Penn Spring Football All-Access Update: Wednesday, April 16th Practice Report; '08 Captains Named

*** For reports and interviews from previous spring football practices, please scroll down***

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008-Practice # 11 (Brian Seltzer, 11:30 PM)

Interviews:

George A. Munger Head Coach of Football Al Bagnoli recaps the Red and Blue's efforts this spring, and explains the format of this Saturday's spring game

Abbreviated Video Interview / Extended Audio Interview

Mike Daley, 1977 Penn captain and 1978 Wharton graduate, discusses the motivational messages he left the team with prior to practice

Extended Audio Interview

Kicking Off With These Thoughts:

Congratulations to rising seniors Tyson Maugle (CB), Jay Colabella (LB), and Josh Koontz (TE), all pictured in that order below (you can barely tell the difference in quality between these professionally shot photos and my amateur work...). Via votes from their teammates, the trio will carry on the Quakers' proud captain tradition, which enters its 132nd season this fall. Their names will forever appear in a category that features all-time Penn standouts like John Outland, (1898), Chuck Bednarik (1948), Reds Bagnell (1950), and Joe Valerio (1990).
Penn assembles for its final practice before this Saturday’s spring game at 4:00. The first of these workouts began back on March 25th, and in the month that’s followed, the Quakers have shown improvement collectively and individually. Tonight, in my chat with the George A. Munger Head Coach of Football Al Bagnoli, we review what the Red and Blue have accomplished in their 11 sessions, and what’s on tap for the scrimmage this weekend.

During spring football, unlike the regular season, there are no statistics tracked to serve as indicators for a player/unit’s progress and productivity. Instead, to determine whether spring football can be considered a success, there are other elements that need to be examined to decide where a team stands. I think first and foremost, at the end of it all, how does the health of the club compare to when the workouts started? Bumps, bruises, stingers, strains, and pulls happen to all teams this time of the year, and the Quakers certainly suffered their fair share (RBs Michael DiMaggio and Branford Blackmon, members of the offensive line, the tight ends). But Penn can feel fortunate that it didn’t incur any severe injuries. The most significant injury on the Red and Blue’s roster, of course, occurred long before spring football, back in September. That was when a shoulder problem shut down promising junior quarterback Robert Irvin, sidelining him for the final eight games of the 2007 season. But tonight, Al Bagnoli offered extremely optimistic news regarding Irvin’s situation, and indicated there’s a reasonable chance he’d be in playing shape come August. In the interview I linked above, the head coach said, “He’s ahead of schedule. The doctors said if we absolutely had to have him throw (this spring), he probably could. We really saw no reason, and his recommendation was to wait until the middle of May, let’s make sure he’s functioning 100%. He’s passed all of his tests in terms of progress and strength and flexibility.” The other significant factor to weigh when evaluating a squad during the spring is how effectively they’re processing the fundamentals, strategies, and nuances of the gridiron. Over the past four weeks, several concepts have clearly clicked with the Quakers on both sides of the field. The understanding is coming along and talent is present, even though the execution might not always reflect it. The main mission of the coaching staff is to establish consistency, and these sessions represent the building blocks for a stronger football foundation. On offense, the running backs have enjoyed a solid spring. The development of rising sophomores Michael DiMaggio and Bradford Blackmon has continued to trend upward. Not to be overlooked, senior back Kelms Amoo-Achampong. He needs to translate his talent to game situations, but all in all, he’s rushed with a pounding, persistent approach. Wide receivers Marcus Lawrence and Tyler Fisher have utilized their speed to snag some deep passes. At fullback, Luke DeLuca and Jason Miran have battled. In Robert Irvin's absence, reserve Brendan McNally has exhibited a nice touch and a strong arm, but he’s still working to master the offense. Freshman Keiffer Garton has come along nicely, and has looked confident. Defensively, the Red and Blue appear to have more known quantities, and due to the depth and experience of key cogs, the unit has been able to absorb more than their offensive counterparts. Even though several spots remain to be settled up front, Penn seems to be more established beyond the line. No surprise that Jay Colabella and Jake Lewko have spent a majority of time together as the number-one linebacker tandem, and that Chris Wynn and Tyson Maugle remain the top cornerback pair. Jordan Manning faces stiff competition for his role as starting strong safety, while the free safety job might not shake out until the fall. With this blog entry being my last for the spring practice session, I’d like to thank all of you who have checked out the updates on a regular basis. We’ve received a tremendous response to this project, and look forward to offering more features like it in the future on PennAthletics.com. I also have to extend my appreciation to the football program and its coaching staff for granting me unfettered access over the past month, and allowing me to serve as the middleman between the team and the fans. In particular, Director of Football Operations Daniel Kuhn was a huge help. As if he didn’t already have enough to deal with organizing these workouts, he had me bugging him non-stop about arranging interviews, interpreting practice schedules, identifying players, and pointing out noteworthy visitors. Behind-the-scenes guys like him rarely get the credit they deserve. He definitely is a huge backbone for this club, as are Assistant Director of Football Operations Mike Osciak and Video Coordinator Adam Bowen. Best of luck to Adam with future endeavors, as he departs the program at the end of April. Hope you enjoyed the coverage, and will tune into the live video broadcast of the spring game this Saturday, with Hench Murray and myself on the call. Practice News and Notes:
Prior to tonight's practice, Mike Daley (below in black), former Penn safety and captain of the 1977 team, spoke to the current Quakers for roughly 50 minutes at the Wu and Chen Auditorium inside Levine Hall. Daley graduated with a degree from Wharton in 1978, and put it to good use in the financial sector. He is currently retired, and now holds motivational-speaking sessions. The theme of his speech this evening: bridging the gap between one's perceived and actual potential.

Tonight's session, by design, followed a shorter schedule than the 10 previous ones. Like the others, it lasted 28 periods, but this evening, the first 13 were five minutes, while the final 15 were four minutes. A very pleasant night, with temperatures in the high 50's and a brisk breeze. Outgoing seniors and All-Ivy selections Tom Stone (DT) and Brian Brazinski (C) attended practice and pitched in with instruction. The coaching staff scaled back on the amount of live tackling. One occurred during the last of three inside run periods. During the third and second to last periods, the Quakers simulated overtime by placing the ball on 25-yard line going into the endzone. Other scenarios focused on tonight were passing on third down under pressure, and goal line offense and defense. The Red and Blue returned to wearing full pads. In total, Penn held seven workouts in full pads, four in helmets and shorts, and one in uppers only. The spring game, which is open to the public, will be held this Saturday, April 19th at 4:00 PM. The Penn Sports Network will provide live video coverage of the scrimmage on PennAthletics.com. The final team activity takes place Monday, April 21st, when Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Jim Steele will test each players' speed and agility. Again, the Red and Blue dedicated about 20 minutes each practice to drills designed to make them faster and more nimble. Will 2008 bring with a quicker Quakers club? Stay tuned... Injury Updates:

No significant news on this front.

Bradford Blackmon, Fr. RB: Sidelined 4/15 with minor injury; expected to return to action soon
Michael DiMaggio, Fr. RB: Went down 4/13 in the 22nd period, following a hard hit, but after sitting out a few drills, returned to complete the practice; sat out 4/3 practice for precautionary reasons and returned the ensuing workout on 4/6
Trevor Charlston, Fr. PK: Received medical hardship for 2007-2008 academic year after arriving on campus with quad problem; now kicking again
Robert Irvin, Jr. QB: Shoulder injury restricted throwing; occasionally put on helmet and handed off ball during drills, participated in drop-back exercises
Kevin Dooley, Jr. OL: Foot injury will hold him out of spring practices, but serving as student-assistant coach while sidelined

Quote of the Practice:

"This is the last practice"- Director of Football Operations Daniel Kuhn

A cynical, yet somber, statement from DK. A lot went into the 11 spring practices over the past month, from both coaches and players alike. There were long, late nights spent inside the Jack LeFort Sr. Football Office Complex in Weightman Hall, and hours devoted to reviewing position manuals in preparation for practices. Everyone involved deserves a relaxing off-season after this Saturday's spring game following four weeks of hard, intense work. Even through the scolding and occasional skirmishes, the entire squad continually brought sound energy, enthusiasm, and effort to Franklin Field. From top to bottom, this program is pumped for 2008.

Next Practice:

Saturday, April 19th; 4:00-Penn Football Annual Spring Game

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008-Practice # 10 (Brian Seltzer, 12:00 AM)

Interviews:

Associate Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator Ray Priore provides insight on the progress group this spring, specifically the safety position he instructs

Abbreviated Video Interview / Extended Audio Interview

Kicking Off With These Thoughts:

In finishing the analysis of Penn’s secondary, I’ll look at the safeties this evening, and, through my conversation with coordinator Ray Priore, provide an overview of the entire defensive unit. Like the Quakers’ cornerback corps, the safety position has depth, with a starter coming back and reserves competing for a promotion. A tri-captain last fall, Pat Kimener is the lone starting safety lost to graduation. The free safety wrapped up his run with the Red and Blue in 2007 with an Honorable-Mention All-Ivy performance, tying for second on the squad with interceptions and, for the second straight season, collecting his club’s fourth-highest tackle total (51). As Penn’s free safety, the Grayslake, IL native was extremely effective in coverage, breaking up six passes. Kimener also acted as one of the Quakers’ tri-captains the previous campaign, providing the program with a veteran presence that has stretched into the spring even thought his playing days are done. He’s appeared at multiple practices over the past few weeks to assist in coaching the defensive backfield. Current junior Jordan Manning offers leadership, and is targeting his third straight season as a starter in Penn’s secondary. The strong safety squashed opponents 53 times in 2007, dragging down 3.0 tackles-for-loss and a half of a sack. He also came up with an interception in the Quakers’ second contest of the year at Villanova. A physical presence at 5’11, 190 lbs, Manning also possesses valuable speed. He developed his motor as a First-Team Mid-Penn running back at Central Dauphin High School near Harrisburg, where he captained his club’s conference championship run in 2004. Manning’s classmate Tony Moses (to the right of Defensive Coordinator Ray Priore) has received regular reps at free safety with the first-team defensive group over the course of this spring session. His sizable 6’3, 200 lbs frame lends itself to coverage, and with his aggressive approach, he’s emerging as a hard hitter. Hailing from Huntingdon Beach, CA, Tony appeared in eight outings a year ago, amassing eight tackles and breaking up a pass.

