Thursday, October 16, 2008

Scouting Penn

Matt Hamscher will probably carry the load this Saturday (CREDIT: Daily Pennsylvanian)

First off, we have some injury news. Penn Coach Al Bagnoli says top rusher Mike DiMaggio will dress for the game, but will probably not play that much if at all. He was knocked out of the game against Georgetown last week and did not return.

That means freshman Matt Hamscher, who filled in for DiMaggio quite nicely with 102 yards on 21 carries last week, will probably be the go-to guy with help from sophomore tailback Bradford Blackmon, (the guy Columbia recruited, but obviously went to the Quakers). Clearly, they are both talented runners, but I think they are a downgrade from DiMaggio, who many believe was already a downgrade of sorts from Penn's now-graduated rushing star Joe Sandberg. Sandberg torched the Lions for 197 yards on 22 carries last year.

As much as the banged up running corps may help Columbia, this is a Penn team that really relies on its defense. In the preseason, it looked like the Quakers were in trouble on the defensive line due to the graduation of a couple of big-time players like Naheem Harris. But all the Quakers have done this season is continue to stuff the run and hold opponents to a total of 15 points per game. In the Ivy opener Penn held Dartmouth, with one of the better runners in this league in Milan Williams, to just five total rushing yards for the game.

On the bright side, the Quaker did give up a lot more yards to Georgetown's option attack last week. But many of those yards came after the game was decided against the Quaker backups.

Penn is also riding high on the play of defensive backs Tyson Maugle and Chris Wynn. But Maugle is not listed in the Penn two-deep and may still be out after missing the Georgetown game. The Quakers are allowing a paltry 148 yards passing per game and have picked off seven passes already this year. Wynn is also a great kick returner as he had a KO return for a TD to open the game last week.

Offensively, this looks like a weaker Penn team than we've seen in a while and the running back situation doesn't improve that outlook. QB Robert Irvin is having just so-so year, again with as many interceptions as TD passes. Back-up passer Kyle Olson, who is also the punter, has potential but Bagnoli is keeping him on a short leash, (but much like the old Dallas Cowboys under Danny White, you have to worry about the fake when Olson goes back to punt).

The receivers are all pretty talented, but not Miles Macik types in the crew. The best weapon through the air may be tight end Josh Koontz who is playing a bigger role this year.

Special teams are much improved. Wynn is doing very well returning kick offs AND punts and is looking to challenge Cornell's Brian Walters for the title of best returner in the Ivies. Kicker Andrew Samson is becoming solid if not spectacular. Remember, this is a Penn team still smarting from some horrific kicking failures in 2005 and 2006.

On paper, this Quaker squad seems vulnerable. And that's what worries me. As usual, I expect Penn to be super-motivated for Columbia and they will come out pumped up no matter what injuries they have. The defense will be looking to make an early statement with a big sack, hit, or interception.


At Fri Oct 17, 04:30:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike Stephens is the best punt returner in the league.

At Fri Oct 17, 04:34:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, when do you think we might see our heavily recruited freshman fullback Nico Pappas (phonetic) or the big tailback (Miller)? Why isn't Stoll getting any carries? Is Ivery going to get any touches? And what about Kourouma?

At Fri Oct 17, 06:45:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice analysis

At Fri Oct 17, 07:37:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Use slant routes on offense. Worked last week.


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