The End of the Affair
Kieffer Garton brought the end of the Irvin era in Philly
In all his years as Penn's head coach, I never sensed a real weakness in Al Bagnoli. That is, until 2006 when Coach Bags fell under the spell of QB Robert Irvin. Over good periods of the 2006, 2007, and 2008 season, Bagnoli remained seemingly convinced that Irvin was the man to lead his Quakers. He finally broke that spell midway through last year, and Penn looks a lot more like the Penn we've known for most of the last 25 years ever since.
The new sheriff in town is rising junior QB Kieffer Garton, who took over the starting job and showed great prowess as a runner averaging nearly 6 yards per carry. Garton got his first significant playing time in the Brown game in week 7 and then he started the final three games of the year. He didn't turn the Quaker offense into a 30-point-per-game juggernaut, but he provided a shot in the arm that made Penn look like a much better team than they did in the first half of the season.
Penn was also helped down the stretch by the resurgeance of Michael DiMaggio, another rising junior who is back for 2009.
1) Who else is back?
3 out of the five offensive linemen who allowed just 12 sacks and produced a decent 140-yards-per-game rushing attack are returning. But one of the graduating front five was their best in 2008, First Team All Ivy lineman Chris Kovalcik.
The top three pass-catching wide receivers are back in Kyle Derham, Marcus Lawrence, and Tyler Fisher. But Second Team All-Ivy tight end Josh Koontz is graduating.
I think the Quakers will attempt to keep the varied running attack going with DiMaggio and Garton sharing about an equal number of carries, and that will be the crux of the Penn offense. They could do a lot worse.
2) How about the defense?
Coach Bagnoli may have broken his offensive good judgment streak with Irvin, but he never falls down when it comes to crafting strong defensive teams. Penn gave up just 100 points in their seven Ivy games and held all opponents to an average of less than 91 yards rushing per game.
Four of the front five defensive starters are back, including Second Team All-Ivy
Jake Lewko is back at linebacker, but star linebacker Jay Colabella is graduating.
In the secondary, star defensive backs Britton Ertmann and Tyson Maugle are gone, and only one starter is back. But that starter is First Team All Ivy corner Chris Wynn. It's possible teams will try to test the new secondary with lots of passing... if they get the chance with what should be a great Quaker pass rush.
3) Could Penn win the title?
This looks like the best Quaker team since the 2003 champs. But the offense is somewhat in question, especially if Garton gets injured or DiMaggio's late season push was a mirage. The mostly new secondary could also be a problem, but I can't see that sinking the Penn ship on its own.
There doesn't seem like any team Penn can't beat this season, but the two road contests against Harvard and Brown could be very tough. It's hard to see the Quakers winning both of those games, and they may need to do that to win the title.
Monday's Quick Review/Preview: Harvard
SPRING GAME TOMORROW!!!
Once again, don't forget the Spring Game tomorrow at Wien Stadium at 9:30am. I am sorry I will not be with you, but my daughter Jordan's first tee ball game is a priority!
I will publish all reasonable comments and observations about the game, but keep it fair. I hope everyone who does go has a great, great day!