Bryon Wolf is also involved in the competition for the free safety job. The sophomore’s bided his time on the bench the two previous seasons. But now, with playing time much more of a reality, the 2006 two-sport Wendy’s High School Heisman winner has caught the coaching staff’s attention with his abilities. After all, he has an athlete’s genes. His father, Michael, belonged to the Chicago White Sox roster from 1973 through 1980. Josh Powers’s the third member of the Red and Blue battling for the top free safety spot on the Quakers’ depth chart. The rookie is perhaps best known for causing mass press box confusion 10/6 vs. Georgetown when he stepped onto Franklin Field sporting a jersey with the number 17, which also belonged to Bryan Walker, who quarterbacked that contest. That being Powers’ debut, some assumed that Walker was trying his hand at acting as a two-way player. This spring, though, Powers (whose twin Nate is a Quaker cornerback) has stood out for his aptitude for the game, rather than a wardrobe mix-up. Rising senior, Britton Ertman, will aim to build upon an effort last fall in which he recorded 7.0 tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks, the most in both categories for any Penn defensive back. In his finest single-game performance of this past campaign, Ertman intercepted a Greg Mroz pass in the second quarter of the Quakers’ 11/3 clash vs. Princeton. The play kept the contest scoreless, and would later emerge as a decisive development in Penn’s 7-0 shutout victory. Coming from the Class of 2009, Kevin Gray has worked his way into the rotation over the past month. Gray got into games sporadically throughout 2007-seven in all-and made an impressive impression 10/16 vs. Georgetown. He racked up half of his season tackle total with four stops, and recovered a fumble in the contest as well. Kevin exhibited promise as a sophomore after not receiving any varsity action as a rookie in 2006. The man responsible for overseeing the safties’ development, and that of the defense as a whole, is Ray Priore, one of the great guys on this coaching staff. Approaching every practice with an immense amount of enthusiasm and attention to detail, he is ready log his 22nd season on with the Red and Blue. His tenure, which predates Al Bagnoli’s by five years, began in 1987 as assistant linebackers coach under then-head coach Ed Zubrow. He moved on to instruct outside linebackers for the next two campaigns for both Zubrow and his successor, Gary Steele. In 1991, he started to mentor defensive ends, and continued to do so through 1998, when his third head coach Al Bagnoli handed him the reigns of the defense. Priore assumed the title of Associate Head Coach in the fall of 2006. He’s fiercely loyal to the program, and has produced 18 First-Team All-Ivy selections the last five years.

Practice News and Notes:

In a departure from the practice schedule, Penn did not don full pads, but uppers only (pictured below). Instead, the Quakers will have their last full pads workout this spring tomorrow, the final tune-up before Saturday’s spring game.

A piling up of injuries can partially explain why Penn opted to change its plans. Running back Bradford Blackmon banged himself up a bit Sunday-nothing serious. Bumps and bruises have hit the tight ends and offensive line especially hard. Assistant strength coach John Keller (who led sidelined players in conditioning exercises, like the endzone body crawl below) did his best to determine which Quakers were injured or hurt...

The absence of full pads, and subsequently the physically demanding live tackling periods, lifted the mood at practice a little. The coaches, however, wouldn’t allow the Red and Blue to relax. There were several instances in which groups of players were ordered to do pushups or received verbal lashings for lack of focus. For the second straight session, the temperatures were at first very pleasant, only to nosedive suddenly. About an hour in, the climate cooled about 15 degrees, which caused at least one staff member to search for a sweatshirt in the George A. Munger Lockerroom. Several players changed into long-sleeved Under Armor shirts after initially wearing short-sleeves. With spring practices quickly coming to a close (amazing how this past month has breezed by), players received ballots earlier today to cast their votes-not for Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama-but for the Quakers’ 2008 captains. Lots of veterans on this club, especially on the defensive side of the ball, with the potential to serve as the squad’s appointed leaders. The most number of captains Penn has ever had in a single season is four, which happened in 2000, 2002, and 2005. Mike Toop (at right with Al Bagnoli) dropped by Franklin Field for tonight’s workout. The current head coach of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy served as the Quakers’ defensive coordinator from 1992-1998 during Al Bagnoli’s first seven seasons. He actually spent 1985 and 1986 on Bagnoli’s staff at Union. At Penn, Toops’ troops played pivotal roles in three Ivy League title campaigns (1993, 1994, and 1998). Thanks to his scheming in 1994, the Red and Blue ranked first nationally in total defense, scoring defense, and pass efficiency defense. Following his departure from Penn in 1998, Toop enjoyed stints as defensive coordinator at Connecticut and head coach at Davidson before arriving at King’s Point in 2005.

Points of emphasis this evening included: punting, “hot reads” (the quarterback making checks at the line of scrimmage), red zone offense and defense, and two-minute offense (a first this spring)

Injury Updates:

The list growing slightly more lengthy...

Bradford Blackmon, Fr. RB: Sidelined 4/15 with minor injury; expected to return to action soon
Michael DiMaggio, Fr. RB: Went down 4/13 in the 22nd period, following a hard hit, but after sitting out a few drills, returned to complete the practice; sat out 4/3 practice for precautionary reasons and returned the ensuing workout on 4/6
Trevor Charlston, Fr. PK: Received medical hardship for 2007-2008 academic year after arriving on campus with quad problem; now kicking again
Robert Irvin, Jr. QB: Shoulder injury restricted throwing; occasionally put on helmet and handed off ball during drills, participated in drop-back exercises
Kevin Dooley, Jr. OL: Foot injury will hold him out of spring practices, but serving as student-assistant coach while sidelined

Quote of the Practice:

"To win third down, you have to win first down" - Associate Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator Ray Priore

So often coaches talk about "winning the battle on third down," but the above phrase crystallizes a painfully obvious point. If a defense doesn't yield much on first down, then it naturally sets up the opposition in a second and long situation, thus increasing the likelihood of a challenging third and long conversion. The quote, which Coach P first heard from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichik, helped shaped his defensive philosophy. The Quakers' defense places enormous emphasis on first down. Last year, the Red and Blue surrendered three yards or less roughly 65% of the time on foes' first downs. That's pretty outstanding.

Next Practice:

Wednesday, April 16th; 8:15 PM - 10:15 PM (Full Pads). For the final practice prior to the annual spring game, I'll talk to the George A. Munger Head Coach of Football Al Bagnoli about how far his Quakers have come since their first workout March 25th.


Sunday, April 13th, 2008-Practice # 9 (Brian Seltzer, 12:00 AM)

Interviews:

Cornerbacks Coach Jon Dupont (growing out a beard for spring football) has developed one of the Ivy League's top cornerback tandems, and talks about the depth the Red and Blue boast in the defensive backfield

Abbreviated Video Interview / Extended Audio Interview

Kicking Off With These Thoughts:

Kudos to Penn's George A. Munger Head Coach of Football Al Bagnoli and his second-year Director of Football Operations Daniel Kuhn for organizing this afternoon's First and Goal bone marrow screening event at the Palestra. With the assistance of the Penn Stem Cell Club, the program helped sign up several hundred potential donors. This effort came as an extension of an annual campaign started 17 years ago by Villanova Head Coach Andy Talley to benefit the National Marrow Donor Program registry. So far, between the Quakers, Wagner, and Northeastern, over 800 people have had their cheeks swabbed, with six more schools, including Villanova, Temple, and Harvard, still to hold their respective testing sessions. For more information on how you can join the screening process, visit www.marrow.org.

The last position left to examine is the defensive backs, and I'll review it in two parts; cornerbacks tonight, and safeties on Tuesday. The entire group broke out in 2007, and will welcome back three of its four starters, as well as several key back-ups. Of the Quakers’ 16 interceptions, which marked the third-most in the Ivy League a year ago, the secondary grabbed all but two of those picks. Three of its members swiped multiple passes: Chris Wynn (5), Tyson Maugle (2), and Patrick Kimener (2) The focus of this evening, the cornerbacks, find themselves in a very solid spot as far as depth is concerned, with last year's starters Chris Wynn and Tyson Maugle (pictured communicating below, with #6 Wynn in the foreground) still in the fold for the upcoming season. Commencement will claim one Quaker, however. Even though he returned to a reserve role as a senior, Greg Ambrogi was a vital component of Penn’s secondary. After the corner started each contest of the 2006 season en route to Third-Team All-Region in Hansen’s Football Gazette, the Saint Joseph’s Prep product showed the same intensity while selflessly coming off the bench last year. His 30 tackles were second among cornerbacks, and he displayed a penchant for delivering punishing hits by posting 5.0 tackles-for-loss and forcing a fumble. He also had an interception in his final game 11/17 vs. Cornell. Greg is to be congratulated on a great Quaker career in the face of personal adversity.

Chris Wynn represents one half of the Quakers’ shutdown cornerback duo coming back. During his rookie year in 2006, he exhibited explosiveness in the Red and Blue’s kick return game, running back the fourth-longest touchdown in program history (98 yards 10/28 vs. Brown). In his second go-round in 2007, he translated that playmaking talent to the secondary. The First-Team All-Ivy League selection deserved every bit of that recognition with the following numbers: a team-high 5 interceptions (3rd-Ivy League, 10th-NCAA) and club-best 11 knockdowns for a total of 16 passes defended (2nd-Ivy League). Also as a sophomore, he retained his assignment as kick-returnman with 19 returns and 436 return yards, both of which were good for first on the squad.. Tyson Maugle makes up the second half of the corner back tandem, and will enter his third campaign as a starter for the Quakers. In his first two, he earned Honorable Mention All-Ivy. Maugle’s 54 tackles were second only to LB Joe Anastasio, while his 38 solo stops were the most. Maugle might have demonstrated more defensive versatility than any other Penn player. He was an asset in coverage; swatting aside eight passes while picking off two. But the current junior also offered the Red and Blue a blitzing option with one sack and two quarterback hits. His 4.0 tackles-for-loss and one forced fumble reflect his power as well. Tyson took awards for “Strongest Defensive Back” and “Strongest Pound-for-Pound” during the Iron Quaker Competition in March. Jonathan Moore (#35 in coverage vs. #14 Tyler Fisher) and Joey Brown are two reserves that will factor into the Red and Blue’s defensive backfield rotation in 2008. Moore has received reps regularly with the first-team defense this spring and, as you can hear in my conversation with Cornerbacks Coach Jon Dupont, he has really left a positive impression on the Quaker coaching staff. Although he didn't log a whole lot of time last year, appearing in just six games with only five tackles, Moore has made major strides in the off-season. On the field for all 10 games a year ago, Brown snagged his first career interception 9/29 at Dartmouth. He racked up multiple tackle totals against Lafayette, Georgetown, and Columbia.

Over the previous two seasons, a nucleus has evolved in Penn’s secondary that could very well wind up being the Ancient Eight’s best this season. Cornerbacks Coach Jon Dupont has grown right along with this group, as he prepares for his third year on Al Bagnoli’s staff. He joined the program via Trinity, where then-head coach Chuck Priore mentored him. Chuck was the Quakers’ offensive coordinator from 1992-1999, and is the brother of current Red and Blue defensive coordinator, Ray.

