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THE DAILY PENNSYLVANIAN | THEDP.COM

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FBS Transfers

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Photo Gallery: Highlights from 2017

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Last Year’s Standings

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Battle for Quaterback

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FOOTBALL PREVIEW

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2018

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Cole Jacobson

Chase Sutton, William Snow, Zach Sheldon

Gillian Diebold

Theodoros Papazekos

Meet the Other Seven Ivy Teams

For Penn football, it's the Year of Discovery JONATHAN POLLACK

Evan Viroslav

Karekin Brooks & Nick Miller Profile Danny Chiarodit & Brevin Fleischer

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Preventing Head Injuries

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Offense & Defense Rankings

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Wide Recievers after Watson

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Is Stat So: Football Edition

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Decade in Ivy Football

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Pundits Picks

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Special Teams

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Positional Breakdown

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Defense

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Photo Gallery: Highlights from Media Day

William Snow

Gillian Diebold

Jonathan Pollack Jonathan Pollack Gillian Diebold William Snow

Marc Margolis

Yosef Weitzman Cole Jacobson Chase Sutton

SPORTS EDITORS:

PHOTO:

JONATHAN POLLACK YOSEF WEITZMAN MARC MARGOLIS THEODOROS PAPAZEKOS

CHASE SUTTON PRANAY VEMULAMADA WILLIAM SNOW ZACH SHELDON

DESIGN:

LUCY FERRY GILLIAN DIEBOLD BEN ZHAO CHRISTINE LAM ALANA SHUKOVSKY

COVER DESIGN BY GILLAIN DIEBOLD

REPORTERS:

COLE JACOBSON WILLIAM SNOW EVAN VIROSLAV DANNY CHIARODIT BREVIN FLEISCHER

Penn likes to give themes for its incoming academic class’ first year at school, and I’d like to borrow that trend here. My freshman year was called the Year of Discovery. Penn wanted us to make discoveries big and small, planned and unplanned, personal and wideranging. I never actively thought about all of these things I was meant to discover, but without my consciously realizing it, discovery was an important part of that year. I learned about responsibility, about living on my own, about the things I’m interested in, and most importantly, I learned about myself. To me, that’s what Penn football will be about this year. It’s the Year of Discovery for this team. For the first time in the Ray Priore era, this team doesn’t have a big-name star to rally behind. The season starts later this week, and there is still so much we don’t know about them. This team is constantly going to be learning about itself and what it can be. It’s the first year in the postJustin Watson era. The shadow of Penn’s greatest wide receiver of all time is going to loom large over this team for the entire season. Watson was the heart of the offense for the past two years, and it’ll be impossible to replace his production with just one player. Now, the Quakers need to figure out what their offensive identity is. It’s a year for new players to step into the spotlight. Last year, running back Karekin Brooks took the mantle when Tre Solomon got hurt and turned in a stellar season. Can he replicate his success as the

featured back and as perhaps the best skill position player Penn has? Can senior wide outs Christian Pearson and Steve Farrell build on some of their past experience to become a 1-2 pass-catching punch? Who will step up to take the place of first team All-Ivy center Nathan Kirchmier and defensive lineman Louis Vecchio? It’s another year without a clear first-choice quarterback. Last year, Penn had a three-way battle to replace Alek Torgersen. But now Will FischerColbrie is gone as well, leaving Ryan Glover and Nick Robinson to vie for the starting role. Will both quarterbacks see significant playing time, as Robinson did coming off the bench in six games last year, or will one of them win the position outright? And how will the loss of such a dependable option like Watson affect this battle? It’s the year that the defense can make the jump it needs to. Last season, the defense took a step back from the previous two Ivy championship runs. But this year, they’ve got the leaders they need in first-team AllIvy and second-team STATS FCS Preseason All-American linebacker Nick Miller and second-team All-Ivy safety Sam Philippi. Can they take the next step and become one of the better units in the league? And, with several stars on the offense gone, can they become the face of the team? It’ll be a difficult journey to return to Ivy glory in a conference that's getting better each year. Penn football has a lot of questions entering this season. It’s going to take some time to discover all of the answers. JONATHAN POLLACK is a College senior from Stamford, Conn., and is senior sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at pollack@thedp.com.


