No one is complaining about Gavin Hoffman's performance on Saturday. No one is running out to have his name engraved on the Bushnell Cup either. But expectations were not so high yesterday, and they shouldn't have been. If Gavin Hoffman is not a star in Ivy League by next season, I'd be surprised. And if he had come out looking like a star on Saturday, I would have been equally surprised. Hoffman announced his transfer in July and has had less than two months to learn an entirely new offense. That's not an easy task by anyone's standards. At the post-game press conference on Saturday, Dartmouth coach John Lyons was asked his impressions of Hoffman. "I thought he was okay," Lyons responded. Less than 10 minutes later, Bagnoli sat in the same chair in the same room and was asked the same question. Appropriately, Bagnoli offered the same response. "I thought he was okay." And he was okay. Not great. Not bad. Just okay. Right now, I'll take okay from Gavin Hoffman. His numbers on Saturday were respectable. Twenty-three-of-36 passing for 196 yards and one touchdown is not a bad day. In fact, statistically, it's a day quite similar to one that occurred two years ago. On September 20, 1997, Matt Rader put on a Quakers uniform for the first time and completed 22-of-39 passes for 206 yards and one touchdown. Rader would leave Penn a year and a half later with his name etched all over the Penn record book. But Gavin Hoffman is not Matt Rader. First of all, Rader transferred to Penn for the spring semester of 1997. He worked with the team in spring practice and had nearly eight months to learn the Penn system before ever throwing a pass in a real game. That extra time is a luxury Gavin Hoffman did not have. Hoffman is still learning. People who expected the ex-Big Ten player to be an immediate star in the Ivies were just fooling themselves. True, Hoffman has gone from facing the likes of Penn State linebackers LaVar Arrington and Brandon Short -- two potential first-round NFL draft picks -- to matching up against up against a Dartmouth defense that is mediocre at best for the Ivy League. But that does not mean Hoffman should have had his way with the inferior talent. It takes time to adjust, and Hoffman still needs more of it before he can feel comfortable in the pocket while facing Ivy teams. "Everyday I am feeling more comfortable with the guys I'm playing with," Hoffman said. And he now has three weeks to get even more comfortable with those guys. Before the Quakers travel to Columbia for their game against the Lions on October 16, they will play Villanova, Bucknell and Fordham in three games that mean absolutely nothing in the league standings. Those games will be three opportunities for Hoffman to improve and to learn the tendencies and characteristics of his receivers, offensive linemen and backs. When comparing the debuts of Rader and Hoffman, another stat that jumps out is the number of interceptions. Rader threw three back in '97, while Hoffman tossed two on Saturday. But those picks cannot be attributed solely, or even primarily, to Hoffman. On his first interception, Hoffman hit Brandon Carson in the numbers. But just as the ball hit Carson, Dartmouth linebacker Marshall Hyzdu hit him, popping the ball out of his grasp right into Big Green lineman Kyle Schroeder's hands. And on Hoffman's second interception, he was blindsided just as he was about to release the ball, causing him to loft the ball up for grabs. While Hoffman's stat sheet may show two interceptions, they were not interceptions caused by his inability to read the defense or hit his receivers. They were, however, interceptions that may be avoided once Hoffman and his teammates learn more about each other. This same phenomenon can be seen in the number of dropped balls. On more than one occasion, Hoffman hit his receivers in the hands, but those hands were not ready to catch a football. Looking at his performance this way, Hoffman's respectable numbers from Saturday would have been even better if he had more time to work with his receivers. Gavin Hoffman has talent. It's just that the talent is sometimes hidden when the quarterback is not totally familiar with his receivers. Hoffman is probably more talented than Matt Rader. He may not yet be as good as Rader was last year, but he is better than Rader was when he first played at Penn. And by the time Hoffman is done after three years here, he may be one of the best signal-callers Penn has ever seen. In the next few weeks, expect Gavin Hoffman to get better. Expect him to get on the same page as his receivers, and expect the Penn coaching staff to allow him more free reign in the offense, instead of calling so many short routes and dump passes. Gavin Hoffman was "okay" on Saturday, but he has the ability to be much better.Comments powered by Disqus
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