Practice News and Notes:

Penn’s penultimate (ah yes, a word that validates an English minor from this fine institution) practice in full pads opened under comfortable conditions—temperatures were in the mid 50’s. When the workout came to a close at approximately 9:30 PM, the climate felt about 15 degrees colder. The session started at 7:00 sharp, with Associate Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator Ray Priore presiding. Coach Bagnoli arrived about 15 minutes behind schedule. He was coming from a dinner with longtime University of Pennsylvania supporter George A. Weiss, who’s playing an indispensable role in Penn President Amy Gutmann’s “Making History” capital campaign. Mr. Weiss, an unwavering Quaker football fan, attended practice as well, as did Jim Dunsmore, who wore the Red (but tonight, not his trademark red slacks) and Blue for the historic 1959 campaign during which Penn clinched its first Ancient Eight crown. The loyalty of those two, and others ardent followers like them, is an enormous asset to the program. How the Quakers would come out tonight after being out of action for three days, their longest layoff since spring sessions started back on March 25th? In general, the execution was as it had been, although there seemed to be a little huffing, puffing, and panting during a grueling speed portion of practice. Not the most welcomed exercise I’m sure for those that Flung this past weekend... Given this afternoon’s three-hour First and Goal bone marrow screening session at the Palestra, the Quaker coaching staff had less time than usual to map out this evening’s practice. While the offensive schedule for the workout listed only one live tackling period, there were at least six by my count. That’s right around the number from previous sessions. As far as specialty exercises, there were two periods that concentrated on kick-off coverage and related work for gunners. Also, during the final three of the five team periods that closed practice, specific emphasis was placed on coming out of the endzone, short-yardage, and goal line situations. A couple of plays highlighted the night. Rookie running back Michael DiMaggio received a humbling hit from linebacker J.D. Black during the live tackling period of inside-run drills. With the Penn Offensive Rookie of the Year sweeping to the left, Black read the rush perfectly, and penetrated past the line of scrimmage for a crunching stop. Pleasantries were exchanged afterwards, as they were periodically between members of the offense and defense during this period. I wrote above that the Quakers’ offense practiced coming out of their own endzone, with their heels virtually pinned to the goal line. Rising junior linebacker Jake Peterson showed why he took the title of “Strongest Overall” in Penn’s off-season powerlifting program when he blew up one attempt. He splattered quarterback Cal Farley for a safety. Michael DiMaggio and Penn’s offense ended an up-and-down evening on a positive note. He rammed his way up the gut for a touchdown from five yards out.

Injury Updates:

A slight note on the DiMaggio front, but nothing major.

Michael DiMaggio, Fr. RB: Went down 4/13 in the 22nd period, following a hard hit, but after sitting out a few drills, returned to complete the practice; sat out 4/3 practice for precautionary reasons and returned the ensuing workout on 4/6
Trevor Charlston, Fr. PK: Received medical hardship for 2007-2008 academic year after arriving on campus with quad problem; now kicking again
Robert Irvin, Jr. QB: Shoulder injury restricted throwing; occasionally put on helmet and handed off ball during drills, participated in drop-back exercises
Kevin Dooley, Jr. OL: Foot injury will hold him out of spring practices, but serving as student-assistant coach while sidelined

Quote of the Practice:

"Be physical. Play violent." - Cornerbacks Coach Jon Dupont

Coach Dupont demanded this of his cornerbacks during tonight's crossover period while telling his group how to shred receiver blocks. Not only does this command address a skill that sometimes flies under the radar, but it underscores the intensity that Coach Dupont aims to inject in his players. As a whole, the defense's philosophy is to act as a ferocious pack. In a spin-off of that mindset, Coach Dupont has devised a motivational system called "Hunt and Hunter," in which he bestows upon the most aggressive corner a big, blue-painted dog bone with the split Penn "P" on it. The corner then gets to keep the symbol of pride in his locker until it is awarded to someone else. Individual efforts during this crossover period certainly carries influence in Coach Dupont's decision making.

Next Practice:

Tuesday, April 15th; 8:15 PM - 10:15 PM (Full Pads). Associate Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator Ray Priore evaluates his group, and specifically analyzes the safety position.

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008-Practice # 8 (Brian Seltzer, 12:00 AM)

Interviews:

Linebackers Coach Cliff Schwenke (below with Jay Colabella) reflects on the Red and Blue's successful lineage at the position, and the next Quakers in line to contribute there.

Abbreviated Video Interview / Extended Audio Interview

Kicking Off With These Thoughts:

After the previous practice on Sunday, I talked to Defensive Line Coach Jim Schaefer about the regeneration that the Red and Blue will need to undergo in the trenches due to the graduation of four starters. Even with talented reserves poised to rise on the depth chart, Penn will likely experience a learning curve at defensive line, in the sense of players getting acclimated to new and increased roles. When it comes to the Quakers’ linebackers corps and defensive backfield, though, lack of game experience should not prove as much a factor. Tonight, I took the time to examine the linebackers. Since he signed on to Al Bagnoli’s staff in 1999, Cliff Schwenke has created a chain linked with dominant players at the position. It always seems that following each campaign, Penn finds itself needing to replace a dominant linebacker claimed by commencement, and that there’s a promising prospect frothing to seize the opportunity. Here’s how the line of succession has looked over the past 9 years, with each players’ final season listed: 1999: Jim Hisgen – Two time All-Ivy 2002: Travis Belden – Two time First-Team All-Ivy 2003: Steve Lhotak – Two time All-Ivy 2004: Luke Hadden – First-Team All-Ivy 2005: Ric Sandoval – Two time captain, First-Team All-Ivy 2006: Kory Gedin – Two time All-Ivy 2007: Joe Anastasio – Two time All-Ivy
The above linebacker lineage is pretty outstanding. All in all, a Penn linebacker has been appointed All-Ivy for seven consecutive campaigns. Joe Anastasio continued that streak last season along with his heir apparent, Jay Collabella. Joe closed out his career in steady fashion, topping the team in total tackles for the second year in a row by registering 71. The previous fall, he became the first member of the Red and Blue in nine years to surpass the century mark for tackles in a single season. So, after amassing a measly 20 tackles as a freshman and sophomore, it’s safe to write he did just a little bit better as a junior and senior, tallying 173 during that stretch (a cool increase of 765%. Yes, 765%). As much of a factor as Anastasio was, he’ll be the lone linebacker leaving. Colabella (at right below with Jake Lewko) is the leading the pack of those returning, and like the elder Anastasio, he received a Second-Team All-Ivy appointment in 2007. The rising senior could also be on track to succeed Ansastasio as a captain. After racking up three tackles as a rookie and 16 in the season that followed, Colabella burst into a full-time starting spot as a junior. Voted the Reds Bagnell Award winner for most improved, he finished fifth on the Quakers with 46 hits, tied for first on the team with 3.5 sacks, broke up two passes, and picked off one. He proved himself extremely versatile, able to both rush the pocket and drop back in coverage, and valuable as well. Lots of high hopes for him in 2008.


Current sophomore Jake Lewko looked strong in a reserve linebacker role last fall, and could emerge as a very nice compliment to Colabella. His 36 tackles ranked him seventh on the Red and Blue, and he impressively posted 5.5 tackles-for-loss while forcing a fumble. The product from Shawnee High School, the alma matter of former Quakers Adam Francks and Dan McDonald, earned the Penn Football Club Award for Defensive Rookie in 2007. J.D. Black exhibited flashes in eight outings the previous season, and capitalized on the playing time he received in the finale 11/17 vs. Cornell. The Buford, GA native swiped an interception and returned it for 22 yards. He demonstrated a knack for penetrating into the offensive backfield with 2.0 tackles-for-loss on 13 total hits. Jake Peterson, a 6’0, 225 lbs sophomore, put in a lot of work in the weight room this off-season, and was a double winner at the second annual Iron Quaker Competition. Peterson, who re-joined the team after spending 2005 and 2006 serving his Mormon mission, claimed trophies for “Strongest Linebacker” and “Strongest Overall” with the following stats: Clean=335 lbs, Bench=350 lbs, Squat=530 lbs. With these accolades, he continued his family’s power lifting tradition. His father Clay was a champion power lifter, and also a member of the 1981 BYU football program.
Rising sophomore Zach Heller caught Linebackers Coach Cliff Schwenke’s eye during the 2007 campaign. While only pulling down a pair of tackles, he took the field in nine of Penn’s 10 games. He must have showed the Quaker staff enough potential to get out there. He picked up All-State Honorable Mention and was named to the All-Central Florida team as a senior at Lake Highland Prep in 2006. In addition to being an exceptional linebackers coach, Cliff Schwenke's also a tremendous media coordinator. He serves as the program's liaison to Athletic Communications, and assisted in arranging all of the interviews I've been able to post on this blog. So, an enormous thanks goes out to Coach Schwenke for his assistance.

Practice News and Notes:

A pleasant surprise that the temperature at the start of practice sat at about 55 degrees. The climate was cool in the Philadelphia area to begin the day, but it gradually got warmer thanks to a slight degree of mugginess. Tonight’s workout marked the fifth straight in full pads, and featured 28 periods that lasted five minutes each. Six of them, including the five that closed practice, were with live tackling. The evening opened with a period that allowed specialists, particularly kicker Dave Kuncio and Trevor Charlston, to get into a rhythm. About 25 minutes later, the Quakers would run through their first period this spring that focused on kick-offs and kick-off returns. The incumbent Kuncio averaged 54.0 yards/kick in 2007. He tops the depth chart at this position, with Trevor Charlston (pictured far right below speaking with Al Bagnoli and Kuncio) behind him. Charlston sat last season due to a quad injury suffered prior to arriving on campus.

Tonight's kick return rotation consisted of the pairings of WR Marcus Lawrence (Penn’s go-to punt returman in 2007) and RB Bradford Blackmon, as well as CB Chris Wynn (last year’s team leader in total kick return yards) and WR Tyler Fisher (ran back 96 yard TD 10/13 at Columbia). The Quakers’ strongest skill might actually rest in their kick returning. Penn proved the Ivy League’s most dangerous team in this regard a year ago. Their 23.5 yards/kick return average was a full three yards greater than the next closest club (Brown). The highlight of the practice's lone crossover period, which pits like positions from opposite sides of the field against one another in contact drills, was an exercise in which a wideout tucked a football under his arm while laying belly-down on the turf. On the goal line across from him, a defensive back also lay belly-down. At the blow of Receivers Coach Rick Ulrich’s whistle, the wideout and defensive back both sprung to their feet, and the wideout had to try and reach the endzone while running head-on at the defensive back, who attempted to tackle him. As if the drill weren’t already competitive enough, a point was awarded depending on who won the one-on-one battle. The physical Kevin Baidoo (below in #1 white jersey), at 6’2, 180 lbs, successfully steamrolled a few members of the secondary. CB Chris Wynn represented the defensive backs well by ripping down receivers with determined strength.

