Since, according to coach Al Bagnoli, Penn has the most returning starters in the Ivy League, it will be tough for newcomers to crack the starting lineup, but that doesn’t mean they won’t find ways to contribute.
Both freshmen and upperclassmen will have holes to fill after the key departures of co-Ivy MVP Jake Lewko, Joe Goniprow and Chris Wynn. Here’s a look at how the 2010 roster could play out.
Early last season, Bagnoli’s offense saw a lot of new looks, with mobile quarterbacks like Keiffer Garton and Billy Ragone running wildcat-type formations and even some running backs and wide receivers lining up behind center.
When injuries sidelined both Garton and Ragone, senior Kyle Olson brought the offense back to a more traditional style. But Olson has graduated and Penn’s remaining QBs are more in the mold of Garton and Ragone.
With Garton still recovering from a knee injury, Bagnoli said he won’t use his captain much in the first few games. So Ragone will likely be the Week 1 starter and could split time with Garton when the latter returns.
If injuries remain an issue at the top of the depth chart, look for sophomore Andrew Holland or freshman Ryan Becker, a transfer from Florida State, to be the first options off the bench.
While running back has always been a strength for the Quakers, there may actually be too much depth at the position, so much so that two particularly talented backs are being used to help out the defense as well.
Sophomore Lyle Marsh, a 6-foot, 220-pound bruiser, will lead the pack after an astounding freshman campaign. Senior Mike DiMaggio, who led Penn in rushing yards as a sophomore, is a question mark after injuries plagued his junior season. But if healthy, he could go out with a bang.
Junior Matt Hamscher and senior Bradford Blackmon will both be used all over the field and the roster. They each could see more time at receiver and even behind center, but Blackmon will also be called on to play cornerback, and Hamscher will be backup free safety.
Even further down the depth chart are talented sophomores Jeff Jack and Patrick Foley, who could turn out to be secret weapons for the Quakers, if they can manage to find playing time.
With lots of talent underneath them, the receivers will likely see plenty of rotation, with coaches matching up different players against the unique defenses they face each week.
The expected starters are seniors Matt Tuten and David Wurst, who were last season's second and third receivers, respectively. At 6-foot-3, junior Joe Holder will be the best of Penn’s bigger receivers. On the flipside, seniors Blake Adams and Ryan Calvert, who stand 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-9 respectively, are also candidates to see plenty of playing time.
Penn returns all seven tight ends from last season, most of which have playing experience. The Quakers often use double tight end formations and ask them to excel at both blocking and receiving. Ryan Murray and Luke Nawrocki both fit the bill and should see the majority of playing time.
The Quakers entered 2009 with two starting tackles that had zero career starts. Now they return four starters with at least one full season of experience.
Senior preseason All-American Joe D’Orazio anchors the line at center. To his left are second team All-Ivy guard Luis Ruffolo and honorable mention All-Ivy junior tackle Greg Van Roten. Those three, along with returning senior right tackle Jared Mollenbeck, started every game in 2009.
Replacing graduated right guard Matt Schaefer is senior Drew Luongo, who started all 10 games in 2008 but missed last season due to injury.
The defensive line lost a powerhouse when two-time All-Ivy lineman Goniprow graduated.
But the Brians — All-Ivy senior Brian Levine and senior Brian Wing — along with junior Kameron Jones will try to take Goniprow's place on the field at defensive end.
While sophomore tackle Brandon Copeland and senior noseguard Derric Bath are the only linemen with substantial game-time experience, the Quakers have several returners that have played. Drew Goldsmith, who led the team in sacks in 2008 but missed last season due to medical issues, returns this fall at tackle.
The Quakers lost Lewko, but senior Zach Heller and junior Erik Rask will fill in the holes. Heller enters his final season having played 29 out of 30 possible games, making him the most experienced on the entire roster. Last year, he was second team All-Ivy and recorded at least 3 tackles in every game.
Rask also earned honorable mention All-Ivy honors after leading the team in tackles for loss.
First-year linebackers coach Dave Wood will have to choose between a crop of capable LBs. Senior Jake Peterson returns for his final year of eligibility after injury last year, and senior AJ Hewitt will build on last year’s game-time experience.
If one thing plagues the nation’s number one-ranked defense from last season, it will be the lack of depth in the defensive backfield.
However Blackmon and senior Jon Saelinger — who played in every game last season — will settle into the cornerback position. Free safety Josh Powers also brings his experience to the backfield, with 17 career starts under his belt.
But for underclassmen who didn’t see much playing time last season, following in the footsteps of three-time all-Ivy selection Chris Wynn and All-Ivy back Jonathan Moore, this is a chance to make an impression and earn a starting spot.
Keep your eyes on the record books because placekicker Andrew Samson is about to rewrite them.
Chasing seven school and conference records, Samson currently sits 60 points away from the Ivy career points record.
On the other side of special teams, Blackmon and Hamscher will take most of the kickoff and punt returns.