Calder Silcox | O-line, where art thou?
Penn football will need some new stars to emerge in the trenches
August 30, 2011, 4:31 pm·
Elizabeth Jacobs | DP
Frances Hu | DP
Senior Sports Writer
By the time Major League II rolled into theaters in 1994, five years after the release of one of the greatest baseball movies ever made, the cracks in the franchise were showing. While Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger and even a mustachioed Dennis Haysbert had signed on for round two, missing was Wesley Snipes as the lovable base-stealer Willie Mays Hayes.
Instead of simply writing the character off, trading him, demoting him or using any other reasonable plot invention, the producers opted to replace Snipes with actor Omar Epps. Unfortunately, Snipes and Epps don’t look at all alike.
This is the obstacle that every sequel must face. You can’t always capture the same magic the second time around (Hangover II, anyone?).
Penn Football hit a home run with its sequel, winning a second undefeated Ivy title last season (Major League II did gross over $30 million.). The question is: can they keep the franchise rolling for title number 3? If so, they’re going to have to do it with a breakout performance from an Epps of their own.
Junior quarterback Billy Ragone and Penn’s running game were the stars last season, rolling through Ivy defenses with ease. Ragone and fellow juniors Brandon Colavita and Jeff Jack — the Charlie Sheens — will all be back this year. But their supporting cast, Penn’s offensive line, is gone to the inevitability of graduation. Four of the five linemen and fullback Luke DeLuca are off in the real world, leaving a number of question marks for Penn’s offense.
Can a new supporting cast step up to the plate?
Will the top scoring offense return? Penn bested No. 2 Harvard by more than a touchdown last season.
Will the top running game return? Penn bested No. 2 Harvard by more than 80 yards per game.
Will the top quarterback protection in the league return? Penn QBs were sacked four times in seven Ivy games last season, for a meager 28 total yards lost. At the bottom of the ranking was Cornell, sacked 35 times (5 per game!) for 232 total yards.
All of these staggering numbers were courtesy of the O-line that produced two first-team All-Ivy players and another second-teamer.
Only senior left tackle and tri-captain Greg Van Roten — one of those aforementioned All-Ivy players — remains in the trenches.
Joining him at the top of the projected depth chart are three juniors and one senior, who together averaged under five appearances last season — none as starts.
“I think until people do it on the field, it’s going to be a question mark,” coach Al Bagnoli said on Ivy media day. “We have talented kids there, we have upperclass kids there. We have kids that understand the system, kids that have had extensive practice time and have played in certain scenarios. But to me, that’s the question mark on our offense.
“It’s just how quickly can they become cohesive? How quickly can they gel? How quickly can they communicate to one another, and how well can they withstand the pressures of a game and do the things they’re supposed to do under the stresses of the game? We won’t get that answered until we play Lafayette.”
Bagnoli’s strength over his successful 19 years at Penn is that he has adapted his teams to the circumstances of each season. If this year’s linemen don’t gel as quickly as the last, it may be time to rewrite the script.
CALDER SILCOX is a senior science, technology and society major from Washington, D.C., and is Senior Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. His e-mail address is silcox@theDP.com.