The Quaker coaching staff placed heavy emphasis on red zone installation, spending two individual periods and the final two team periods (both were live) on offensive and defensive strategy inside the 20-yard line. In addition to red zone work, the team period portion of practice also concentrated on shifting the pocket and short-yardage situations. Again, the Red and Blue hit during this segment. Penn Football Board President Bill Constantine watched a significant part of practice from the sidelines. While observing the wideouts, he became a little curious. He knew that the program’s eighth all-time receiver, Braden Lepisto, is due to graduate in May, and that he therefore wasn’t participating in these spring practices. Still, he saw an athletic, speedy member of the Red and Blue sporting Lepisto’s #5 jersey and running sharp routes, a la Lepisto. Impressed, he realized that rising junior Marcus Lawrence had switched numbers. With Penn's annual Spring Fling festival revving up the next few days, the Quakers will enjoy their longest layoff of this spring football session. They get a deserved three-day break.

Injury Updates:

No news is good news...

Michael DiMaggio, Fr. RB: Mild muscle pull; sat out 4/3 practice for precautionary reasons and returned the ensuing workout on 4/6
Trevor Charlston, Fr. PK: Received medical hardship for 2007-2008 academic year after arriving on campus with quad problem; now kicking again
Robert Irvin, Jr. QB: Shoulder injury restricted throwing; occasionally put on helmet and handed off ball during drills, participated in drop-back exercises
Kevin Dooley, Jr. OL: Foot injury will hold him out of spring practices, but serving as student-assistant coach while sidelined

Quote of the Practice:

"Keep your poise." - Quarterbacks Coach Larry Woods

Coach Woods delivered this demand to the Quakers' offensive unit about halfway through tonight's practice after a botched snap occurred during an inside-run period. Over the course of this spring session, the offense has struggled to establish consistency and cohesiveness, and iat times, has appeared rattled. The group heeded the advice, though, and it paid off. Later on, as the work out winded down during the live team redzone periods, the offense began to execute in rhythm, and demonstrated encouraging indications of progress.

Next Practice:

Sunday, April 13th; 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM (Full Pads). Assistant coach Jon Dupont helps me dissect the Quakers' defensive backfield.

Sunday, April 6th, 2008-Practice # 7 (Brian Seltzer, 12:00 AM)

Interviews:

Defensive Line Coach Jim Schaefer examines his group and its potential, with the Red and Blue needing to replace four starters from the front.

Abbreviated Video Interview / Extended Audio Interview

Kicking Off With These Thoughts:

After having focused on the components of the Quakers’ offense during the first six practices, I’ll examine the different aspects of the defense during the last five workouts leading up to the April 19th Spring Game. Coordinated by Associate Head Coach Ray Priore, who’ll enter his 22nd campaign on campus, Penn’s defense will have to deal with the departure of six senior starters. Five starters will return, with some promising Red and Blue reserves ready to compete for a promotion in 2007. Possibly lost during Penn’s 4-6 / 3-4 showing in 2007 was the performance of the defense. In four of the Quakers’ 10 contests, the group held the opposition to two touchdowns or less. Another note to consider, even though the unit yielded 20 or more points six times(losing five of those games), three of those were outings in which the Red and Blue committed three or more turnovers. While occasionally inconsistent, the defense did, for the most part, give the team a chance to win. Penn’s defensive rankings in the Ivy League a year ago were pretty good, placing among the Ancient Eight’s top three in all but two categories. Here’s how they finished: total defense(3), scoring defense(3), passing defense(5), passing efficiency defense(3), rushing defense(2), turnovers forced(2), first downs(2), sacks(3), third down conversions allowed(2), red zone defense(4, but third fewest RZ TD allowed). I’ll begin to breakdown the defense by looking at the line today, followed by the linebackers on Wednesday, and the defensive backs next Sunday. Jim Schaefer has stood on the sidelines with head coach Al Bagnoli in each of his 16 seasons at Penn(and 10 at Union before that), and has been responsible for developing some dominant players in the trenches. He’s mentored three two-time First Team All-Ivy League selections in Mitch Marrow and Ed and John Galan, in addition to three other first team appointees Michael Sangobowale, Brian Fairbanks, and most recently Naheem Harris (C’07). Along Penn’s five-man defensive front, nose guard Naheem Harris will be the largest lost to graduation, both in terms of physical mass and productivity. At 6’1 and 285 lbs, his frame fit him well to fill the role as the Quakers’ anchor on the line of scrimmage. He boasted the most bulk among his fellow starters on defense, and a motor that more than compensated for it, which made him that more dangerous. His 7.0 tackles-for-loss marked the third-highest total on the Red and Blue, and his 2.0 sacks tied him for second on the squad. He received the Chuck Bednarik Award as Penn’s 2007 “Outstanding Defensive Lineman,” and deservedly so. The senior provided a strong leadership presence as well. Voted by his teammates as the defensive player that offered the greatest contributions, Tom Stone also departs due to graduation. The two-time Honorable Mention All-Ivy tallied 3.5 tackles-for-loss and a sack as a starting defensive tackle, and played all 30 of the Quakers’ games the last three years of his career. And his father even went to Princeton... Commencement will cost the Quakers their pair of starting defensive ends from the previous campaign. Swarthmore native Sam McGarity, who at 6’3 and 235 lbs gave Penn good speed on the edge, utilized that skill to post 2.0 sacks as well as 7.5 tackles-for-loss, which was second-best on the club. He recorded three four-tackle games, and recovered a fumble against Georgetown. Mike Marinelli is the second defensive end who completed his Quaker career last fall. He tallied 14 total tackles, with 2.0 as tackles-for-loss and 0.5 sack. Two other seniors factored into the defensive line rotation as back-ups. Scott Martinho admirably earned significant playing time in 2007 (including two starts) after not seeing a second of varsity action in 2006 or 2005. Of his 15 tackles, an efficient 4.5 were tackles-for-loss, and 2.0 went for sacks. His relief was extremely reliable for the Red and Blue if starters needed an occasional spell. Brian Appleby also saw spot duty in 8 contests, closing his year strong, with two tackles at Harvard and against Cornell. Forced to replace four of their five starters on the defensive front, the Quakers will likely count on rising junior Joe Goniprow (chatting below with #4 Kevin Gray) to shift father in from tackle to nose guard. After not playing varsity in 2006, Joe enjoyed a breakout sophomore season in which he pulled down 1.5 sacks, while notching a team-high 8.5 tackles-for-loss. He, Harris, and Stone really formed a tenacious inside trio. While he wasn’t able to participate in the second annual Iron Quaker Competition due to a minor injury, Goniprow has looked great this spring, and has showcased the upper body strength that lends itself well to the position he’ll assume in 2008.

Josh Neubert’s a very intriguing prospect for Penn. He initially signed with the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Boston College, opting for a medical redshirt as a freshman in 2006 before transferring to Penn for the 2007 season. He took the field in all 10 Quaker contests, and made a name for himself at North Penn High School. There, he registered 13 sacks as a senior and 10 as a junior. The Knights captured the 2003 Pennsylvania AAAA state championship, and went 37-5 during his tenure. Derric Bath could be positioning himself for a role on the line. The 5’11, 265 lbs Mattoon, IL product didn’t get into a game a year ago, but has been working arduously during the off-season to prepare himself if called upon this fall. He emerged as the program’s strongest defensive lineman to participate in the Iron Quaker Competition this spring (Clean = 305 lbs., Bench = 335 lbs., Squat = 450 lbs.).

Practice News and Notes:

A very brisk night in University City, as the temperature consistently sat at 46-degrees. There wasn’t much of a breeze, so it wasn't too cold, provided the proper supplement (see below, and thanks to the Quaker managers for making that run). All in all, a nice night for football

Penn held its fourth consecutive practice in full pads. Rookie running back Michael DiMaggio (awaiting to flag down a punt below) returned to practice and participated fully. He didn’t dress Thursday due to a very mild groin strain. Based on the numerous zigs and zags he executed this evening, it’d be hard to imagine he experienced even the slightest pain.

Tonight’s workout placed heavy emphasis on game simulation, as Al Bagnoli and the Quaker coaching staff brought in officials to oversee a majority of the session, including the “inside run” and “pass skeleton” periods, as well as a 72-play scrimmage. Five officials (one below awaiting the snap of a play) were in attendance, a total that’s two shy of the typical size of a crew. On hand were an umpire, referee, back judge, side judge, line judge, and field judge.

The scrimmage marked the most physically intense aspect of Penn’s spring session to date. The live tackling was almost entirely unrestricted. Even the red-pineyed quarterbacks were subject to hits (sacks were permitted). Understandably, with his right throwing shoulder sensitive, Robert Irvin did not take part in this portion of the workout. The Quakers’ quarterback rotation currently consists of Brendan McNally, Cal Farley, and Kieffer Garton, in that order. The coaching staff monitored the reps that they received closely, distributing them across the first, second, and third offensive units. This strategy ensured that each had the opportunity to establish familiarity with all members of the offense. Prior to the intra-squad scrimmage, the Red and Blue spent the first seven periods of practice without shoulder pads and helmets, walking through various steps of the offensive and defensive schemes. After several periods of stretching, the Quakers would then spend three on “inside-run,” none of which were live. The final two periods before the simulated scrimmage concentrated on non-tackling passing skeleton drills. A few impressions from the 72-play scrimmage.: The offense had trouble gelling and finding its groove. Plays occasionally took time to develop; however, the unit closed the practice better than it started, with the final 36 plays noticeably crisper than the first 36. The up-and-down evening ended positively with a TD catch by Matt Tuten (his father Rich is the strength and conditioning coach for the Denver Broncos), and Dave Kuncio’s PAT. Wideout Marcus Lawrence (now wearing outgoing senior Braden Lepisto’s # 5) has the potential to become a bona fide threat for the Quakers on the offensive side of the field. He ripped through the Red and Blue’s defensive backfield en route to a 70-yard touchdown toss from Brendan McNally. McNally put perfect touch on the pass, and once it reached Lawrence’s outstretched palms, the rising junior raced about 45 yards after the catch for the score. The receiver also reeled in another nice grab on a slant route later in the scrimmage that put Penn inside the red zone. Soon-to-be senior rusher Kelms Amoo Achampong displayed a determined effort. The 6’2, 225 lbs back is trying to make his case for playing time, and he ran really well between the tackles tonight, using his physical frame like a battering ram up the gut. Defenders had difficulty slowing him down. NG Joe Gonirpow played a part in a sack that forced a fumble, which he would then recover for the defense.

Injury Updates:

Positive news to report, as Michael DiMaggio returned for full-participation in practice...

Michael DiMaggio, Fr. RB: Mild muscle pull; sat out 4/3 practice for precautionary reasons and returned the ensuing workout on 4/6
Trevor Charlston, Fr. PK: Received medical hardship for 2007-2008 academic year after arriving on campus with quad problem; now kicking again
Robert Irvin, Jr. QB: Shoulder injury restricted throwing; occasionally put on helmet and handed off ball during drills, participated in drop-back exercises
Kevin Dooley, Jr. OL: Foot injury will hold him out of spring practices, but serving as student-assistant coach while sidelined

Quote of the Practice:

"That was sick!" - Junior Defensive Back Mark Washington

Mark stood on the south sidelines of Franklin Field, and delivered that exclamation after watching his fellow defensive back Tyson Maugle belly-flop to the turf in order to successfully pick off a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage, as Penn's offense had driven down to the defense's 27 yard-line. It was an extremely athletic play, and one of several turnovers the D pried away tonight.

