It's been over a year, but Penn football remains in quarterback purgatory.
Last season, the Quakers had three quarterbacks to choose from, but eventually settled on — and stuck with — then-senior Will Fischer-Colbrie. Based on how playing time was distributed among the three, the depth chart had now-junior transfer Nick Robinson ahead of sophomore Ryan Glover.
This season, two new freshmen, Mason Quandt and John Quinnelly, join Robinson and Glover in the quarterbacks’ room. Neither Quandt nor Quinnelly ever had a serious chance at the starting job, simply because of the huge learning curve they face as they continue to transition to an entirely new college offense. The only fact about the quarterback situation confirmed by the team during its preseason was that the freshmen are not threatening Robinson nor Glover for the starting job.
That left Penn fans — and the team — wondering which of the two potential starters would win the job. Would the team settle on the more experienced Robinson, or the more athletically gifted Glover? If Priore had any feelings about who would start between the two of them, he didn’t tell anyone about it until this week. Not even his quarterbacks.
But now, a mere three days until the first game, after a preseason in which Priore and his players and staff remained impressively tight-lipped about the situation, Penn’s quarterback question finally has an answer. For now.
“Obviously the most important question — I don’t care what level you’re at: NFL, college, high school, Pop Warner for that matter — is who’s your quarterback,” Priore said. “We’ve decided to start with Ryan this upcoming Saturday. Nick will play, Nick will get on the field … [due to] health, a combination of things — we’re going to go with Ryan this week.”
As Priore alluded to in his weekly press conference, the decision to start with Glover means little over the course of the season. Having one name at the top of the depth chart is a first step, but the goal is a stable, comfortable, and capable player under center. The Quakers haven’t had that since the graduation of one-time NFL hopeful Alek Torgersen after the 2016 season.
Based on the way Priore, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach John Reagan, and yes, even Robinson and Glover talked about it, the quarterback situation in the preseason was some combination of ‘we don’t know’ and ‘who cares’.
“I think it’s a great competition right now,” Priore said last week. “I think both guys have worked tremendously hard and made huge improvements from last year.”
Here’s Priore a day before the announcement was made public:
“Both will play, both are going to play on Saturday. Both have done a tremendous job since the offseason pushing each other. They’ve been one, they’ve been two, they’ve been two, they’ve been one, flipping back and forth. They’re both their biggest fans of each other. They’re with each other all the time, great relationship that way.”
The only things any of the four seemed sure of before the announcement was that both quarterbacks have improved since last season, and that the competition between them was healthy, fun to watch, and exceedingly difficult to judge.
One clear difference between the two is experience. Robinson has an extra year of college experience on Glover — two if you count his junior college experience. He was also the primary backup for Fischer-Colbrie last season, appearing in six games and completing 48 of his 73 pass attempts. Robinson put up better rate statistics than the starter last season, although they came in a much smaller sample size.
As both Priore and Robinson have pointed out on multiple occasions, Glover also appeared for the Quakers last season. The part they failed to mention was that he was only in for one series (he completed both of his pass attempts).
The official decision to start Glover really only means two things. First, Robinson’s hamstring injury suffered over a week ago could still be lingering to the extent that there’s a chance he is still not 100 percent healthy by Saturday.
Second, Glover has the edge in the competition, even though Priore has all but acknowledged that his plan is to test out both quarterbacks in the first few non-conference games before settling on one of the two for the more important Ivy competitions.
That being said, Priore and his staff have indicated that the potential for a week-to-week, or even drive-to-drive swap of quarterbacks based on game plan and scheme is very much possible. They have also kept open the possibility of seeing both quarterbacks on the field at the same time. How much of that is strategic bluster and how much reveals a larger truth about the situation is anyone’s guess, but it would certainly not be a shock to see Robinson start game two.
“They’re both very talented,” Priore said. “You want to have two quarterbacks like this. You can play them both and have success doing a lot of good things.”
But, until they sort it out, the Quakers will hope that the old football adage proves untrue:
If you have two starting quarterbacks, you actually have none.