Penn likes to give themes for its incoming academic class’ first year at school, and I’d like to borrow that trend here.
My freshman year was called the Year of Discovery. Penn wanted us to make discoveries big and small, planned and unplanned, personal and wide-ranging. I never actively thought about all of these things I was meant to discover, but without my consciously realizing it, discovery was an important part of that year. I learned about responsibility, about living on my own, about the things I’m interested in, and most importantly, I learned about myself.
To me, that’s what Penn football will be about this year. It’s the Year of Discovery for this team. For the first time in the Ray Priore era, this team doesn’t have a big-name star to rally behind. The season starts later this week, and there is still so much we don’t know about them. This team is constantly going to be learning about itself and what it can be.
It’s the first year in the post-Justin Watson era. The shadow of Penn’s greatest wide receiver of all time is going to loom large over this team for the entire season. Watson was the heart of the offense for the past two years, and it’ll be impossible to replace his production with just one player. Now, the Quakers need to figure out what their offensive identity is.
It’s a year for new players to step into the spotlight. Last year, running back Karekin Brooks took the mantle when Tre Solomon got hurt and turned in a stellar season. Can he replicate his success as the featured back and as perhaps the best skill position player Penn has? Can senior wide outs Christian Pearson and Steve Farrell build on some of their past experience to become a 1-2 pass-catching punch? Who will step up to take the place of first team All-Ivy center Nathan Kirchmier and defensive lineman Louis Vecchio?
It’s another year without a clear first-choice quarterback. Last year, Penn had a three-way battle to replace Alek Torgersen. But now Will Fischer-Colbrie is gone as well, leaving Ryan Glover and Nick Robinson to vie for the starting role. Will both quarterbacks see significant playing time, as Robinson did coming off the bench in six games last year, or will one of them win the position outright? And how will the loss of such a dependable option like Watson affect this battle?
It’s the year that the defense can make the jump it needs to. Last season, the defense took a step back from the previous two Ivy championship runs. But this year, they’ve got the leaders they need in first-team All-Ivy and second-team STATS FCS Preseason All-American linebacker Nick Miller and second team All-Ivy safety Sam Philippi. Can they take the next step and become one of the better units in the league? And, with several stars on the offense gone, can they become the face of the team?
It’ll be a difficult journey to return to Ivy glory in a conference that's getting better each year. Penn football has a lot of questions entering this season. It’s going to take some time to discover all of the answers.
JONATHAN POLLACK is a College senior from Stamford, Conn., and the Senior Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.