Graduation hit Penn's defense hard. Two all-Ivy defensive tackles departed. Captain and linebacker Jay Colabella got his diploma in May. Jordan Manning, Tyson Maugle - and their 30 combined starts in the secondary - are now Penn alumni.
Despite the losses, the Quakers could match last year's fourth-ranked defense in the nation, as each level of the defense returns at least one multi-year starter.
"It definitely helps [underclassmen] to have a senior at each level," said Joe Goniprow, who is the leader of the defensive line.
Up front there's Goniprow, a 6-foot-1, 275-pound nose guard who led Penn with 10 tackles for a loss last year and has received preseason All-American hype. In the middle it's linebacker and captain Jake Lewko, who was a second team All-Ivy selection when he led Penn with 61 tackles in 2008.
In the defensive backfield there's cornerback Chris Wynn. Another captain, Wynn - who will also see time on punt and kick returns this season - has had five interceptions in each of the last two years. He too was named a preseason All-American.
Even other upperclassmen are inspired by the three key seniors.
"It's motivation coming into this year. I feel like having him there made me work harder in the offseason," fellow senior cornerback Jonathan Moore said of Wynn. "Teams are going to be weary of throwing to him, so I'm going to have to step my game up."
Moore, who played in all 10 games last year, needs to step up if Penn wants to stay a top-15 pass defense team (last year the Quakers were 13 out of 118 in the Football Championship Subdivision). Not only did Manning and Maugle leave, but so too did second team All-Ivy Britton Ertman.
Then again, it's certainly not up to just Moore to take the defensive reins. He's still got Wynn, Lewko and Goniprow to look up to.
Man down. The defense might have some strong senior leaders, but it will have one fewer than originally anticipated.
Drew Goldsmith led the Quakers with four sacks last year as a junior defensive lineman, but due to medical problems he will not play this year (in fact he's off the roster).
"It's tough," Goniprow said. "It's a big loss. We're going to miss his intensity."
Last year Penn's 1.70 sacks per game ranked 77th. The departed Ertman was second on the team with 2.5 sacks.
Center of attention. There are fewer than 10 days until the opening game at Villanova, yet offensive line coach (and offensive coordinator) Jon McLaughlin still doesn't know who his starting center is going to be.
Junior Luis Ruffolo, who started six games last year before an injury sidelined him, and fellow junior Joe D'Orazio, who replaced him, are the main competitors. Joe Krissel, who played mostly at left guard last year, is also in the mix.
McLaughlin declined to say who was leading the competition, only saying he "hated to predict it too early," adding that he didn't want anyone to believe the competition was closed.
At the same time, he did admit there's a good chance that the second- or even third-string center will see significant action on the line.
"We're very fortunate to have three varsity centers," McLaughlin said. "We'll play our most-ready five [linemen], whoever that is."Comments powered by Disqus
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