Matthew Frank: Last season for Penn football was one defined by inconsistency. When the offense would finally break out, the defense would falter. When the defense threw together consecutive stops, the offense wouldn’t be able to make it past a series. More often than not, though, the offense was the stagnant unit, finishing dead last in the Ivy League in points per game. To be fair, Penn was not dealt an easy hand. The Quakers were forced to choose mid-season between an injured, struggling senior quarterback and a freshman who looked promising, but given his age designation, not battle-tested just yet.
This go-around, the offensive situation looks far more promising. Quarterback Aidan Sayin has experience going into his sophomore season, and the team has a new offensive coordinator who comes off five years as a head coach. The pieces are there to form a viable offensive attack, but whether or not such a quick turnaround is doable feels like a bit of a stretch. Will the offense be better? Likely so, but enough to bring Penn back to the top of the Ivy League might be a year or two away.
On the defensive side of the ball, Penn lost some big talents from last season, including lineman Prince Emili, linebacker Brian O’Neill, and defensive back Jason McCleod Jr. Still, the defense remains a sturdy unit and retains many of its key pieces, including defensive back Kendren Smith, who returns after missing the majority of last season. The big question mark for Penn is its offense, but if the defense – which ranked second in the Ivy League in the pass game last season – can shore up its d-line and stop the run, Ivy title contention might not be totally out of the picture.
But regardless of how well the defense performs, the offense needs to improve. It’ll likely be a more potent attack, but I think it’ll be another year before it really starts to fire on all cylinders.
Predicted Record: 5-5
Esther Lim: One of our favorite jokes in high school during a disappointing 7-4 season was that our football team would end 0-10 the next year. And so they did. We showed up each Friday night to watch the season inch closer towards a record of complete defeat — perhaps with an excuse that we were instead supporting our marching band. But by winter, we felt somewhat guilty that our comments had spoken disaster into reality.
I am not an expert on the football that happens on the field. But beyond the sidelines, from interviews and preseason media with members of the coaching staff, and comments from players through the preseason, coach Ray Priore and the team seem well aware of the chance to thrive on optimism and a young, eager squad.
This season will thus test Priore’s belief in his own words. Capturing the strengths of each new talent in the roster, while honing down the rougher edges through guidance and camaraderie will be the team’s best bet at burying the disappointment of last fall. Priore just needs to find the right cues during the season to trust his younger players to make big decisions and fulfill greater responsibilities.
I will make a wish towards a 7-3 record for the team that played the exact reverse in 2021. There is optimism, yet room for error. And perhaps the frequently recited mantra of flipping the script of last season can be spoken into motion because Penn football can use every ounce of optimism as they confront a campaign of uncertainties.
Predicted record: 7-3
Eashwar Kantemneni: 2021 was an up and down year for the Red and Blue. The Quakers had some very promising signs, especially on defense, where they finished in the top three in many statistical categories such as opponent red zone efficiency, passing touchdowns, and completion percentage. While Penn lost many important contributors on that side of the ball to graduation, including Emili, O'Neill, and McCleod Jr., the Penn looks to be in good shape defensively once again. Stalwart senior linebackers Garrett Morris and Jake Heimlicher return for another year, and senior defensive back Jaden Key — who finished last season second in the Ivy League in pass breakups — will look to lock down the back end for defensive coordinator Bob Benson's unit once again.
Offensively is where concerns still linger. Penn's hopes for the Ivy League title will almost certainly rest on the shoulders of Sayin, who, by all accounts, has had a strong summer of training and development and a good camp so far. Sayin was immediately placed into an uncomfortable situation last season, going from scout team quarterback to starting against Yale within two weeks. He did respond well, though, throwing two touchdowns in that game and finishing the last three games of the year with over 200 passing yards each, giving him good momentum for the 2022 season. He will be able to hand off or toss it to standout playmakers in senior wideout Rory Starkey Jr. and running back Trey Flowers, though losses of Isaiah Malcome and Ryan Cragun will be felt. Sayin should be well protected as well, behind a strong line led by seniors Ben Hoitink and Trevor Radosevich. Under No. 9's command, the Quakers should be set up for more success this year and in the future.
While I expect the Quakers to be much better this year offensively and remain stout defensively, the competition in the Ivy League is tough, with Harvard and Yale returning more experienced rosters and with perennial powers Princeton and Dartmouth being as strong as ever. While an Ancient Eight title may be a year or two away, the Quakers have the potential to make some noise this year and sneak in an upset or two.
Predicted Record: 6-4
MATTHEW FRANK is a Senior Sports Editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian and is a College junior from Miami studying English. He can be reached at email@example.com.
ESTHER LIM is a Senior Sports Editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian and is a College junior from Atlanta studying English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EASHWAR KANTEMNENI is a Deputy Sports Editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian and is a College junior from Cincinnati studying neuroscience. He can be reached at email@example.com.