Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Scouting Penn

Ray Priore


They’ve been calling this game the “Bagnoli Bowl” for a couple of months now as Columbia’s new head coach takes on the team he coached for 23 years for the first time on the other side of the field. The drama is obvious when you connect it to a game where most of the Penn players will be facing the man who recruited them. 

But there’s more.

Penn is also still in the midst of a rare downturn for the program. The current junior class is on track to become only the third Quaker class Bagnoli ever recruited to go all four years without at least one Ivy title. Most of the chatter I’ve heard out of Penn has been very pleasant when it comes to the Bagnoli move. But there’s a quiet, but insistent voice among some Penn alums that Bagnoli somehow is responsible for the Quaker slide. It’s hard to believe the Penn players believe that, but there could be some abandonment issue anger.  

Mental issues aside, it’s very hard to get a handle on this Penn team and it’s not just because they’re playing under new Head Coach Ray Priore. Looking at the stats, this team is clearly not the sum of its parts. There’s a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but it’s not translating into wins. It could be that a lot of the best stats seem to be coming from parts of games where the outcome already seemed decided. It could be that Penn seems to start most games slow and finish fast. How can a team that lost convincingly to Lehigh and looked as awful as possible for most of the game against Dartmouth and half the game against Fordham beat an albeit injured Villanova team and almost pull off a huge upset over a healthy Fordham club with a second half comeback?

The best trend I can discern is that Penn seems to be starting slowly and finishing much better. They’ve been outscored in every quarter but the 4th, with the 1st quarter deficit at 27 points. It’s pretty easy to guess that the Penn coaches will be doing everything they can to get the Quakers to reverse this trend against the Lions. A fast start could take the Homecoming crowd out of the game as well.

But whatever is going on with the Quakers, it’s hard to tell which part of this team Columbia should worry about the most… and that worries me.


The Penn offense seemed to get a shot in the arm from the emergence of backup senior QB Andrew Lisa, who replaced the injured junior Alex Torgersen in the Dartmouth game and got the team moving. Lisa also started and finished the Fordham game and got the Quakers to put up 45 points in the near win over the Rams. It looks like Torgersen will be back this week as the starting QB, but it really doesn’t seem like the QB position or the offense generally is the problem for Penn. Both have completed almost 70% of their passes. Both have mostly kept the interceptions to a minimum. Torgersen is probably a slightly better runner, that’s it.

The O-line has done a stellar job this season, allowing just six sacks in four games and opening holes for more than one running back. So the weakness isn’t here either.

The wide receivers are led by sophomore Justin Watson, an emerging star who has 29 catches and five TD receptions already. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, he’s the real deal. Speedster senior Cameron Countryman is finally getting more into the offensive mix after being one of the most highly touted incoming recruits in Penn history back in 2012. TE Ryan O’Malley is 6-6 and can be a lethal target. He hasn’t been completely silenced, but also hasn’t had a breakout game this year. With his height, he’s going to be tough for Columbia to cover.

The running back situation seems to be going through a transition as well. After starting the season with sophomore Tre Solomon getting most of the carries, junior Brian Schonauer got the ball a lot more in the Fordham game after splitting the running job evenly with Solomon the week before. But like the QB’s, both of these guys seem to be very effective. To me all of these good numbers say that the Penn O-line is really the constant force here. It’s a textbook case of how if you take care of the guys up front, everything else starts to work.


The Quaker defense has a lot of excellent linebackers and defensive backs, it’s the defensive line that’s been a little iffy.

Penn has an impressive 13 sacks so far this year, but almost all of them have come from linebackers and DB’s. DT Austin Taps seems like the most dangerous guy on the D-line, but he hasn’t made a huge impact so far this season. DE Jack Madden is probably a bigger concern for Columbia right now.  

The real force on this defense, as you would expect from a linebacker coaching genius like Priore, comes from the linebackers. Sophomore transfer LB Colton Moskal from Syracuse has energized the team and he was sorely missed when he was out with an injury for the Dartmouth game. But Senior LB Tyler Drake is racking up the stats. He has an incredible five sacks, a big number through just four games for a linebacker. And junior LB Dan Panciello is a force as well. He’s the hero of the season so far with his scoop and 90-yard fumble return for the clinching TD in the Villanova game.

