returning, which leads to a lot of eight-in-the box formations as safety Evan Jackson steps up to act as a run stopper.

And on offense, you’re still going to see an emphasis on power running plays, regardless of whoever ends up starting on the brand-new offensive line. A sweep with halfback Kyle Wilcox carrying the ball is deadly in any scenario. The presence of a stable ground attack is going to make life easier for Torgersen, who won’t be forced into too many imposing third-and-long scenarios.



Brandon Copeland survives NFL roster cut

Former Penn captain Brandon Copeland will fight for a roster spot with the Tennessee Titans in a preseason game on Aug. 28.

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Former Penn defensive lineman Brandon Copeland has survived another round of NFL preseason cuts, finding himself on the Tennessee Titans’ 75-man roster.

In his career with the Red and Blue, Copeland recorded 160 total tackles in 39 games played and was a first-team All-Ivy performer in three separate seasons. In his senior year in 2012, he served as captain of the Ivy champion Quakers and earned Ivy Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Since graduation, Copeland has lost weight and transitioned to linebacker. After signing as an undrafted free agent and having a cup of coffee with the Baltimore Ravens, he spent time last year playing on the Titans’ practice squad.

Copeland will have a chance to play for a roster spot in a preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on Aug. 28 before the final 22 cuts are made this Saturday.



Roundtable: what Penn fall sport are you excited to watch?

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With the 2014 fall season ready to go for Penn’s various sports teams, it is time to get excited. What is getting our sports editors most excited (and should get you excited as well)? Let’s take a look, shall we?

Senior Sports Editor Steven Tydings: OK, to start off, I’m not going to let anyone choose watching Al Bagnoli’s final season. That’s because we are all excited to watch it. It doesn’t need any emphasis.

For my non-Bagnoli pick, I’m going to go with the other end of the Penn football spectrum and the development of Alek Torgersen. While the Bagnoli era comes to an end, the time of Torgersen has just begun. With Bagnoli referring to Torgersen as a “diamond in the rough,” my interest is certainly peaked. How about you Holden?

Sports Editor Holden McGinnis: Well Steven, it’ll certainly be interesting to see what Torgersen can produce and whether or not Penn football can deliver an Ivy title for Bagnoli in his final year.

But I think the attention should shift back across the bridge to Rhodes Field, where a certain team is practicing an entirely different form of football (oh, wait, we call it soccer). Last season we saw the men’s soccer team rebound entirely from a 1-6 Ivy record in 2012 to claim the Ivy League title. Though they graduated a strong senior class, much of the core remains the same and it’ll be interesting to see if they can put the pieces together again. Colin, any thoughts?

Sports Editor Colin Henderson: There’s no doubt about it — football and soccer will get the majority of the attention this fall season. Of course, I can’t help but be somewhat excited by the prospect of Penn football’s defense being led in part by my fellow Nazareth Area High School graduate,senior Dan Wilk.

But ultimately, nothing gets me more excited than the men’s cross country team’s chances. With a legitimate Ivy star in Thomas Awad and a strong supporting cast, it looks like the Quakers are finally ready to make it over the hump and challenge for an Ivy League title. What do you think Ian? You have the final word.

Sports Editor Ian Wenik: I’ve been very excited to see the cross country team grow and develop since I first started interviewing former coach Blake Boldon back in my freshman year. I personally think that Princeton has amassed enough talent to hold off any challenge from the Quakers, but I fully expect to see Penn pick up a top-four finish at Heps this year.

I’m gonna have my eyes on field hockey, for different reasons. I’m curious as to whether or not coach Colleen Fink can rally the remaining troops after losing so many key contributors to transfers and other reasons. The program grew so much last year that it would be disheartening to see it take a step back.



Princeton tops Ivy League Preseason Media Poll, Penn fourth

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Ivy League football is just around the corner.

Princeton was picked to finish first in the Ivy League Preseason Media Poll, getting nine first place votes while Harvard was picked to finish second, just one point behind with eight first place votes.

Dartmouth placed third with 91 points while Penn, heading into Al Bagnoli's last season, was picked to finish in fourth with 79 points in the poll.

Yale, Brown, Cornell and Columbia rounded out the poll in that order.

Penn returns some significant leadership at its skill positions, with returning starters at running back, receiver, tight end and all along the defense. However, the team has a lack of experience at quarterback and the offensive line, which will be a major focus early in the season.