2017 RESULTS

09/16

09/23

09/29

10/07

10/14

@ LEHIGH W, 65-47

VS. DARTMOUTH L, 13-16

@ CENTRAL CT STATE L, 21-42

@ COLUMBIA L, 31-34 [OT]

10/21

10/28

11/04

11/11

11/18

@ BROWN W, 17-7

VS. PRINCETON W, 38-35

@ HARVARD W, 23-6

VS. CORNELL W, 29-22

09/29

10/06

10/13

2018 SCHEDULE 09/15

VS. BUCKNELL

VS. YALE

VS. LEHIGH

10/27

@ BROWN

@ DARTMOUTH

11/02

@ CORNELL

@ SACRED HEART

VS. COLUMBIA

11/10

11/17

VS. HARVARD

@ PRINCETON

FOOTBALL PREVIEW

10/19

09/23

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2018

VS. OHIO DOMINICAN W, 42-24

VS. YALE L, 19-24

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QUAKERS FOOTBALL

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THE DAILY PENNSYLVANIAN | THEDP.COM THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2018

FBS transfers think about more than football Four members of the team division (FBS) football, all feel transferred from FBS schools their lives are better off for it. COLE JACOBSON Senior Sports Reporter

There are many benefits that a prominent college football program can offer to recruits that Penn simply can’t. Crowd numbers pushing six digits week in and week out. Facing the top competition in the nation every time one steps on the field. The chance to be a household name before even being of legal drinking age. But Penn football has an edge that few college football teams can match. One doesn’t commit to Penn for just football — one does it for the betterment of the rest of his life. And that’s a trend that more and more high-level recruits seem to be understanding. Entering the 2018 season, the Quakers have four players who were formerly on FBS rosters: quarterback Nick Robinson (Georgia), wide receiver Chaz Augustini (Tulane), and defensive linemen Cortez Alston (Georgia Tech) and David Ryslik (UConn). And though they all took different paths to Penn, they share one universal similarity. Even if it was tough to say goodbye to Football Bowl Sub-

“After getting hurt [as a freshman at UConn in 2015], I ended up taking a year off, and I realized what coming to Penn could do for me and for my family the long run,” Ryslik said. “One of the big things that stuck when I was talking to coach Priore when I was a senior in high school was the whole, ‘It’s not about the next four years, it’s about the next 40 years of your life’ mantra. And no matter what happened, that was always kind of stuck in my head.” While Penn football’s accomplishments in Ray Priore’s three-year tenure, including two conference titles and a 16-5 Ivy League record, have been noteworthy, the Quakers’ coaching staff is well aware of ways it can’t compete with FBS programs while on the recruiting trail. But when the Red and Blue’s on-the-field production is paired with top-10 nationwide academics, an elite alumni networking system, and the highest number of billionaire graduates of any university in the world, it’s a combination that can’t be beaten. And the roster’s impressive array of FBS transfers proves that more student-athletes are becoming aware of it. “[Growing up] a bunch of my

friends were always like, ‘Football this, football that, we gotta get it going.’ Obviously I love football, and that’s why I came here, to play still at a very high level,” Ryslik said. “But the thing that really applied to me the most is that the Ivy League is something where your eggs aren’t all in one basket. If you wanna keep playing sports, that’s something you can keep doing, and if you wanna go off into academia, that’s another thing you can keep doing. There are so many doors that can open coming to a place like this, that it was almost like a no-brainer.” Ryslik’s reference about continuing to play sports doesn’t just refer to doing so in one’s college days. At a quickly increasing rate, the Ivy League is making an impact at the NFL level, with the eight schools combining to produce a conference-record 28 alumni in NFL training camps as of August 2018. Penn ranked second out of the Ivies with four products on the list, all of whom graduated in the past six years. The growing amount of hard evidence that Penn football alumni can make

