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Sep 22: Marshall at Rice Credit: Anthony Vasser , Anthony Vasser

When head coach Ray Priore took over Penn football at the beginning of December, it gave him the opportunity to look internally at the program he’s been a part of for the past 28 years.

Late last week, Priore announced the hiring of offensive coordinator John Reagan, who had previously worked in the same role at Kansas and Rice. Reagan will also serve as offensive line coach, filling both roles of former offensive coordinator Jon McLaughlin.

“[Reagan] has been at several different [Division I] programs and he’s been at the service academies, which deal with student-athletes differently,” Priore said of his new offensive coordinator.

“He’s obviously had the taste of the big time football and he brings a perspective, not just in offensive calling, but in how programs are run.”

Reagan is the third coach brought in by Priore in the offseason, joining defensive coordinator Bob Benson and defensive line coach Malik Hall.

For Reagan, it’s a change of scenery, but one that is familiar: he coached tight ends and offensive linemen for the Quakers during the 1997 season. It’s that familiarity with the program that put him on Priore’s radar.

“Obviously coach Priore and I, as did Al [Bagnoli], all had a background at Albany, which is how I got to know them to begin with,” Reagan said of the impact of his first stay at Penn on his return.

“From staying in touch with Ray and having been here and knowing me, knowing how I work ... there’s a comfort level that goes into that, even more so for a first-time head coach.”

For the past 10 years, Reagan has coached at Kansas and Rice, working primarily with offensive linemen and tight ends with each program before moving up to offensive coordinator.

He hopes to bring that experience — of implementing offensive schemes at other Division I universities — to a Penn team that struggled at times on the offensive side of the ball last year.

The Quakers finished last season averaging 21.9 points per game in Ivy League play, the third-worst mark in the league. Sophomore quarterback Alek Torgersen will return to lead Penn again next season, but his two top receivers — Spencer Kulcsar and Conner Scott — are both graduating.

Coming in as a relative outsider to the program, Reagan has an opportunity to evaluate the roster anew, an experience he finds valuable for both coaches and players.

“I like to think that coaches are objective all the time, yet at the same time, for players, it gives them a fresh release,” Reagan noted.

“Guys who have been in some heavier roles know that they need to compete to keep those. Guys that felt like they needed more of an opportunity will certainly feel like they have that opportunity because its fresh eyes on them.”

This fresh perspective is a bit of a divergence from the recent history of Penn football. Priore had spent the past 16 years as defensive coordinator for the Quakers prior to his promotion and McLaughlin had helmed the offense since 2009. And then, of course, there’s the departure of Al Bagnoli after 23 seasons.

While all this change wasn’t necessarily on Priore’s when he took the helm, it’s certainly something he viewed as necessary for the future success of the program.

“When you’re not having success in those things, I think you really have to look at and evaluate everything,” Priore said of the decision to change coordinators. “The goal of the program is to do what’s in the best interest of Penn football.

“Hopefully by doing what we’re doing, we’re going down that road one step at a time.”

The next step on the road is spring practice. With the coaching staff solidified and the recruiting process well under way, Reagan will have the opportunity to begin to implement his offensive system over the coming weeks.

While Reagan is obviously excited about the on-field aspects of his position, he also enjoys the “purity” of collegiate athletics at a rigorous academic institution.

“The reason I’m in collegiate athletics and haven’t moved on to other things is that I enjoy building a relationship with young men, watching them grow up, watching them play football, watching them mature, watching them graduate,” Reagan said.

“At a lot of places you lose a lot of that, because it becomes a lot more of a sales pitch. There’s no reason — and Penn’s done it for decades — that you can’t do it while winning.”

While it’ll be many months before the Quakers see if Reagan’s mentality translates into winning — this is, after all, only his first week on the job — it’s clear that his mind is in the right place.

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