The 2008 Penn football season is probably best remembered for the quarterback carousel and the eventual emergence of Keiffer Garton.
Optimism is riding high for the 2009 Quakers with the quarterback position seemingly stabilized and playmakers aplenty surrounding the new signal caller.
With Garton behind center and tremendous talent at the skill positions, the offense is poised to improve on last year's fifth-best Ivy unit. But how much better depends on these five questions:
1. How will Keiffer Garton handle the pressure?
In his first full season as Penn's starter, the junior will have all eyes on him. He excelled when he was thrown into the fire last year, but now he knows he will be the starter and the pressure will be on in 2009.
Yet coach Al Bagnoli isn't worried about any new QB jitters.
"He has a terrific demeanor," Bagnoli said on media day. "Kids have tremendous confidence in him because the kid carries himself so well."
At the position where intangibles are most important, Garton's leadership and composure might be more important than his talents if he wants to improve on last year's numbers. He tossed at a 60-percent completion clip but had a 1-5 touchdown to interception ratio.
2. What will the backfield rotation look like?
Running back is easily Penn's deepest position, but that doesn't exactly make things easy for Bagnoli and new offensive coordinator Jon McLaughlin. Sure, they love to be able to mix and match their backs, but they'll have to balance carries between all four of the leading runners from last year's fourth-best Ivy rushing attack - juniors Mike DiMaggio and Bradford Blackmon, Garton and sophomore Matt Hamscher.
That could mean using some of those backs on the field at the same time, which would lead to some interesting formations as well. Bagnoli said he has sets with Blackmon at both running back and wide receiver. Ditto for Hamscher.
"We're going to have to do a good job of utilizing those kids," he added.
3. How run-heavy will the offense be?
With all that talent and versatility in the backfield, the Quakers' offense will be heavily dependent on the run.
"Everything's going to be based off us being able to run the football," McLaughlin said.
But already last season, the rushing offense accounted for 45 percent of the team's total yardage, which was the third-highest ratio in the Ivy League. They also led the league in time of possession at an average of 33:25 per game. This year's squad might run the ball even more, especially considering Garton's mobility. He was second on the squad with 316 rushing yards last season and ran for three scores.
4. Who will anchor the center of the O-Line?
For all those runners to be effective, some questions along the front line need some answering, the most important of which lies with the center position.
Last season junior Luis Ruffolo started the first six games and was arguably Penn's best lineman, but after he suffered an injury, junior Joe D'Orazio started the final four games and also played very well.
Bagnoli has not named the 2009 starter yet, and the decision could prove to be the key to maintaining stability on an offensive line that allowed the second-fewest sacks in the league last season.
5. Can the receivers catch touchdowns?
Last season's redzone offense finished tied for second in the league with 28 scores in 34 chances. But of those 28 scores, only 14 were touchdowns, and of those only five came through the air.
Even worse, the wide receivers caught just three touchdowns the entire season. With three reliable seniors in captain Kyle Derham, Tyler Fisher and Marcus Lawrence, the 2009 pass-catching corps might be able to give Garton some good targets. If not, that powerful ground game might be seeing a lot of defenders in the box.Comments powered by Disqus
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