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When he transferred to Penn, sophomore defensive lineman David Ryslik thought a lot about life after football and college.

it to the next level only adds further incentive for highly talented athletes to head the Quakers’ way. “At the FBS level, there are some guys that end up getting drafted in the first round, but I would say there’s not much of a drop-off; the speed of the game is still the same, the schemes are the same, so it’s really not that big of a difference. Everybody has their opinions, but that’s my opinion, and I’ve seen both,” Robinson said. “[The growing number of Ivy players in the NFL] definitely was a factor … I think if you’re good enough, they’ll find out.” Even if Penn’s crop of transfers all believe they made the right decisions, it doesn’t mean anything came easy for them. Besides the quality of competition — ”there are some cats out here who can really play,” Ryslik succinctly said — a far tougher academic workload, a new playbook to learn, and bonding with a new group of teammates all form even greater challenges. But in Priore’s program, one important rule makes that transition easier. It doesn’t matter what one did before showing up; if one shows up ready to work, he’ll be embraced as part of the

Penn football family. “For like the first day, I was like, ‘I don’t know if these guys are gonna accept me, I don’t know if they’re gonna think I’m some state-school guy who doesn’t belong here.’ But I worked my butt off, showed my teammates the kind of guy I am, and it was a match from the jump,” Ryslik said. “It’s such an open and fun-loving group of guys out here; it meshed really well, and it seems like it all happened on purpose.” When all is said and done, it’s unclear if any of these four players will go pro, or which ones will even see starters’ minutes this season. But regardless of what happens once opening kickoff comes, the quartet has already won in one way — each has made a decision that he hopes will pay off long after his time strapping on the pads is over. “It takes a different kind of guy to turn down a full fouryear scholarship to step out of his comfort zone and challenge himself and try to reach new heights,” Ryslik said. “Coming here is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”


THEDP.COM | THE DAILY PENNSYLVANIAN

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE 2017 SEASON After back-to-back Ivy titles, Penn football came up short of the threepeat, finishing the year 6-4 and 4-3 in the Ivy League. The Quakers lost their first three Ivy games, including games against Dartmouth and Columbia that came down to final play, but bounced back to finish the year on a four-game win streak.

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CHASE SUTTON | SPORTS PHOTO EDITOR

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Robinson, Glover both expected to contribute THEODOROS PAPZEKOS Sports Editor

CHASE SUTTON | SPORTS PHOTO EDITOR

While sophomore Ryan Glover (left) was named the starting quarterback for Penn's first game against Bucknell, junior Nick Robinson will also see time behind center early on in the season.

has all but acknowledged that his plan is to test out both quarterbacks in the first few non-conference games before settling on one of the two for the more important Ivy competitions. That being said, Priore and his staff have indicated that the potential for a week-to-week, or even drive-to-drive swap of quarterbacks

based on game plan and scheme is very much possible. They have also kept open the possibility of seeing both quarterbacks on the field at the same time. How much of that is strategic bluster and how much reveals a larger truth about the situation is anyone’s guess, but it would certainly not be a shock to see Robinson start game two.

“They’re both very talented,” Priore said. “You want to have two quarterbacks like this. You can play them both and have success doing a lot of good things.” But, until they sort it out, the Quakers will hope that the old football adage proves untrue: If you have two starting quarterbacks, you actually have none.

