Monday, August 1, 2016

2016 Opponent Preview: Penn

Alek Torgersen

The week 5 Columbia-Penn game will be an emotional marquee event in the Ivy football season simply because it will be Head Coach Al Bagnoli's first return to Franklin Field since his extremely short-lived retirement in 2014. 

But even without all the riveting backstories connected to Bagnoli's return, the Lion-Quaker game will be intriguing simply because Penn has to be considered a prohibitive favorite to win the Ivy title this year. And Columbia's players should be pumped up to measure their progress as a team against the best competition.

For a team that finished 2015 on a major roll, it's stunning to see just how many key players from that co-championship season are returning for 2016. 

Chief among them is senior QB Alek Torgersen, whose 2015 statistics are hard to believe. He completed almost 70% of his passes, had 19 TD passes to just three INT's, and he also ran for 320 yards and six scores. No other Ivy team has this kind of proven talent returning at QB.

But most of Torgersen's supporting cast is back too. Running backs Brian Schonauer and Tre Solomon, who ran for a combined 1,105 yards and 13 TD's last season, return for their respective senior and junior years. Breakout receiving star Justin Watson is back for his junior year after grabbing 74 passes for 1,089 yards and nine TD's in 2015. But also back at WR is sophomore Christian Peterson, who burned Columbia for 10 catches and 126 yards in the Quaker win over the Lions last year. And don't forget the super fast Cameron Countryman, a 5th year senior who is looking to finally make good on all the massive touting he received when coming to Penn in 2012. He did begin to put up some decent numbers last year. 

On the O-line, two of the senior returnees made All Ivy. Daniel Poulous was All Ivy 2nd Team and Nick Demes was Honorable Mention All Ivy. But the rest of the returning offensive line is generally raw. After allowing just 12 sacks last year, Torgersen may be under more pressure this year. 

On defense, the picture is not so rosy, but hardly dark. Penn lost a total of four 1st and 2nd Team All Ivy players to graduation. But Honorable Mention All Ivy senior LB Donald Panciello returns, and so does junior LB  Brandon Mills. Panciello and Mills were the #2 and #3 tacklers on the team last year, respectively. LB Colton Moskal, the player who transferred from Syracuse last season, is also back and seems likely to make more of an impact this year. Junior DL Taylor Hendricksen returns after registering five tackles for a loss in just eight games played in 2015. 

In the secondary, last year's freshman DB sensation Sam Philippi returns for his sophomore year. He led the team with four interceptions and nine total passes defensed in 2015.  Fellow sophomore Mason Williams also made a major impact as a freshman. There are some holes to fill elsewhere here, but the Quakers have a decent foundation.

Special teams has experience if not flash. 5th year senior Jimmy Gammill is back and so is junior Hunter Kelly. Dangerous kickoff return man Lonnie Tuff is a returning junior. 

I suppose nitpickers looking at the league this year will focus on Penn's offensive line holes to fill and some of the big graduations on defense. But this looks like a better stacked defending champion than I've seen in this league in a long time. 


1 comment:

Chen1982 said...

May he a tall order to defeat this team in philly in 2016....maybe by year 4 of the Bagnoli era?