The secondary is young but has some talented players. Junior Matt Henderson is a top tackler and sophomore Ephraim Lee defends the pass extremely well.

But the yardage numbers on both the run and the pass show Penn’s defense has been porous at times.  

Special Teams

Penn may not have the strongest special teams in the league, but they really aren’t weak anywhere either. Senior Placekicker Jimmy Gammill has only attempted three FG’s all season, hitting two of them including a 40-yarder. He’s 12-13 on PAT’s. Kickoff specialist Aron Morgan has one touchback, but does not have an overall good average.

Sophomore Punter Hunter Kelly is very good, but sometimes Penn has the QB Torgersen handling the punts.

Senior Eric Fiore handles most of the kickoffs and all the punt returns. He is sure-handed but not a real breakaway return threat.


Coach said...

The only obstacles of the Penn football program, regardless of the head coach, are admissions, financial aid, and banding- all have worked against Penn these past few years.

DOC said...

Penn's high LB/CB sack total portends a lot of blitzing.
Hope we are able to protect Morninweg.
On the other side of the ball, we benefited from a number of
dropped and/or poorly thrown Wagnerian passes.
We may not enjoy that luxury this time around.
Let's hope our guys can raise their game on Saturday.
I think the start we get off to will be crucial, especially
with what will be potentially the biggest crowd at Wien
in some time !

Robert Morrison said...

TE Matt Norton (6-6/210) committed to Penn. Columbia had offered.

CU65 said...

The key to the game is scoring more points then Penn does.

I remain, very truly yours, Richard Szathmary said...

What's banding?" These guys are not migratory birds, after all.

Jake said...

Ivy League Football Academic Bands

Football recruits in the Ivy League have a slightly different set of rules than recruits in the other sports. An Ivy League football coach can recruit up to 30 players and those recruits must fall into one of 4 academic bands based on their academic index. Band 4 is the highest, which seems counter-intuitive, but that’s how they label it. A Band 4 athlete must have an Academic Index that falls within 1 standard deviation of the Academic Index of the general population of students at that school. So if the general AI is around 220, the Band 4 guys must be around 207. 8 of the coach’s 30 recruits must be Band 4. Next is Band 3 which goes down to 2 standard deviations off the mean index. Approximately 13 of the 30 recruits must be Band 3 or higher. That’s an index around 194 or better. (Standard deviations can’t be calculated precisely without knowing the exact distribution of all scores which is not public knowledge- so these benchmarks are educated guesses). 7 more recruits can be in band 2, which is 2.5 standard deviations. That’s around 180. Lastly, the coach is allowed to bring on 2 players that are at or above the 176 index floor. So it’s:

Band 4: 8

Band 3 (or higher): 13

Band 2 (or higher): 7

Band 1 (or higher): 2

Total: 30

oldlion said...

I understand that the coaches can designate 120 players over a 4 year period as football recruits. As far as the bands, is this a four year rolling average: that is, if a coach can bring in 8 band 1 recruits over a 4 year period, can he choose to load up on band 1 recruits during any particular year so long as he compensates during the other 3 years of the 4 year cycle?

Jake said...

I think all deferring and packing in single years can be done as long as it's approved by the school's admission dept and the rest of the league is notified.

oldlion said...

Since we only had twenty-one incoming recruits (plus three transfers) I assume that means that Al will be in a very good position to bring in a bumper class this coming year.

Coach said...

Jake: good explanation of the banding, but are you certain that each school in the league gets the exact amount of picks in each band? It is my understanding that the variance within each band is different for each school, with Harvard, Yale , Princeton, and Columbia having the smallest spreads within each group. For example, Band 1 for Columbia might be 190-200, but the same Band 1 for Brown is 185-200, allowing Brown a larger pool in the band.

Jake said...

That I don't know.

Chen1982 said...

Well, it's not as though both coaches won't know each other's moves. Seems like Priore is a solid dude. One would think the advantage goes to Columbia in terms of knowing more about their players and game plan than they know about us. But probably advantage goes to Penn in terms of the overall talent base (since these were all Bagnoli recruiting classes)

We will have the crowd and homecoming buzz

What is the betting line?

Jake said...

Betting line is Penn by 7