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It's been over a year, but Penn football remains in quarterback purgatory. Last season, the Quakers had three quarterbacks to choose from, but eventually settled on — and stuck with — then-senior Will Fischer-Colbrie. Based on how playing time was distributed among the three, the depth chart had nowjunior transfer Nick Robinson ahead of sophomore Ryan Glover. This season, two new freshmen, Mason Quandt and John Quinnelly, join Robinson and Glover in the quarterbacks’ room. Neither Quandt nor Quinnelly ever had a serious chance at the starting job, simply because of the huge learning curve they face as they continue to transition to an entirely new college offense. The only fact about the quarterback situation confirmed by the team during its preseason was that the freshmen are not threatening Robinson nor Glover for the starting job. That left Penn fans — and the team — wondering which of the two potential starters would win the job. Would the team settle on the more experienced Robinson, or the more athletically gifted Glover? If Priore had any feelings about who would start between the two of them, he didn’t tell anyone about it until this week. Not even his quarterbacks. But now, a mere three days until the first game, after a preseason in which Priore and his players and staff remained impressively tightlipped about the situation, Penn’s quarterback question finally has an answer. For now. “Obviously the most important question — I don’t care what level you’re at: NFL, college, high school, Pop Warner for that matter — is who’s your quarterback,” Priore said. “We’ve decided to start with Ryan this upcoming Saturday. Nick will play, Nick will get on the field … [due to] health, a combination of things — we’re going to go with Ryan this week.” As Priore alluded to in his weekly press conference, the decision to start with Glover means little over the course of the season. Having one name at the top of the depth chart is a first step, but the goal is a stable,

comfortable, and capable player under center. The Quakers haven’t had that since the graduation of onetime NFL hopeful Alek Torgersen after the 2016 season. Based on the way Priore, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach John Reagan, and yes, even Robinson and Glover talked about it, the quarterback situation in the preseason was some combination of ‘we don’t know’ and ‘who cares’. “I think it’s a great competition right now,” Priore said last week. “I think both guys have worked tremendously hard and made huge improvements from last year.” Here’s Priore a day before the announcement was made public: “Both will play, both are going to play on Saturday. Both have done a tremendous job since the offseason pushing each other. They’ve been one, they’ve been two, they’ve been two, they’ve been one, flipping back and forth. They’re both their biggest fans of each other. They’re with each other all the time, great relationship that way.” The only things any of the four seemed sure of before the announcement was that both quarterbacks have improved since last season, and that the competition between them was healthy, fun to watch, and exceedingly difficult to judge. One clear difference between the two is experience. Robinson has an extra year of college experience on Glover — two if you count his junior college experience. He was also the primary backup for FischerColbrie last season, appearing in six games and completing 48 of his 73 pass attempts. Robinson put up better rate statistics than the starter last season, although they came in a much smaller sample size. As both Priore and Robinson have pointed out on multiple occasions, Glover also appeared for the Quakers last season. The part they failed to mention was that he was only in for one series (he completed both of his pass attempts). The official decision to start Glover really only means two things. First, Robinson’s hamstring injury suffered over a week ago could still be lingering to the extent that there’s a chance he is still not 100 percent healthy by Saturday. Second, Glover has the edge in the competition, even though Priore

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On eve of season, QB status remains unclear

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Meet the other seven teams vying for the Ivy League title Defending champion Yale graduated, meaning that the core of returns Ivy Rookie of the Year last year's defense, which let up just EVAN VIROSLAV Sports Reporter

As Penn football prepares to face the Ivy League after losing its best player in current Tampa Bay receiver Justin Watson, the other members of the Ancient Eight either hope to maintain current glory or resurge after disappointing seasons. Following Yale’s championship triumph in 2017, it's time to look ahead and see how the Ivy landscape will shape up this season. Yale Bulldogs — 2017 Record: (9-1, 6-1 Ivy) In a preseason media poll, Yale was picked to defend it's championship crown. Sophomore running back Zane Dudek, who racked up 1,312 all-purpose yards last year as Ivy Rookie of the Year, is back and is being picked as a preseason All-American. He’ll be expected to lead a powerful Bulldogs offense that put up an impressive 34.5 PPG during its championship run. Junior quarterback Kurt Rawlings also returns to the gridiron after throwing for 2,320 yards in 2017. While their offense is as deadly as ever, the Elis have question marks on the other side of the ball. Yale's top five leading tacklers in 2017 have all

15 points per game, is gone. The Elis' defense took another blow when senior defensive lineman and captain Kyle Mullen withdrew from the university. Teams might take advantage of this chink in the Bulldogs’ armor, but there are few offenses out there that stack up to Yale. Columbia Lions — 2017 Record: (8-2, 5-2 Ivy) After years mired at the bottom of the Ivy League standings, Columbia finally made a breakthrough last season. Former Penn coach Al Bagnoli led the Lions to their first winning season in over two decades and was named Ivy League Coach of the Year. Unfortunately, the offense that led Columbia to such a successful year lost a key starter in quarterback Anders Hill, thus putting pressure on younger, less experienced players to live up to high expectations. Whoever starts at quarterback will have a strong receiving corps to throw to, led by first-team All-Ivy wide receiver Josh Wainwright. The defense remains solid, although starters were lost on this side of the ball as well. The main strength of this team is its secondary, so as long as the Lions can limit opposing offenses through the air, they have a chance to repeat some of last year's success.