The Ivy League also announced some rule changes for safety reasons. As long as the quarterback is in a 'passing posture,' he is not allowed to be hit below the knee. A hit of that sort will result in a 15 yard penalty.

Among more minor changes, officials will also more fully enforce rules about coaches and players on the bench staying out of the playing area while the game is going on.

Here's the full Media Poll

1. Princeton (9) 128 2. Harvard (8) 127 3. Dartmouth 91 4. Penn 79 5. Yale 68 6. Brown 65 7. Cornell 34 8. Columbia 20

The Ancient Eight is conducting its preseason media teleconference today and we will have more after the call is over.

 



Class of 2015 PG Jake Silpe commits to Penn basketball

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Have no fear Penn basketball, the class of 2015 will soon be here.

Coach Jerome Allen added another solid piece to his current crop of rising high school seniors, securing a commitment from Cherry Hill East High School (N.J.) point guard Jake Silpe, according to Silpe’s twitter account.

Silpe tweeted on Wednesday afternoon that he had committed to Penn and would be in Wharton.

City of Basketball Love described the 6-foot-2 point guard as “everything you want in a point guard.” While COBL touts his passing ability, The Recruit Scoop also thinks highly of his shooting ability.

Silpe was recruited by most of the schools in the Ivy and Patriot League, but Allen and his staff had some help in getting the highly sought-after guard: Penn commit and AAU teammate Jule Brown.

Brown, who was the second of five recruits in the class of 2015, said as soon as he committed that he would try and convince Silpe to join him at Penn and it appears to have worked.

While Brown, a small forward from Lower Merion High School (Pa.), is considered one of the stronger pieces in the class, Silpe makes the class look even better, joining sharp-shooting guard Jackson Donahue and 6-foot-11 forward Collin McManus, both from Northfield Mount Herman (Mass.). Hebrew Academy (Fla.) guard Morris Esformes was Penn’s first commit in the class.

Allen’s new class may not be the ‘Fab Five’ but they certainly seem like a marked improvement over prior classes, displaying the staff’s ability to compete for top recruits within an improving Ivy League.

The Quakers are coming off a disappointing 8-20 season, the team’s second straight year with single-digit victories. The team loses five graduating seniors while three underclassmen left the program, leaving just nine returning letterwinners.



Miles Cartwright signs with Dutch basketball team

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2014 Penn graduate guard Mile Cartwright has signed with Dutch basketball team Aris Leeuwarden, according to his instagram account earlier today.

The news was later made official from the team's website.  The press release (as translated to English) refers to Cartwright's smart play and defensive skills as key reasons for his addition to the roster.

The team is (as the name would suggest) based in the city of Leeuwarden, which is situated in the northern part of the Netherlands.  Founded in 2004, the team is one of the most recent additions to the nine-team Dutch Basketball League.

Earlier in the summer, the Daily Pennsylvanian talked to Cartwright about his plans to play abroad. At the time, Cartwright stated an interest in finding somewhere to play in Western Europe and his recent signing certainly fits that mold.

Cartwright had a successful career as a Quaker, averaging 11.9 points per game and serving as a four-year starter on the wing.



Q&A with former men's hoops assistant Jason Polykoff

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Daily Pennsylvanian: How would you describe your time on the Penn coaching staff and how that helped you develop as a coach?

Jason Polykoff: It’s hard to say in a few lines all the things that I think I learned from coach Allen and the rest of the coaching staff. As far as tangible items, I could go on and on, but at the end of the day, it was just an invaluable experience to get to coach at a Division-I school in my home town and an Ivy League school with such history. It’s an experience that I would never have passed up in a million years. Even though we didn’t see a ton of success on the scoreboard — because I get that question a lot, would you still have done it? I was fortunate enough to have some success in [the] high school [level]. I say every time in a heartbeat. I would not have passed up that experience for anything.

DP: What was the reasoning behind your move to Earlham?

JP: It was a couple reasons. One, you can only remain an unpaid volunteer assistant for so long. That was part of it, but not at all the biggest reason. I played Division-III basketball and I have a strong connection with the Division-III philosophy. I wouldn’t say it was the ultimate goal when I came to Penn, but it developed into a goal of mine to become a Division-III head coach. Of course, I wanted to run my own program again like I had in high school and this opportunity came about and it presented itself. I applied for it and I got it so I was really excited.

