Running back Jake Klaus? Graduated. Wide receiver Aiden Kelly? Graduated. Brendan McCaffrey? He's back and ready to pick up where he left off.
After the graduation of a large senior class, a limited number of offensive weapons are returning for Penn sprint football. However, one constant for the Red and Blue offense in 2019 will be first team All-Collegiate Sprint Football League sophomore wide receiver Brendan McCaffrey.
A year ago, McCaffrey put up solid numbers in nearly every offensive category. Although listed as a wide receiver, the freshman standout found himself doing more than just catching footballs. Second on the team in receiving yards — behind only Kelly — McCaffrey was also third on the team in rushing yards, behind Klaus and then-junior quarterback Eddie Jenkins. And if that wasn’t enough, McCaffrey was the team’s leading kickoff and punt returner.
“I think getting experience as a freshman was definitely great for me. I finished the season with an all-league award which gave me confidence coming into this season as a sophomore,” McCaffrey said.
By the end of his freshman campaign, McCaffrey finished the season with 17 catches for 262 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, the wide receiver tallied 57 yards on 10 rushing attempts, and as a returner, he averaged 16.33 yards per kickoff return and 15.83 yards per punt return, which included a 41-yard return for a touchdown against Caldwell.
“McCaffrey can break away at any time; he’s that kind of a threat,” coach Bill Wagner said. “He can score catching the ball, running the ball, on punt returns, and on kickoffs. He’ll be one of the go-to guys on the field.”
There are high expectations for McCaffrey heading into this season. After all, the sophomore wideout was one of the few players last year to make a significant contribution in all six games. He has no pressure shouldering the load on offense even more this season.
“I generally like the pressure. I feel like the more that’s on me, the more comfort I have because I like it when things are in my hands," McCaffrey said. "I feel like I can do whatever is needed."
McCaffrey has been ready for the season to start for a while now. During the offseason, the sophomore was constantly in the weight room working on strength, speed, and fitness. An important part of McCaffrey’s training was footwork and route-running.
McCaffrey, however, won’t be the only threat on offense. Joining him at the wide receiver position will be senior Billy Murphy, junior Barry Klein, and sophomore Ben Klaus. At running back, sophomore Laquan McKever will step into the starting role, and senior quarterback Eddie Jenkins is back for one last go around.
“We have a lot of receivers back, and they are all working really hard. We have a good receiving corps. We have a quarterback who can move the ball, and an impressive offensive line,” Wagner said.
With McCaffrey no longer being able to fly under the radar, opposing defenses will likely be paying extra attention to him this year. He and the Red and Blue will open their season with a tough test against Army on Friday at Franklin Field.
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