Dartmouth Big Green — 2017 Record: (8-2, 5-2, Ivy) After finishing in last place in 2016, Dartmouth turned it around in 2017 with a secondplace finish. With the return of its strong offensive line, the Big Green might be poised for more success, but a big hole still remains at quarterback. There are multiple candidates for the starting job, including an FBS transfer from Florida. If the team can silence worries surrounding that key position, particularly in its Ivy opener against Yale, then there is no reason the Big Green can’t win their second Ivy championship in the past four seasons. The Big Green’s offense and defense, even last year, didn’t stack up to the League champion Bulldogs. The team definitely has some catching up to do, but surprises are definitely not impossible for this tenured squad. Harvard Crimson — 2017 Record: (5-5, 3-4 Ivy) One of the most successful programs of the 21st century, Harvard disappointed last season with a .500 record, even after big wins versus Columbia and Dartmouth. Due to its traditional success, Harvard has no problem with recruiting, so 2017 might end up being a blotch on an otherwise clean record. With the return of quarterback Jake Smith and a solid offen-

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After winning the first solo title in three years, Yale football was picked to finish first in the preseason Ivy League media poll.

sive line, Harvard could raise some eyebrows this year. The Crimson also return with a strong front seven on defense and a deadly rushing attack led by first-team All-Ivy running back Charlie Booker III. If the Crimson can find consistency on both sides of the ball, they might be able to reclaim their former glory. Cornell Big Red — 2017 Record: (3-7, 3-4 Ivy) Despite Cornell’s constant struggles, the return of many key parts of their offense might lead to surprising success this upcoming season. Quarterback Dalton Banks returns with almost all of his offensive line, so a revitalized passing attack could lead to a surge in the mere 17.3 points per game put up last year by the Big Red’s offense. Cornell’s defense is its biggest liability heading into this season, as the unit allowed almost 25 points per game last season, although multiple returning starters could transform experience into more success. The expectations for this team aren’t necessarily high, but a .500 season isn't out of the question. Princeton Tigers — 2017 Record: (5-5, 2-5 Ivy) Princeton’s 2017 season was more of an anomaly than a disappointment, so it’s not hard to imagine a strong resurgence from a squad that’s returning a majority of its pieces. The Tigers had the best offense in the Ivy League and lost multiple games due to poor de-

fensive performances. Princeton's quarterback situation is unique among the Ivy teams. The loss of last season’s Offensive Player of the Year Chad Kanoff is mitigated by the return of 2016 winner John Lovett and the addition of four-star recruit Brevin White, who turned down an offer from Alabama. The Tigers often play with two quarterbacks on the field at the same time, so this situation will be one to keep an eye on. All-Ivy receiver Jesper Horsted and running back Charlie Volker also make their return to a powerful offense. With key players on defense returning as well, Princeton is a serious threat to cruise through the Ivy League and claim Yale’s crown. Brown Bears — 2017 Record: (28, 0-7 Ivy) The Bears are coming off their worst season since 2013, after failing to win a single Ivy League game. While Brown has finished in the top half in nine of the past 11 seasons, that is about the best it can hope for this season. With new offensive coordinator Kevin Decker and a new offensive line coach as well, the Bears will hit the field with a revamped offense. Many of Brown’s best players are on the offensive and defensive line, but multiple key figures return from injury and figure to provide a more positive outlook for the team. Brown will need to prove that their revamped offensive system can win games.