DP: Did any of the events surrounding the team around the time of your departure involving Tony Bagtas, Julian Harrell and Henry Brooks have anything to do with your decision?

JP: No, that was separate.

DP: What was the reaction from the rest of the coaching staff when you told them you were moving on?

JP: They were thrilled for me. I told them a little bit after the season ended that I was interested in becoming a Division-III head coach and they fully supported me in my decision. Coach Allen made a phone call for me to Earlham and said some great things that I can only assume helped my position to get the job. They’re still helpful, still recommending players to me and making connections for me. They were great. Again, it was a win-win because it gave Mike [Lintulahti] an opportunity to step into a role with a little bit more responsibility and a role that we think he’s going to be great in.

DP: What was it like working with Jerome Allen as part of that new staff of assistants he brought in?

JP: It was fantastic. I knew coach Allen before because I coached his son and taught his daughter at Friends’ Central. So I knew him in more of a non-professional setting, so getting an opportunity to coach – as he would say with him, not for him -with him was great. From an Xs and Os stand-point, I learned more than I think I had in the previous six years coaching high school basketball in the two years I was there. He’s a really good person and he really just wants what’s best for the guys at the end of the day. I learned a whole lot.

DP: What’s your relationship like with Coach Pera and Coach Bowman since you went through that same experience together?

JP: I still talk to them every week, if not every other week. Coach Pera keep in contact and see how things are going down in Houston with him at Rice. Coach Bowman and I; he’s still sending me players that might not be good enough for Penn, but might be good enough for Earlham. Checking in on me and all that. I still maintain a really good relationship with those guys.

DP: As we both know, Penn has struggled a lot in the past few years. What do you think about the direction of the Penn program moving forward?

JP: I’ll be honest with you, the one thing that... While I’m really excited about Earlham and taking over the program here, the one thing that I knew I was going to miss and that I know I’m going to regret is the season that they’re about to have. Everything is just falling into place. I think the players that are coming back combined with the players who are coming in is the exact fit and the exact kind of culture that they’re trying to create. These are the guys for it. I really do think they’re going to surprise a lot of people. There’s some people, coming into this season, with a negative outlook or two on Penn basketball because it’s been down the past few years. I really do think this is going to be a great group of guys who are moving in the right direction. I’m going to be upset when I wasn’t there for the ride when they’re on their way to an Ivy League championship. I’m going to be upset that I missed it, but I’m going to be cheering for them every day.

DP: Since you’re now moving away from coaching in the Ivies, what do you think of the balance of power the past few seasons? What do you think Harvard has done the past few years to take that next step forward?

JP: It’s the ebbs and flows of the Ivy League. At one point it was Cornell, for the longest point it was Penn and Princeton. It’s just what’s the flavor of the week, I guess you could say. Right now it’s Harvard, but in my eyes it’s only a matter of time before it’s someone else, and I think it’s going to be Penn. I’m a little biased, but I think it’s going to be Penn. Credit to them and obviously to coach Amaker for what they’ve been able to accomplish, but I truly believe that every program has their time and this has been Harvard’s time.



Valenti falls in SMOY quarterfinals

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It’s been a few years since Matt Valenti’s been in a wrestling tournament, though he’s had plenty of success in them in the past.

But this time it’s a different kind of tournament, one where Valenti’s NCAA Tournament experience – he’s a two-time NCAA champion and three-time All-American – won’t necessarily help him.

Matt Valenti, Penn alumnus and current assistant wrestling coach, advanced to the quarterfinals of voting for the Elite Level Sport Marketing/National Wrestling Coaches Association Social Media Assistant Coach of the Year (SMOY) award.

Valenti ultimately fell short in the quarterfinals to Danny Irwin of Wabash College 1225-1170.

The SMOY award was created during the 2012-2013 season to honor those who make the best use of social media to increase the recognition of their program. The award has categories for head coach, assistant coach and athlete.

In each award category, there is a five round bracket to decide who will be the voter’s champion. While this distinction doesn’t definitively earn one the SMOY award, the efforts shown during the voting process certainly help the case.

Valenti faced tough local competition in the first round as he was matched up against a fellow Philadelphian in Drexel’s Frank Cimato.

However, thanks to avid campaigning and the twitter support of Penn Wrestling and associate director of athletic communications Chas Dorman, Valenti prevailed 425-338.

With the success of the #VoteValenti campaign in day one, Valenti progressed into a round two matchup with 5th-seeded Garett Kiley of Wayland Baptist University.