Next Practice:

Wednesday, April 9th; 8:15 PM - 10:15 PM (Full pads). I'll talk to assistant coach Cliff Schwenke about why Penn has become the Ivy League own "Linebacker U."

April 3rd, 2008-Practice # 6 (Brian Seltzer, 11:50 PM)
Interviews:

Offensive Coordinator Bill Schmitz discusses his system, and the Quakers' increased comfort with his schemes heading into his second season.

Abbreviated Video Interview / Extended Audio Interview

Kicking Off With These Thoughts:
Having now taken a look at all positions on Penn’s offense over the first five spring practices, I decided tonight to get an overview of the entire offensive unit from its coordinator Bill Schmitz(seen below in baseball cap sizing up the offense). He’ll be responsible for finding replacements for eight of his 11 starters from the 2007 season. Among those that have graduated or will do so in May are First-Team All-Ivy selections RB Joe Sandberg and C Brian Brazinski, along with two Honorable Mention All-Ivy picks in WR Braden Lepisto and FB Nick Cisler.

Plagued with injuries over the course of last season while attempting to adjust to a recently installed system by Coach Schmitz (hired just 6 days prior to spring football a year ago), Penn had problems establishing consistency on the offensive side of the ball. Even though the Red and Blue’s offense ranked among the bottom half of the Ancient Eight in overall, scoring, and passing offense, what left a lasting impression upon me was the unit’s performance in the season finale. The group erupted for 449 total yards in a 45-9 dismantling of Cornell, and I distinctly remember Coach Schmitz visibly ecstatic on the sidelines, encouraging players and congratulating them on such a convincing effort. The interactions offered an indication that perhaps there was a breakthrough in the comprehension and execution of the schemes. Definitely something to build upon... At this time of the year, roster spots-for the most part-are in their earliest stages of being solidified, and a lot remains in flux due to continuous evaluations of talent and injuries. I don’t like returning to the situation stemming from QB Robert Irvin’s right throwing shoulder, because it’s been examined from so many different angles in this forum, but in the end, it’s an extremely significant storyline. I’ll bring up the issue this one last time and put it in the context of Coach Schmitz. Ultimately, the uncertainty makes his mission of fine-tuning the Red and Blue’s offense much more of a challenge, because an offense is typically molded to fit the quarterback entrusted in operating it. Right now, he doesn’t know who that will be when the 2008 season starts September 20th against Villanova. Schmitz, along with Quarterbacks Coach Larry Woods, has done a tremendous job of paying close attention to back-ups Brendan McNally, Cal Farley, and Kieffer Garton, and working intricately with them for one-on-one instruction. Coach Schmitz is hands-on (he's warming up tight ends below) and, entering his second season with the program, boasts a wealth of experience: over three decades on the sidelines with stints as an assistant at Cincinnati, Rice, and Vanderbilt, and head coaching responsibilities with Coast Guard and Austin Peay.

Finishing that thought about an offensive scheme being sculpted to the quarterback running it, Penn, for the time being, doesn’t plan on deviating from its multiple pro offense in 2008, with Robert Irvin or without him. For the purpose of the QBs participating fully in this spring session (although he dresses for each practice, Irvin is limited to non-throwing activity), more snaps have been taken under center than out of the shotgun. The reserves have shown a nice ability to sprint out of the pocket, throw on the run, and move the pocket around, which relieves the offensive line of some protection pressure. There will be constancy in one essential sense, which is in 2008, the Red and Blue will have the same offensive coordinator in place for consecutive seasons for the first time since Andy Coen held the position from 2000 through 2005. Following that year, Coen was hired as the head coach of Lehigh, which paved the way for Shawn Halloran to step in. After just one campaign, Halloran decided to return to Yale’s staff, where he had served as Linebackers and Special Teams Coach from 1997 through 2001. Bill Schmitz came next in this line, and his return in 2008 will ensure stability, and subsequently comfort, in the offensive scheme. That’s a welcomed scenario for Quaker coaches and players alike. Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Penn football fixture Dan Staffieri, affectionately known as “Coach Lake.” Unable to attend the spring sessions while recovering from a successful medical procedure, he is in outstanding spirits, and doing “Oh Very Well.” As he humorously put it today, this temporary absence should be viewed as nothing more than a “medical redshirt.” A member of Maryland’s 1953 national title team, Coach Lake is set for his 32nd campaign with the Quakers in 2008. He fully expects to be at Franklin Field September 20th when the Red and Blue battle Villanova, and we look forward to seeing him there, megaphone and all!

Practice News and Notes:

Very cool and uncomfortable from a weather standpoint. Temperatures in the low 40’s at the beginning of practice felt more like 35-degrees when a steady, light rain started to fall. Full pads for the third practice in a row. Due to the threat of rain in the Philadelphia area, the session was moved up by 15 minutes for an 8:00 PM start. Even though the punting portion of the workout was moved to the end, the entertaining competition between freshmen Mark Dziemranowicz and Raiam Santos proceeded during the opening period of practice designated for specialists, and also on the sidelines of Franklin Field amidst individual periods. Penn made a slight adjustment to its spring schedule. The club will reschedule Tuesday, April 8th's practice for Wednesday, April 16th. This session was supposed be in uppers, rather than full pads. The move means that the Quakers will now have all 7 full pad practices in succession.
Check out this awesome article that Mark wrote for The Pennsylvania Gazette. Not only does it describe the friendly rivalry that he and Santos developed first as members of the sprint football team this past fall, it offers insight into the program that head coach Bill Wagner has done a tremendous job sustaining over the last 38 years. That the Ivy League sprint football championship trophy is named in his honor speaks immensely of his contributions. I had a chance to chat with Santos (awaiting a snap, with Al Bagnoli looking on) earlier in the evening. He has a really intriguing personal story that Mark alludes to in his piece linked above. Aptly nicknamed “Brazil" because of his birth and later residence in Rio de Janeiro, he believes he might be the first Brazilian Division-I football player, should he win the position. He came to the United States at age of 15, and made headlines back home while playing football at the high school level, since virtually no development programs for the sport exist in his country. Before we had a chance to finish the conversation, Santos was called over by coaches for a drill. I’ll try to hammer out the details for a later update.

Rookie RB Michael DiMaggio did not suit up tonight, purely for precautionary reasons. He anticipates a quick return, and to participate in the April 19th spring game. The Red and Blue running game received emphasis in the opening half of the practice. The fourth through sixth periods taught the rushing scheme via basic walkthroughs. The 12th through 14th periods were “inside run,” the last of which featured live tackling. This sixth practice of Penn’s spring session was highlighted by the most live periods yet, which totaled six tonight. As mentioned, one occurred during “inside run,” two more during passing skeleton drills, and the last three were during “team” periods. The “team” exercises stressed third down situations. It was the most focus placed on these scenarios so far.

Injury Updates:

A string of four straight days without an actual update to this section snapped...

Michael DiMaggio, Fr. RB: Mild muscle pull; sat out 4/3 practice for precautionary reasons Trevor Charlston, Fr. PK: Received medical hardship for 2007-2008 academic year after arriving on campus with quad problem; now kicking again
Robert Irvin, Jr. QB: Shoulder injury restricted throwing; occasionally put on helmet and handed off ball during drills, participated in drop-back exercises
Kevin Dooley, Jr. OL: Foot injury will hold him out of spring practices, but serving as student-assistant coach while sidelined

Quote of the Practice:

"You're a kicker, not a punter" - Associate Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator Ray Priore

A friendly reminder that Coach P yelled to kick-off specialist Dave Kuncio, after Kuncio decided to take a try at punting. While an innocent act, the football nearly knocked off Coach Priore's skull cap some 25 yards after it left Kuncio's cleat. Kuncio responded in kind, which definitely drew a few chuckles from both coaches and players.

Next Practice:

Sunday, April 6th; 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM (Full pads). For the first time this spring, referees will be brought in to simulate officiation.

I'll discuss Penn's defensive front with line coach Jim Schaefer.

April 1st, 2008-Practice # 5 (Brian Seltzer, 11:50 PM)
Interviews:

Wide Receivers Coach Rick Ulrich breaks down how his position is shaping up for the 2008 season.

Abbreviated Video Interview / Extended Audio Interview

Former Quaker Kevin Stefanski ('04), who serves as Assistant to the Head Coach with the Minnesota Vikings, stopped by practice to check in on the program.

Audio Interview

Kicking Off With These Thoughts:

During tonight’s practice, I took a look at Penn’s wide receiving corps. This area might represent the biggest X-factor for the Quakers. Aside from rising junior Marcus Lawrence, not much experience returns. But based on the performance of the wideouts so far this spring, it’s evident that potential is there. Several underclassmen continue to show flashes, as they did during the previous season. It’s now a matter of whether they can develop into consistent contributors. If they can and exceed expectations in the process, they’ll add a dangerous dynamic to the Red and Blue’s offense, which ranked 7th in the Ivy League for passing in 2007. The shoulder injury that shutdown QB Robert Irvin after two games last season limited Penn’s productivity in the passing game. For all the command and leadership that his replacement, senior Bryan Walker, brought to the table, his strength rested in his ability to maneuver around the pocket and run. Being inserted into the starting role and establishing a rhythm with receivers was a difficult assignment for him after taking reps as the back up in pre-season. Commencement will cost the Quakers in terms of their receiving options. They’ll lose four of their top five leaders in receptions, and three of their top five in receiving yards; however, two of those players, FB Nick Cisler and RB Joe Sandberg, were utilized out of the backfield, and were not true wideouts. Gone is Braden Lepisto. The Honorable All-Ivy mention boasted a team best 50 catches, 597 yards, 11.9 yards/catch, and 4 touchdowns a year ago. Dan Coleman also graduates. He ranked third on Penn with 20 grabs for 206 yards. Encouragingly for the Red and Blue, they welcome back Marcus Lawrence. After only appearing in a pair of outings as a freshman in 2006, the versatile sophomore had a very steady 2007 season, reeling in 21 receptions, 207 yards, and 2 touchdowns, all stats that were second only Lepisto’s. He also proved himself a pivotal part of the Quakers special teams unit, finishing last season as the club’s-and one of the Ancient Eight’s-top punt returnmen. Although a little bit undersized at 5’11, 175 lbs, he boasts solid speed. He’s on track to emerge as a top target this fall. Lawrence won’t be able to shoulder the wideout load on his own, and will call on a couple classmates to help out. In 2007, rising junior and Tyler Fisher exhibited playmaking ability in his second go round with the Red and Blue. Fisher’s numbers as a wideout were respectable, 12 snags for 102 yards and a touchdown. His role as kick returner, though, earned him national regard. He topped the Ivy League and placed 12th in the country with 27.7 yards/kick return, including a 96 yard scamper for a score at Columbia. Another current sophomore Kyle Derham (lining up below) will also factor into the equation. At 6’1, he gives Penn a little bit more size than the sub-six-foot Lawrence and Fisher. He only hauled in 9 passes a year ago, but each one averaged 10-plus yards. Derham also produced a touchdown. He enjoyed a lot of success at Charlotte Latin High School, leading his club to state and conference titles in 2003 and 2005.