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Penn's star players use values to set the tone on both sides of the ball FAMILY FIRST DANNY CHIARODIT Associate Sports Editor

A HARD-HAT MENTALITY Senior linebacker and captain leads the defense by always working harder BREVIN FLEISCHER Senior Sports Reporter

“Defense wins championships” might just be the oldest, most overused cliche in all of football. But for Penn, that tired maxim could become a reality in the 2018 season, and if that’s to happen, the Quakers will have Nick Miller to thank. Miller, a senior linebacker from New Market, Md., has been dominating the Ivy League for years. Following a freshman season in which he appeared in all 10 games for the Red and Blue, Miller blossomed into a star as a sophomore, earning second-team All-Ivy recognition while recording 68 tackles, good for second on the Ivy League championship winning team. As a junior, Miller proved himself to be a bona fide superstar, upping his tackle total to 104, the most by a Penn player since 1997. Additionally, Miller demonstrated a knack for getting his hands on the football, tying for the FCS lead with four fumble recoveries on the year. His exploits were rewarded handsomely with a boatload of awards and recognition. Miller was named both first-team All-Ivy and first-team AllECAC. For the week of Sept. 25, 2017 he was named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week, and, at year’s end, he was announced as a finalist for the Bushnell Cup as Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. This season, as a preseason All-American, Miller is ready for even more, but Miller’s “more” isn’t honors and personal achievements. Miller’s “more” is one thing and one thing only — a championship. According to Miller, last season, despite all of his

awards and statistical dominance, can only be branded as a disappointment. “The fact that we didn’t win a title last year sucks,” Miller said. “It just means that we all have to be better this year. We all have to work even harder. All of the other stuff, the awards and that stuff, is thrown out the window. It’s all about wins and losses.” As a senior captain, Miller’s job can no longer be examined only through tackles and interceptions. Now, his leadership is just as important as his statistics on the field, and by all accounts, Miller takes his role as a leader very seriously. “He’s definitely one of our leaders on defense, and it’s a lot of fun to play with him,” junior outside linebacker Connor Jangro said. “He leads by actions, only really talking when he sees fit. He has a ton of respect in the locker room through how hard he works and through what he does on the field.” Through talking with Miller’s coaches and teammates, that “hard-hat” mentality appears to be one of the star linebacker’s defining characteristics. “He’s one of the hardest workers you will ever find,” senior nose tackle Cooper Gardner said. “He’s one of those guys: He’s not about talking about it, he’s about being about it. He puts his nose down every day, works his butt off, and simply gets the job done every time.” Miller attributes his hard work-based leadership abilities to his high school years when he learned that, if you want something, it’s always there for the taking. You just need to give it your all and keep the larger goal in mind. “We lost a lot of great leadership with the seniors who graduated,” Miller said. “There was definitely a role to step into there. I just try to make sure that everybody’s working hard and doing what we have to

do to get another ring.” But don’t let the emphasis on Miller’s leadership and work ethic distract you from the fact that he’s one of the most talented football players in the FCS. In fact, associate head coach and defensive coordinator Bob Benson’s eyes visibly lit up when talking about Miller’s abilities on the field. “His growth here has just been a rapid rise,” Benson said. “He has great instincts. He’s a playmaker who runs to the ball, and what’s really great for me is that you only have to tell him things once. He’s so instinctive. It’s really pretty remarkable.” But, as it does for all student athletes, life for Miler extends well beyond the football field. While his onfield goal is clearly to win the third championship in his college career, off the field, Miller has a few different aspirations. The first is pretty simple. “I’m looking to enjoy life,” Miller said. “This is my last year of college. I want to be with my team, my friends, to build that camaraderie and chemistry in my last year.” The second goal...well that’s not something everybody could accomplish. Miller, in between lifts, practices, and general schoolwork, occupies his precious remaining hours by working with a few different neuroscience labs on campus, as his passion for the subject rivals or even exceeds his passion for football. “I really want to get into neuroscience as deep as I can,” Miller said. “That’s definitely where my heart lies.” Perhaps in the future, Miller will go by “doctor.” But for now, his proper title, at least according to coach Benson, is “the best player in the Ivy League.”