The two-time NCAA champ came through once again, tallying the second-most votes of the round with 1078. Valenti’s 1078 easily toppled the 900 votes for Kiley, allowing him to advance to the quarterfinals.

Among the best Valenti-related tweets of the first two rounds were references to Valenti being an “ambi-turner and ridiculously good looking” (Zoolander) and the similarity of his face to one of the aliens in Men in Black.



Penn's Matt Valenti in running for Social Media of the Year award

Penn assistant wrestling coach Matt Valenti has been selected for a bracket to decide the winner of the Social Media of the Year award in the assistant coach category.

https://twitter.com/PennWrestling/status/486180742326939648

Valenti is a Penn alumnus and won the NCAA tournament in the 133 pound weight class in both 2006 and 2007.  His 137 collegiate victories mark the highest total in Penn Wrestling history.

Valenti was brought in as an assistant coach for the team in 2009 and has since coached four NCAA All-Americans, 11 EIWA finalists and two EIWA champions.

Valenti is up against Drexel's Frank Cimato in the first round.  Voting for the first round continues until 9 pm on Monday, while the second round will take place on Tuesday, July 8th.

Vote here: http://www.elitelevelsportmarketing.com/#!smoy-awards-assistant-coach/cndb



Q&A with 2014 Penn basketball recruit Dan Dwyer

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Though he won’t hit campus for another few months forward Dan Dwyer is certain to fit into Penn basketball’s plans for 2014 with his floor-spacing shooting. The Daily Pennsylvanian caught up with Dwyer to talk about his recruiting experience, playing style and role within the future of Penn basketball.

Daily Pennyslvanian: What sort of school were you looking for during your recruitment and how did Penn fit that mold?

Dan Dwyer: Throughout my recruitment, I was looking for a good combination of academics and basketball. That’s what I was looking for mostly. My coach was telling me to pick a school that you would love to go to even if you weren’t playing basketball and I felt that with Penn also.

DP: Was there anything during your visits with Penn that led you to commit?

DD: I really loved the coaches when I went there and the city was really cool too. I loved the campus and the coaching staff and meeting all the players.

DP: Were there any coaches in particular who helped lead you to Penn?

DD: Coach Bowman. He came out before the season and then he came out to a couple games and coach Allen came to a game or two at the end of the year. They were watching my games online also.

DP: What was it about those coaches that spoke to you during the recruitment process?

DD: I liked how they were just very encouraging. They had me keep working on stuff. Before the season, I talked to coach Bowman about some stuff and he wanted to see some improvements and they thought I made some adjustments during the year.

DP: What has the coaching staff said to you about your role on the team this year?

DD: I’ve talked to them about it before. They have Darien [Nelson-Henry] holding down the post and they think it’d be a good combination if I can step it out and shoot.

DP: Fran Dougherty and a few of the other forwards who had a large number of minutes last season won’t be on the team next year. How do you see yourself filling into that role in the next few years?

DD: I’ve really been working on rebounding. That’s something that I’ve been taking pride in. I want to really be known as a rebounder and a hustler.

DP: It’s going to be a difficult transition from high school to college basketball, but what do you think you can contribute immediately off the bench next season?

DD: Immediately, I think I can bring some defensive presence in the paint and just help rebound and get some put-backs on offense too. I think I can help out on both sides of the ball.

DP: How would you describe yourself as a player?

DD: I’d say I’m a face-up forward. I usually like to step out and shoot it, but lately I’ve been working on getting more comfortable with my back to the basket and become a more complete player.

DP: How would you describe your senior season and your role on the team during that year?

DD: We had kind of a rocky start. We were missing our best player, who’s going to Northwestern. So the transition was kind of hard. Towards the end, it was me and another big guy on our team and we were putting up a lot of points and a lot of rebounds. We were running a lot of high low action, so I felt like how we did was how the rest of the team would do.

DP: Penn basketball has struggled quite a bit the past few years and some people close to the program are calling for a coaching shift. Did that factor into your decision?

DD: No, I don’t think it really did. I really liked coach Allen on my visit and I hope he can stay. I think it would be great if he does.

DP: Were there any academic areas in particular that stood out to you in high school?

DD: My favorite subject was economics. I really liked that in high school. I might try to minor in Spanish if I’m able to do that. I might try to factor in Spanish with the Wharton degree.



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