An X-factor player at an X-factor position is Kevin Baidoo. He, like Derham, has the capability to offer the Quakers a physical presence at wide receiver thanks to his 6’2, 180 lbs frame. Spring and summer camps will be crucial times for the rising senior to make a case for the playing time that’s eluded him throughout his career. He’s off to a good start, timing a deep, eye-catching jump-ball grab at practice on Sunday, March 30th. Tight ends also represent an essential ingredient to Penn’s aerial attack, and the Quakers have a couple known quantities at this position. Junior Josh Koontz is coming off a decent season in which he posted about 10 yards/reception. Although he only snagged 14 passes, two went for touchdowns, indicating that he poses a threat in the red zone. Koontz’s fellow rising senior Chris Chatterton served as the second tight end a year ago, appearing in seven outings. A coincidental note on him, he hails from Tampa, FL and played under the Red and Blue’s offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Bill Schmitz at Jesuit High School.

Practice News and Notes:

The weather conditions at the start of Penn's second practice in full pads was definitely deceiving. Temperatures were very comfortable, in the mid 50's, as a refreshing breeze blew out towards the northwest corner of Franklin Field. It it didn't get much cooler, but rain rolled in intermittently, sometimes just a drizzle, other times a downpour. The precipitation didn't seem to bother Quaker coaches or players, some of whom appeared even more energized when it started to get wet. The Quaker coaching staff continued its approach to gradually increase the amount of hitting at practice. Like Sunday's session, there was only one five-minute "crossover." Again, these drills match-up players from opposite sides of the field in tests of one-on-one strength. Since I decided to analyze the receivers this workout, I watched them battle defensive backs head-to-head. As WR Coach Rick Ulrich and I discuss in the interviews linked above, the position he instructs represents one of the most intriguing. Despite inexperience, there is the possibility for a lot of upside. During this exercise in particular, that potential was on display. Marcus Lawrence (in action in the white jersey below) and Tyler Fisher demonstrated the quickness I alluded to earlier, and Kyle Derham muscled a few guys to the ground.

Another neat contact drill involving the wideouts required the receivers to run routes with the secondary defending them. Sophomore Ryan Calvert made a really nice catch in the endzone on a post route with a corner virtually glued to his back. Speaking of defensive backs, it was cool to catch up with Kevin Stefanski (pictured in the center below with Al Bagnoli after Penn clinched its last Ivy League title in 2003). During his playing days, Kevin served as safety for the Quakers, and following his graduation in 2004, he acted as the Assistant Director of Football Operations for the program. That post, coupled with a summer internship for the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff, put him in position to become the Assistant to the Head Coach with the Minnesota Vikings in 2006, after the team hired Brad Childress, who had been acting as the Birds' offensive coordinator. His job is similar to the one that former Red and Blue Director of Football Operations James Urban held with the Eagles up until two years ago, when he was promoted to offensive assistant/quality control on Andy Reid's club. Click the link at the top of tonight's blog post to hear more about what Kevin's role entails.

Tonight's practice featured "live" tackling periods for the first time during spring football. The first of three "live" exercises (featuring #80 Josh Koontz and #73 Chris Kovalcik) came during the workout's 16th period, which focused on "inside run." It lasted five minutes. Two bruising hits delivered by the defense stood out. First, cornerback Tyson Maugle mauled RB Michael DiMaggio with a crunching open-field tackle. Later, rising senior linebacker Jay Colabella, who in 2007 showed himself to be the next in a long line of successful players at the position, tracked down RB Chris Ashley, who was sweeping out to the sideline. Just in case they didn't hear the contact of his pads against Ashley's, Colabella made sure the recipient of the hit and the offensive line were aware of what had transpired after the play was over.

Passing was the focus of four skeleton periods, while five periods were dedicated to defensive team drills, the last two of which were "live." Screens were also emphasized throughout the evening.

Injury Updates:

Nothing new here.

Trevor Charlston, Fr. PK: Received medical hardship for 2007-2008 academic year after arriving on campus with quad problem; now kicking again
Robert Irvin, Jr. QB: Shoulder injury restricted throwing; occasionally put on helmet and handed off ball during drills, participated in drop-back exercises
Kevin Dooley, Jr. OL: Foot injury will hold him out of spring practices, but serving as student-assistant coach while sidelined

Quote 1A and 1B of the Practice:

"So you're a fair weather member of the media?" - Offensive Line Coach Jon McLaughlin

Coach Mac threw that one at me as I sprinted to shelter when pouring rains started to pound down on Franklin Field at around 9:30 PM. And to his question, I answer unequivocally, "Yes." Am I a soft reporter? Sure, and I'm OK with that. I'm used to those unparalleled cozy comforts of the luxurious press box on the south side of the stadium...

"Somebody take some leadership to the huddle"- Offensive Line Coach Jon McLaughlin

This comment certainly a more poignant one from Coach McLaughlin, and it underscores a need for this program. Prior to the first practice this spring, Al Bagnoli explained how the ensuing 11 workouts and Spring Game would go a long way towards determining the Quakers' captains for the upcoming campaign. Leadership will come, that's not a concern. Coach Bagnoli's staff has done a tremendous job in fostering that element over the last 16 seasons. It's just a question of which players will step up to take this team by the reigns and focus it on seizing its first Ancient Eight championship since 2003.

Next Practice:

Thursday, April 3rd; 8:15 PM - 10:15 PM (Full pads)

I'll evaluate the Quakers' overall offense with coordinator Bill Schmitz.

March 30th, 2008-Practice # 4 (Brian Seltzer, 8:00 PM)
Interviews:

Offensive Line Coach Jon McLaughlin explains how the position he instructs benefits from contact practices, the first of which was held today.

Abbreviated Video Interview / Extended Audio Interview

Kicking Off With These Thoughts:

After three practices in helmets and shorts, Penn put on the pads, and if this afternoon provided any indication, the workouts going forward are going to be extremely entertaining to watch. Incorporating hitting into eight of the final nine spring sessions (including the April 19th spring game) adds an intensity that non-contact practices simply can’t generate. In the months between the end of the regular season and the start of spring football, players build up all this tension in the weight room and by studying their position manuals, but have no real outlet to release it. Well, that changed as of today. No doubt the mental aspect and fundamentals of the game that the Red and Blue have reviewed so far are essential, but in the end, football is a contact sport. How the guys respond to receiving and delivering hits will go a long way towards determining the ultimate make up of the Red and Blue’s roster.

For the first full pad workout, I thought I'd focus on the offensive line. Strength, no question, is a necessary skill required to excel at this position, and it’s a factor that plays a major part in determining if jobs are won or lost. Like many football programs at the collegiate and also professional levels, the Quaker coaching staff measures muscle in a pretty cut-and-dry manner. They line up members of the offensive and defensive fronts across from one another in one-on-one drills, and then set the guys loose. The linemen exert so much effort during these exercises by physically manifesting their drive and desire to secure starting status. It's awesome to watch.
The habit of referring to the offensive line position as “underrated,” “overlooked,” “unsung,” or any other adjective associated with a general lack of appreciation has become stale, but that doesn’t change the truth that cohesive play in the trenches is absolutely tantamount to a team’s success. Over the two previous campaigns, the Quakers developed a nice nucleus up front (one that in 2007 ranked 7th in the nation for fewest sacks surrendered), but graduation will break up the unit. The Red and Blue will need to replace all 890 lbs from the left side of its line from last year with the departure of seniors LT Will Milne, LG Jesse Rigler, and C Brian Brazinski. At 6’5, 315 lbs, Will Milne stood as the Quakers’ most massive offensive lineman. The left tackle appeared in all 10 tilts in 2007, and was entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the blind-side of the pocket. Hughes Tipton and Jared Mollenbeck will both figure into the battle for the position. Tipton has fought for playing time his first two years on campus, and is attempting to convert from defensive lineman. Currently a freshman, Mollenbeck boasts some size at 6’5, 270 lbs, but did not see any varsity game action last fall. Jesse Rigler entered the offensive line rotation as a sophomore in 2005, and played both guard positions his final two years. Rigler was a stable contributor, and helped the Quakers create continuity and chemistry among the front five. Seeking starting jobs at guard are current sophomore Matt Schaeffer, who notched nine appearances in 2007, and Drew Luongo. Both started sporadically last season, and are working through injuries this spring. They're expected to be healthy when pre-season camp commences in August. In their absence, junior Tyler Anthony has received increased reps. After watching from the sidelines his first two years, Anthony contributed in five contests during the Red and Blue’s most recent campaign. At Bellarmine College Prep, Anthony emerged as an accomplished wrestler, tabbed to the All-WCAL team three times. He applies those grappling skills well to the gridiron. For the previous two seasons at center, Brian Brazinski started every single game. The sizeable 6’3, 280 lb-er earned First-Team All-Ivy accolades in his final campaign for the Quakers. On track to assume that spot is Joe D’Orazio, who logged time in three outings a year ago 10/6 vs. Georgetown, 10/13 vs. Columbia, and 11/17 vs. Cornell. He’s from Bryn Mawr, PA, and product of a St. Joseph’s Prep program that clinched the 2005 Catholic League crown. Joe picked up First-Team All-Catholic League honors in 2005 and 2006. The Quakers’ only entrenched component in the trenches is 6’4, 290 lbs right guard Chris Kovalcik. He’ll be a senior this fall, and as a junior, was voted as Honorable-Mention All-Ivy. For an offensive line that will feature three new full-time starters, Kovalcik offers an invaluable veteran presence, and the promise to evolve into one of the Ivy League’s premiere players at his position.

Practice News and Notes:

By far the most pleasant practice weather-wise, and unfortunately, the only one scheduled in the late afternoon/early evening. Temperatures in the mid to upper 50’s, a bright shining sun, and not a cloud in the sky. Penn put on the pads for the first time during this spring session. They will do so again for the next four practices, spend one day in uppers only, and then go full pads for their final three workouts leading up to the Spring Game slated for April 19th. After two walk-through periods to begin practice, the Quakers spent the final 17 in pads. There was no “live” period, which is generally considered an 11-on-11 drill with full-fledged tackling. Al Bagnoli and Penn’s staff are aiming to ease their players into contact exercises, and did not want to overdo it on the first day of hitting. The highlight of the afternoon was the lone “crossover” period, which also marked the first competitive contact drill of the spring. When the siren sounded to signify its start, several Quakers (and coaches) let out roars of enthusiasm and excitement. No doubt that after three sessions of helmets and shorts, the program was ready to get down to business. A “crossover” period typically matches positions on one side of the ball with their counterpart on the opposite side of the field. So, the match-ups were grouped as follows: OL vs. DL (pictured below), FB/TE vs. LB, WR vs. DB. A lot of noise came from midfield, the site of bouts between the receivers and defensive backs that emphasized open field tackling.

