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UPenn Football vs. Bucknell at Franklin Field Bradford Blackmon Credit: Jennifer Liao

With its five leading rushers all returning, the Quakers running game led by Lyle Marsh, Bradford Blackmon and Matt Hamscher could prove to be a major weapon for a Penn team that led the Ivy League last season defensively but finished in the middle of the pack in most offensive categories. The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down with running backs coach Steven Downs for an update on the state of the running game.

Daily Pennsylvanian: How much will the running game play a role in the overall offensive scheme? Steven Downs: Well you know we’ll definitely run the football. We’ve got a really good line up front, a really veteran, seasoned line. I don’t mean to boost or brag about our guys up front but we’ve got two of the best ends in Luke Nawrocki and Ryan Murray. Smash mouth football is what we call it around here. We’ve got the talent, we just need to make sure that we utilize it in the right fashion and give those kids a chance to be successful.

DP: How will a talented running game help if there is a young quarterback on the field? SD: If that is the case that we end up with a young quarterback, our running game can help out a lot because it takes a lot of the pressure off the quarterback not to try to win the game throwing the ball through the air. The kids that we expect to do well are doing extremely well. Our fullbacks are doing a great job opening holes along with the offensive line and tight ends.

DP: How did the players handle offseason preparation? SD: I think they did a very good job. We give a conditioning test and all those kids passed the conditioning test. They did a great job in the weight room. We looked at their max numbers lifting and everything. People tell them what they need to do but then its on their shoulders to go out and do it. I think they know we’ve got a special group out there and we’ve got a chance to be pretty good so I think they took that to heart and they took it personally and they are ready to go.

DP: Jeff Jack and Lyle Marsh got a lot of playing time as freshmen last year. How will that help them this year? SD: It’s huge. You just can’t substitute game reps. You can simulate things in practice and you can scrimmage and things but getting those game reps is huge because you’re in it. They’ve been in the fire, they understand what is going to happen and the different scenarios. They’ve dealt with some different issues, the highs and the lows — they call it the peaks and the valleys. You know getting that game experience is phenomenal.

DP: Bradford Blackmon is still listed as both a defensive end and a running back. How will you utilize him? SD: We’re still trying to work through that. He’s got a big role on our team. He’s a dynamic athlete, very talented, so we want to try to use him as much as possible. It’s going to be up to him. I told him in the beginning of the summer, I couldn’t harp enough conditioning, because you know as well conditioned as he is, that will determine how much he can do at full size.

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