PHILADELPHIA - With the first four practices in the books for the two-time defending Ivy League champions, let's take a closer look at the progress of the spring football season after the first week.
Live Practice Updates
Fans can follow every practice live via the Penn Football Twitter account. The Quakers staff has been active in updating the account with up-to-the-second information and pictures. Make sure to follow the team on twitter to be alerted of each update, or check back often.
Video of the Week
Click on the link atop this release to see the latest spring football report from the Penn Sports Network. Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line Coach Jon McLaughlin talks about the future of the Quakers' offense with Brian Seltzer.
Week of Practice
Penn started the spring season on March 15 under the lights of historic Franklin Field. With most of the first week focused more on fundamentals and less on hitting, the Quakers were in just helmets and shorts for their first three practices. The first practice of the year shook off some of the rust, while the following two practices involved installing most of the offensive and defensive sets. In the team's lastest practice, Tuesday night, the Quakers expanded on the first few days of work and strapped on the pads for the first time. It marked the first real hitting of the spring. The weather cooperated throughout most of the week. The Quakers practiced in decent temperatures, peaked by a 70-degree night on Friday, but did work through a chilly and damp night on Tuesday.
The Quakers seem to be as healthy as they can be after the first week of practice. There have been no major injuries and only good news to report. After missing most if not all of last season due to injury, Dan Wilk, Jared Sholly, Pete Dandrea, Zac Costlow and Lyle Marsh are back in pads and participating in each spring practice.
Each week we’ll take a look at a particular position in need of some new bodies.
- Fullback: There is only one man to replace in this spot, but All-American Luke DeLuca left some big shoes to fill. Dubbed as potentially the biggest loss from last year's team by head coach Al Bagnoli in his interview with the Penn Sports Network last week, DeLuca was a two-time All-Ivy honoree and started every game for the Quakers during their current two-year title run. He finished his career with 13 total touchdowns (10 rush, 3 receiving) and led Penn position players in scoring in 2009. Penn never lost when he rushed for a touchdown. Most importantly though, DeLuca was a punishing blocker. The Quakers finished sixth in the nation in rushing in 2010. The coaches will be relying on Greg Schuster to slide into DeLuca's spot. Schuster has lettered in each of his first two years in the Red and Blue while working as the backup to DeLuca. He's had a small workload behind his predecessor, but has averaged 4.8 yards per carry when he's been given the opportunity. He scored his first collegiate touchdown in the rout of Princeton last year from 14 yards out.
- To further prepare for the changing of the guard at fullback, one of the moves from the coaching staff involved sliding defensive lineman Matt Rea into the position. Rea is in the early stages of the move, but the coaches are confident from what they've seen. Last season, the Quakers moved former running backs Bradford Blackmon and Matt Hamscher to the defensive backfield with great success. Each earned All-Ivy status in their new positions.
- For the first time since the 2008 spring season with All-Ivy signal-caller Robert Irvin, the Quakers have their starting quarterback returning for spring practice. In fact, the Red and Blue have two starting quarterbacks returning in 2011. Billy Ragone (eight starts) and Ryan Becker (two starts) combined to start every game for the 2010 Ivy champions. In addition, Ragone earned first-team All-Ivy honors and was a finalist for the Asa A. Bushnell Trophy, awarded to the Ivy MVP.
And for those who haven't been able to keep up with the Quakers through the winter months, here is a quick recap of the offseason.
- For the second straight year, the Quakers entered the spring as the defending Ivy League champions. Though it is not an unfamiliar feeling for eight-time Ivy League champion head coach Al Bagnoli, the Quakers did have a busy offseason. In February, the football team was honored at halftime of a men's basketball game and received their Ivy championship rings.
- Earlier that month, they held their annual team banquet and head coach Al Bagnoli - a National Coach of the Year Finalist for the second year in a row - was invited to the prestigious Philadelphia Sports Writers Association dinner. He was joined by fellow honorees Roy Halladay (Philadelphia Phillies), Elton Brand (Philadelphia 76ers), Ian Lapperierre (Philadelphia Flyers), former Penn men's basketball head coach Fran Dunphy (Temple men's basketball) and Shane Victorino (Philadelphia Phillies). Each were recognized by the PSWA for their respective accomplishments in 2010.
- Former Penn great Chuck Bednarik, ED'49, was honored several times over the winter. He earned the 2011 "Distinguished American" Award from the Walter Camp Football Foundation. He was also honored by Penn Athletics and the Ivy Football Association (IFA) at the Sixth IFA Dinner at The Waldorf-Astoria in New York City on January 27.
Update: It has recently been reported that Concrete Charlie is in ill health. The thoughts and prayers of all of us here at Penn Athletics are with our fellow Quaker.
- The Quakers also held their annual team banquet and announced the official 2011 schedule.
To cap a busy offseason of workouts, the Penn strength and conditioning staff once again hosted the Iron Quaker competition. For the first time, the Iron Quaker event was held in the brand new state-of-the-art athletic weight room facility inside the George A. Weiss Pavilion. The event was held March 3, the numbers were crunched and the winners were noticed earlier this week. A recap of the event and the announcement of the winners can be found on PennAthletics.com during the coming week. At the fifth annual edition in 2010, defensive lineman Jared Sholly claimed the overall title.
Also, later this spring, the Quakers will be doing some community service at Penn’s annual “Relay for Life.” From 6-11 p.m., the football team will be at the event in support of the “Be The Match” Registry, encouraging people to be a part of the National Marrow Donor program and potentially save a life. This has hit the Quakers close to home recently as defensive back J.P. Grant has been selected as a potential match and is in the early stages of becoming a donor.
Its a primetime matchup this year, and, as always, the Spring Game is open to the public as fans will have their first chance to check out the two-time defending Ivy champions when the Red and Blue. The first snap is at 6 p.m., on April 9.
Coming Up This Week
- The next four practices will include the first afternoon session of the spring. Thursday features another practice under the Franklin Field lights from 8:15-10:15 p.m. The team has Friday and Saturday as scheduled off days and will practice in daylight for the first time with a 3:30 p.m. start on Sunday afternoon. Practice #7 and Practice #8 begin at 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. There are no back-to-back practices scheduled for the rest of the spring, but that could change as rain dates have been set for Monday and Wednesday of this week if the weather forces a practice to be cancelled.
- Also next week, in the next spring football report from the Penn Sports Network, Brian Seltzer will sit with defensive coordinator Ray Priore to discuss Penn's progress and future on the defensive side of the ball.
- The spring prospectus is available online all season and a full practice schedule can be found here.