Football Preview | Position-by-position breakdown
A look at the key losses and gains at each position for the 2011 Penn team
September 16, 2011, 3:14 am · Updated September 16, 2011, 3:20 am·
Katie Rubin | DP
Penn’s offense dominated the Ivy League on the ground with a potent tandem of running backs and mobile quarterback Billy Ragone. They’ll return all those skill players, but have to forge on behind a relatively new offensive line:
QB: Junior Billy Ragone returns this year looking to build on his breakout season.
Ragone did not start until the second game last season but started every game thereafter. His strong play earned him first-team All-Ivy honors and he was named a finalist for Ivy MVP.
The Chesire, Conn., native did most of his damage on the ground, ranking fifth overall in the Ivy League and first among QBs with 60.9 rushing yards per game.
Ragone also finished third in the league in passing efficiency. Although the Quakers finished last in the league in passing yardage, they also attempted the least amount of passes.
Sophomore Ryan Becker, Ragone’s backup, saw significant playing time last year, appearing in nine of 10 games with two starts. Becker is a much more traditional quarterback and collected 548 passing yards in his limited action.
RB: The Ivy League’s top-ranked rushing attack returns its two primary ballcarriers — juniors Brandon Colavita and Jeff Jack, as well as last year’s opening game starter, Lyle Marsh, who shattered his forearm in the second week.
Colavita led Penn with 728 rushing yards last season, good for third in the League. Along with Ragone’s 548 yards and Jack’s 466 yards, the Quakers greatly outpaced the rest of the Ivies with 2,436 yards on the ground. Colavita was named All-Ivy second team for his performance.
The Red and Blue, however, will suffer from the loss of first-team All-Ivy fullback Luke DeLuca. DeLuca was essential to Penn’s rushing attack as a lead blocker, and it will be up to junior Greg Schuster to fill his shoes.
WR/TE: The Quakers lost their top two receivers to graduation and will need to lean on their underclassmen to make major contributions.
Penn’s most experienced returning receiver, Conner Scott, had 10 receptions for 106 yards and one touchdown last year.
One of Penn’s brightest young wideout prospects, sophomore Aaron Bailey, will miss a year due to academic issues.
Former basketball player junior Tommy Eggleston will also join the receiving corps.
The Quakers may need to rely more heavily on senior captain Luke Nawrocki at tight end. Nawrocki is coming off a second consecutive All-Ivy honorable mention season. He had 18 receptions for 184 yards and no touchdowns.
OL: The offensive line is Penn’s biggest question mark entering the season and certainly the one most in need of an answer given the Quakers’ propensity for the run.
The line only returns senior captain and first-team All-Ivy member Greg Van Roten at left tackle. Two of Penn’s week one starters are sophomores, and neither have seen game experience at Penn.
The defense, the best in the Ancient Eight last season, only returns four starters. However, the players who will be filling in at the opening whistle are battle-tested.
CB: The defensive backs took the biggest hit during the offseason, losing both Bradford Blackmon — who stepped into the position in his senior year after not playing since high school — and Jon Saelinger, who played in every game during his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
Look for juniors Justyn Williams and Dave Twamley to take hold of the reins at cornerback. Both players have seen significant game action over the last two seasons. Twamley finished last season with 33 tackles, while Williams tallied 28.
S: Following Josh Powers’ graduation, Penn’s new safety has a lot to live up to. Powers, a first-team All-Ivy selection in 2010, finished his career with 147 tackles and six interceptions.
Powers’ successor will have seen game action, however. Senior Jason Schmucker has started numerous games.
Nickelback Matt Hamscher, a second-team All-Ivy selection, led the team last season with 4.5 sacks, while Schmucker had four passes defended and 18 tackles for the season.
LB: The linebackers are in a good position despite the loss of Zach Heller, who played in 39 consecutive games for Penn to end his career. Junior Steve Lias played in all 10 games last season and finished the year with 24 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
DL: The defensive line loses starters Brian Wing and Andrew Goldsmith. Wing, an All-Ivy honorable mention, recorded 34 tackles (eight for loss) and four sacks in his 26-game career, while Goldsmith finished his time at Penn with 54 tackles and eight sacks.
However, the line will still stay strong. Along with junior first-team All-Ivy selection Brandon Copeland, senior Jared Sholly returns to action after missing the previous year due to injury.
Special teams: The kicking game will severely miss Andrew Samson, who holds records in nine different categories, including made field goals and made extra points.
However, the Quakers have depth at kicker. Freshman Conner Loftus will get the start with senior Dan Lipschutz waiting in the wings. Loftus was ranked in the top five nationally among kickers in each of his high-school seasons, while classmate Michael Rasmussen was the 12th-ranked kicker among the Class of 2011.