I enjoyed watching the action during the “crossover” period with fellow Athletics Department employee Don Snyder, an outstanding offensive lineman for the Quakers (C ’06). As those who know Don would expect, the two-time Ivy Champ did a masterful job chatting up a few members of the Quakers’ incoming freshmen class, giving them tips on what to anticipate upon reporting to camp later this summer. Specifically, one of the many good points that Don made stood out: since high school players often assume roles on both sides of the field, they rarely experience “crossover” periods prior to college, and therefore initially find the drills challenging. The “inside run” periods (one of which is pictured below) also featured hitting. As their self-explanatory description suggests, these drills focus on running between the tackles at the line of scrimmage. They also exclude the participation of receivers and defensive backs, and really stress performance in the trenches. Bradford Blackmon and Michael DiMaggio, two Red and Blue rushers vying for the starting position, demonstrated encouraging elusiveness, and an ability to rev up field.

Five “team” periods, pitting 11 members of the offense against an equal number from the defense, closed practice. This segment of the session offered the opportunity to observe what each unit has processed so far. Understandably, the execution isn’t entirely there four workouts into the spring. Also, the defense appears farther ahead than the offense. This trend is typically of football at any level. This deals mostly with the defense having to react to the formation in front of them, whereas the offense has to establish a rhythm and rapport within its scheme. But, there were a lot of positives today. Joe D’Orazio has impressed at center, and busted open a crease that Michael DiMaggio drove through with ease. Bradford Blackmon wove his way confidently through gaps on the line. Rising senior WR Kevin Baidoo brought in a jump ball for a gain of around 25 yards, exhibiting good timing and leaping ability.

Injury Updates:

Same information stands.

Trevor Charlston, Fr. PK: Received medical hardship for 2007-2008 academic year after arriving on campus with quad problem; now kicking again
Robert Irvin, Jr. QB: Shoulder injury restricted throwing; occasionally put on helmet and handed off ball during drills, participated in drop-back exercises
Kevin Dooley, Jr. OL: Foot injury will hold him out of spring practices, but serving as student-assistant coach while sidelined

Quote of the Practice:

"Push each other, work, let's go!"- George A. Munger Head Coach of Football Al Bagnoli

Bellowing this order in the early part of practice, Coach Bagnoli set the tone for the Quakers most intense session yet. While an aggressive attitude would have likely permeated throughout Franklin Field during today's workout regardless, given that it was the first in full pads, the proprietor of Penn's program ensured that his players maxed out their effort to close the first quarter of the spring session.

Next Practice:

Tuesday, April 1st; 8:15 PM - 10:15 PM (Full pads)

I'll review the Red and Blue receiving corps with assistant coach Rick Ulrich.

March 28th, 2008-Practice # 3 (Brian Seltzer, 10:45 PM)
Interviews:

Running Backs Coach Steve Downs exudes excitement about full pad practices starting Sunday, and his stable of rushers

Abbreviated Video Interview / Extended Audio Interview

Kicking Off With These Thoughts:

For tonight’s practice, I took a look at Penn’s offensive backfield. The Quakers lose a key cog in Joe Sandberg, who graduated in December following the fall semester. That Joe managed to receive All-Ivy League First Team honors at the end of the 2007 campaign was incredibly impressive, given his multiple injuries. Even though he appeared in nine of the Red and Blue’s 10 tilts, Joe was never fully healthy, and therefore never fully himself on a consistent basis. He was sidelined September 22nd at Villanova with a hamstring, and then shoulder problems knocked him out against Dartmouth. Still, he ended up tallying 910 total yards (790 rushing / 120 receiving) and scored 9 TD (all on the ground). Joe had such great vision of the field and anticipation, and those aren’t teachable techniques. Sandberg’s injury issues presented reserve rushers with the opportunity to rise to the occasion, and rookie Michael DiMaggio certainly did that. At the program’s post-season banquet in February, the Sewell, NJ native was named the Quakers’ offensive rookie of the year. He really showed himself to be an aggressive runner with good strength and solid speed. You know the cliché that stats don’t tell the whole story? That comes in to play with DiMaggio, who netted 376 yards on 92 carries. But the coaching staff had enough confidence in him to call his number near the goal line. He scored 3 touchdowns, and only fumbled once. Speaking of DiMaggio and numbers, the rising sophomore traded in the “38” he sported on his jersey last season for a new “31.” This time of year, players typically change their numbers, particularly underclassmen like Mike whose top number preferences might have already been claimed before their arrival on campus. DiMaggio, though, is the only Quaker among potential projected starters who'll be donning a different uniform. After DiMaggio on the depth chart comes current freshman Bradford Blackmon. Blackmon did some damage in a limited capacity a year ago, and ended his first season on an extremely encouraging note. He racked up 60 of his 93 rushing yards and 17 of his 20 receiving yards in the finale against Cornell, while scoring a touchdown earlier in the campaign against Georgetown. Blackmon has the coaching staff's eyes. He and DiMaggio, at the very least, displayed the potential of a potent backfield combo. More playing time should only boost their numbers. Kelms Amoo-Achampong will also factor into the backfield equation. He’s a big, physical dude at 6’2, 225 pounds, and exerts exceptional effort, doing everything the coaching staff asks of him. One thing they might ask him to do in 2008, as RB Coach Steve Downs explains in the extended audio interview above, is shift to fullback. With his size, he’s certainly capable of creating space. Keeping the focus on the fullbacks, perhaps one of Penn’s biggest replacements will need to come at that position with Nick Cisler being claimed by commencement. Not only was he Honorable Mention All-Ivy for the second straight season and a CoSIDA Academic All-District, but a tri-captain that provided a tremendous leadership presence. He finished 2007 tied for third on the club with 20 catches. Can’t be given enough credit for the job he did in paving running lanes for Sandberg the past two years, and also the shifty Sam Matthews. Back to the conversation of who might step into the fullback spot, three other Quakers to keep an eye on are rising seniors Jason Miran and Blakely Thorton, and rising sophomore Luke DeLuca. Each brings a different skill set to the position. Miran appeared in a career-high 10 games in 2007 and tallied a touchdown 10/6 against Georgetown. He can be utilized more in receiving situations, since he cross trains as a tight end as well. Thorton is coming off knee surgery. DeLuca, whose dad was a member of the Miami Hurricanes, hasn’t had much experience running or catching the ball, or experience in general (two games against Villanova and Georgetown). But, he intrigues the staff with his lead blocking and hard hitting abilities. Steve Downs will enter his 10th season as the Red and Blue’s running backs coach. If you listen to the interview, you can hear he brings an unending supply of energy and enthusiasm to practices and games. He has a great rapport with his players, who respond well to him. Downs also acts as Penn’s JV football coach, and in the past decade, has mentored a productive stable of backs that includes Kris Ryan (all-time leading rusher), Sam Matthews(two-time All-Ivy), and Joe Sandberg (First-Team All-Ivy).

Practice News and Notes:

Temperatures dipped a little bit again, but they were tolerable, hovering in the low 40's for the 7:00 PM practice (the earliest of the three, but soon to be outdone by Sunday's 3:00 PM session). The weather actually felt like it warmed as the evening went on. For the third and final time, just pads and helmets. Sunday marks the start of workouts in full pads. The coaches are very excited to see what the Quakers are made of when the hitting begins. During tonight's practice, there was a sense of anticipation shared between the staff and their players for the impending contact drills. Al Bagnoli and his assistants continued their emphasis on the little details, getting a guage for the mental make-up of their club and stressing the fundamentals before going live on Sunday. More so than in the two previous workouts, the Red and Blue reviewed special teams, with punting, field goal kicking, and PATs. To follow up on what I wrote on Tuesday about the punting competition developing between two members of the sprint football program, freshmen Mark Dziemranowicz (pictured below, with Coach Bagnoli looking on) and Raiam Santos(who also participated in a game of pick-up soccer at Franklin Field prior to practice), it's always intriguing to watch two punters side-by-side and strike the ball, and then compare the results. Both rookies displayed raw potential. There were definitely some impressive boots with decent distance and hang time, but how they respond to an on-coming rush remains to be seen. As far as the place kicking is concerned, Andrew Samson is still the first option. Dan Kuncio, who handled kickoffs in 2007, has a very deliberate motion and really connects with the ball hard to induce rapid end-over-end rotations. Trevor Charlston, who was sidelined with a quad injury last fall, looked impressive as well. His field goal attempts had very nice lift.

The deeper the Quakers drive in to spring football, the more skeleton offense vs. defense exercises they do. Tonight, they ran through what were probably the most number of skelly periods with one unit facing the other. It's about adding one building block after another.

Injury Updates:

Nothing new to report in this category, which is always a positive.

Trevor Charlston, Fr. PK: Received medical hardship for 2007-2008 academic year after arriving on campus with quad problem; now kicking again
Robert Irvin, Jr. QB: Shoulder injury restricted throwing; occasionally put on helmet and handed off ball during drills, participated in drop-back exercises
Kevin Dooley, Jr. OL: Foot injury will hold him out of spring practices, but serving as student-assistant coach while sidelined

Quote of the Practice:

"That's poetry in motion"- Running Backs Coach Steve Downs

This comment came during the portion of this evening's workout during which Penn divided into individual groups for positional instruction, and Coach Downs was describing the cuts of his running backs and full backs toward a designated gap on an imaginary line of scrimmage. Rushers of the Red and Blue's past, like Joe Sandberg and Sam Matthews, have made this task appear so simple on the field, the skill might have gone underappreciated. The light that clicked tonight with the current offensive backfield reaffirmed Coach Downs' confidence that from this group, more shifty rushers will emerge.

Next Practice:
Sunday, March 30th; 3:00 PM-5:00 PM (Full Pads)

I'll catch up with assistant coach Jon McLaughlin, and talk to him about his offensive linemen and the significance of a full pads practice to the position.

March 26th, 2008-Practice # 2 (Brian Seltzer, 11:45 PM)

Interviews:

Quarterbacks Coach Larry Woods discusses the status of the position with last year's starter Robert Irvin recovering from shoulder surgery:

Abbreviated Video Interview / Extended Audio Interview

Kicking Off With These Thoughts:

For this practice, I’m focusing on the Quaker quarterback corps. The position, by virtue of its effect on the execution of offensive schemes, is always an interesting one to examine on any football team. But, for the Red and Blue specifically, the storylines surrounding signal caller entering this season adds to the intrigue. Robert Irvin(standing to the left), the rising senior, had his 2007 campaign cut short after two contests with a shoulder injury. Since surgery, he’s been enduring the rigors of rehab. Right now, he’s limited to on-field drills that don’t involve throwing. The timetable for his return is still uncertain.

So what if Rob’s not unable to start the season under center? Unlike 2007, the team does not have a veteran (Bryan Walker) to turn to to fill the void. The next option now is Brendan McNally(pictured below with Offensive Line Coach Jon McLaughlin), a sophomore product from Penn Charter who received the treasured Geis Trophy to the MVP of the school’s contest with archrival Germantown Academy. Brendan appeared in five games last fall, threw 12 times, and completed nine of those attempts. The only problem was that three were to the opposing squad. Still, he gained invaluable game experience, which QB coach Larry Woods believes will pay off.

To provide a little bit more info on the two freshmen behind McNally, there’s Cal Farley and Keiffer Garton. Farley hails from Keller, TX, and to be rated among the top 15 quarterbacks in a state widely considered the hotbed for football talent isn’t too bad. He, like Garton, earned a Wendy’s High School Heisman nomination. Garton comes out of Castle Rock, CO, and gained a nice reputation as a two-time all-state honorable mention by leading his club to a state championship in 2005 and league title in 2006. Both have adequate size at around 6’3, 210 lbs. Going back to Robert Irvin real quick, one of his real assets is his height at 6’5. If all the above isn't enough fodder for you, the Red and Blue will bring in three more potential quarterbacks this fall as a part of its soon-to-be-announced incoming class.
Hopefully you have the time to check out either the video or audio interview with QB coach Larry Woods. Obviously I know who writes my paycheck, but in all seriousness, the Penn coaching staff features some great gridiron minds, and Larry’s is one of the sharpest. He’s extremely insightful about the position he oversees, and has had outstanding success in developing signal callers: Mark DeRosa (4th all-time passing yards), Gavin Hoffman (2000 Ivy MVP), Mike Mitchell (2003 Ivy MVP). There’s a reason Al Bagnoli has entrusted him with teaching such a significant position his entire tenure with the Quakers. After learning my lesson the hard way last night of the consequences that come along with being underdressed for Philadelphia’s unpredictable March temperatures, I made sure to deck my self out in warm-wear this evening. I actually was hoping it would be cold. To my disappointment, it was a pleasant 52 degrees during practice. Thus, I was a little overheated in thick socks, turtleneck, sweatshirt, fleece jacket, etc. One of these days, I will get it right.

Practice News and Notes:

Now if Michael DiMaggio had proclaimed tonight was a “great night for football” as he did yesterday, I would have agreed. Very manageable conditions with temperatures in the mid 50’s, not much of a breeze. No pads, the helmets and shorts remained on, as they will for two more workouts. Tonight's practice again started at 8:15 PM under the lights at Franklin Field. The first portion of the workout, after some informal positional warm ups, was extremely heavy on calisthenics, even more so than yesterday. The squad spent a good 20+ minutes until about 8:40 PM working on speed and agility, two areas they are committing to improving for 2008. As evidence, the Quakers added Jamie Cook and Cody Schovitz to their staff in the off-season to serve as a speed coaches. Cody actually ran track and field here at Penn, earning letters in 2004 and 2005. He, with the vocal encouragement of Coach Bagnoli, really had the guys going through grueling exercises that ranged from running leg kicks to side-shuffle jumping jacks to full-blown sprints. The entire team took part, not just the more nimble skill positions players, but linemen as well. Expect a quicker Quaker club come the fall.

Although there's still much to be decided before Penn kicks off its 2008 season September 20th against Villanova, a really intriguing position to monitor early on has been punter. The Quakers will lose the dependable Anthony Melillo to graduation in May. Melillo was perhaps one of the more underrated members of the program, methodically going about his business of pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line 22 times on 59 punts. Among those vying for the starting spot are Mark Dziemranowicz and Raiam Santos, two names that roll right off the tongue. The two freshmen, however, share a very neat storyline in that each competed for Bill Wagner's sprint football team this past fall. Let's see if one wins himself a promotion. Another special teams note, rising sophomore Andrew Samson acted as place kicker a year ago, and converted 7-15 field goal opportunities. He connected consistently through the uprights tonight, as did his classmate Dave Kuncio, who worked solely on kick-offs in 2007. Kuncio seemed very sharp, and he booted the ball with confidence, accuracy, and distance.
The defense reviewed pass rushing for two periods this evening, with the interior linemen and ends working with one another in drills. Quakers' defensive coordinator Ray Priore prefers his defensive ends to stand up rather than put their hands on the ground, acting more like linebackers. The Red and Blue ran through skeleton (7-on-7) exercises again at tonight's practice, as well as two periods of 11-on-11 instruction.

The Depth Chart Daily:

With full contact practices not beginning until Sunday, and this session also being the first of 12, the Quakers were sorted not so much by first team, second team, etc., but by unit(offense, defense, or special teams) and position. Once the drills become more team-oriented, this chart will start to come together.

Offense

Defense

QB


DE


RB


DT


FB


NG


WR


DT


WR


DE


TE


LB


LT


LB


LG


CB


C


CB


RG


SS


RT


FS


Special Teams

PK


K


P


LS


Hold


KR


PR


Injury Updates:

Trevor Charlston, Fr. PK: Received medical hardship for 2007-2008 academic year after arriving on campus with quad problem; now kicking again
Robert Irvin, Jr. QB: Shoulder injury restricted throwing; occasionally put on helmet and handed off ball during drills, participated in drop-back exercises
Kevin Dooley, Jr. OL: Foot injury will hold him out of spring practices, but serving as student-assistant coach while sidelined

Quote of the Practice:

"If you are able to do that during a game, I'll give you my house"- Associate Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator Ray Priore

Coach Priore offered this praise during individual defensive drills revolving around dropping back in coverage. The defense wasn't even lined up across from the offense, there was no live pigskin involved, the group was just simply getting a feel for footwork. With his voice full of intensity and approval, Coach P's comment captured the essence of spring football's purpose: these sessions, as written before, are about firming up the minutia, the little details that lay the foundations for a championship-caliber club.

Next Practice:

Friday, March 28th; 7:00 PM-9:00 PM (Helmets/Shorts)

I'll speak with assistant coach Steve Downs, and focus on the running back position that he oversees.

March 25th, 2008-Practice # 1 (Brian Seltzer, 11:30 PM)

Interviews:

George A. Munger Head Coach Al Bagnoli discusses the outlook of the Quakers entering spring football:

Abbreviated Video Interview / Extended Audio Interview

Kicking Off With These Thoughts:

Glad that Opening Day, as far as the Quakers are concerned, is not one of the 6:00 AM variety (sympathies to Red Sox / A's fans). However, these spring practices are no cinch. All but one (Sunday, 3/30) begin at or after 7:00 PM, and last a healthy 2-plus hours.
I could not have been less prepared to cover this event as far as the elements are concerned. Not really sure what I was thinking, since I've lived in this area my entire life, but I clearly forgot that at this time of year, the word "spring" can be applied very loosely, and certainly doesn't pertain to the weather. While temperatures hovered in the low 40's, the wind chill lent an frigid feel to Franklin Field. As I was interviewing Coach Bagnoli, tears were literally streaming down my face due to the biting breeze. I owe Penn's Director of Football Operations Dan Kuhn big time for lending me the Under Armor jacket, and an entrenched trainer (who will remain nameless) for generously lending me a skull hat and gloves.
Very cool to watch the squad emerging from the tunnel on the south east side of Franklin Field, which is the entrance to the stadium closest to the George A. Munger Lockerroom. While kick-off to the 2008 campaign is a long ways away, it's neat knowing that the building blocks for the upcoming season start to get put into place.
Strange not seeing the familiar faces wearing numbers like 5(Braden Lepisto), 17(Bryan Walker), 28(Joe Sandberg), 34(Nick Cisler), 58(Joe Anastasio), 63(Naheem Harris) among others. The Red and Blue will undergo a massive regeneration over the next few months leading up to the start of the season, with 8 offensive starters, 6 defensive starters, and 3 special teams starters claimed by commencement. But the flip side to those losses is the intrigue that comes with which reserves rise to the occasion and assert themselves. We'll begin to learn who those guys are this evening.
Your patience is greatly appreciated as this project evolves. I'll definitely need to figure out how to better work the digital camera to improve the quality of photos. I hope you'll notice progress as spring football continues...

Practice News and Notes:

Weather was low 40's, biting wind chill
No pads, just helmets and shorts
The first Quakers began to take the field at roughly 7:45 PM, and started stretching out.
Practice officially commenced at 8:15, just as Coach Bagnoli stepped on to the turf after hustling back to campus from a Center City dinner
Tonight's practice was very deliberate, disciplined, and instructional. It focused heavily on individual work in groups organized by position. Both the offensive and defensive drills emphasized footwork. For certain offensive skill positions, i.e. RB and WR, coaches drilled players on hand-eye coordination.
Robert Irvin, the rising senior QB sidelined for a majority of 2007 with a shoulder injury, participated in practice on a limited basis. He ran through agility exercises, but his throwing was restricted.
With this being the first workout of the spring, Al Bagnoli and his staff appeared to set a tone of mental, rather than physical, intensity. From the outset, they made sure to tighten the team's technique. That's critical at this point of the year, so that when practices resume in the fall, a greater amount of time can be dedicated to the installation of the squad's schemes. A good deal of time was devoted to passing instruction and passing skeleton drills. Overall energy was very upbeat, picking up right where last season left off with an emphatic crushing of Cornell. Coaches and players alike looked genuinely excited to be in one another's company again.

The Depth Chart Daily:

With full contact practices not beginning until Sunday, and this session also being the first of 12, the Quakers were sorted not so much by first team, second team, etc., but by unit(offense, defense, or special teams) and position. Once the drills become more team-oriented, this chart will start to come together.

Offense

Defense

QB


DE


RB


DT


FB


NG


WR


DT


WR


DE


TE


LB


LT


LB


LG


CB


C


CB


RG


SS


RT


FS


Special Teams

PK


K


P


LS


Hold


KR


PR


Injury Updates:

Robert Irvin, Jr. QB: Shoulder injury restricted throwing; cautiously integrated into select exercises focusing on technique Kevin Dooley, Jr. OL: Foot injury will hold him out of spring practices, but serving as student-assistant coach while sidelined

Quote of the Practice:

"It's a great night for football"- Fr. RB Michael DiMaggio

Could also receive votes for Overstatement of the Night, considering the weather conditions, but this exclamation by the running back right as practice began captured the energy present at the workout. Not even chilly temperatures could dampen the Red and Blue's enthusiasm to initiate preparations for the 2008 season.

Coming Tomorrow:

I'll profile the Quakers' quarterback corps in a conversation with Penn's assistant coach for the position, Larry Woods.

Practice will be held in helmets/shorts from 8:15-10:15