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For Karekin Brooks, family means everything. The junior running back from Marietta, GA talked about it with a smile. “I have a really strong relationship with [my mother] and with all five of my brothers,” Brooks, who goes by the nickname ‘KK,’ said. “Everything we did, we always did it together. I always had somebody to talk to, somebody to play with.” Brooks’ hometown of Marietta is a suburb outside of Atlanta, a place where family comes first but football comes in a close second. Perhaps no one understands this better than coach Mo Dixon, who coached Brooks at Walton High School and is now the defensive coordinator at Colquitt County High School, a couple hundred miles south of Marietta. When Dixon took over as head coach for Walton in the spring of 2014, Brooks already had a year of experience under his belt as the starting varsity running back, and the new head coach was impressed with his toughness and maturity. “He’s been a grown man since I met him, I feel like,” Dixon said. The two went on to build a tremendous relationship, with each having a great deal of mutual respect for the other. “He brought a different feel to football for us,” Brooks said of Dixon. “When he came to Walton, he really taught us how to work hard, how to be fully committed to football and what you’re doing.” Their close relationship was best described by Dixon when he talked about a phone call that he had with his former player just a few weeks ago. “I’ve had KK on my mind over the last couple of weeks with the season starting,” Dixon said. “And on my phone, I changed the [lock screen] to a picture of KK...so when he called me, I had actually had [his] picture up on my phone as the wallpaper.” Dixon is ecstatic to see what Brooks can do on the field during his remaining two seasons at Penn. But more than anything else, he is excited for Brooks’ fu-

ture beyond football. “He sets a good example,” Dixon said. “If half the world was like KK, it would be a great world...I’ve got tremendous respect for him, tremendous respect.” When Brooks departed from the familiar countryside of Marietta, he not only had to get used to a new level of football but also a new way of life. But over the past two years, Brooks has become a part of another family, right here in the city of Philadelphia. “[Penn football] is a close-knit family,” Brooks said. “A bunch of different guys from a bunch of different places come here to play for one goal, and I like that a lot. I got a hundred plus people I can talk to at any time if I need help with anything...I can always count on them and lean on them.” Brooks is happy to be here, and his teammates and coaches are sure happy that he’s here, too. As a sophomore last season, the tailback rushed for 840 yards and nine touchdowns, while averaging a school record 6.7 yards-per-carry. “He absolutely exemplifies our mentality of being a hard hat offense,” offensive coordinator John Reagan said. “His ability to run the ball downhill and see things [is huge], and then when it’s time to bust it out, he does.” Brooks has received a good amount of attention this offseason, being named to the College Football Performance Award (CFPA) FCS National Player of the Year Watch List, as well as the First Team AllIvy list in Phil Steele’s FCS Preview Magazine. But he isn’t changing his mindset or attitude as a result. “I’m the type of guy that leads by example by showing, with hard work and [doing] things correctly, the Penn way,” Brooks said. “To me, [the recognition] is just an opinion. I gotta go out and prove what I can do and who I am on the football field.” While he still has two more years, Brooks already has his sights set on big things after his time at Penn. “First, after I graduate, my grandpa has a barbecue business and I want to franchise that; that’s my first goal,” Brooks said. “And then after that, I want to become a sports agent and eventually own my own agency.” Whether it’s his mother, grandfather, and five brothers back in Marietta or his coaches and teammates at Penn, Brooks makes the people around him his number one priority. Because at the end of the day, KK Brooks knows that football comes and goes, but family is forever.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2018

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2018

Junior running back KK Brooks embraces his football family wherever he plays

12 FOOTBALL PREVIEW

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THE DAILY PENNSYLVANIAN | THEDP.COM THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2018

Safety first: new helmet shells aim to limit head injuries Quakers wear extra protective material to absorb more force WILLIAM SNOW Senior Sports Reporter

It’s the one thing no one in football wants to see happen. No, not another Patriots Super Bowl victory — a head injury. Penn football is taking steps to make sure the team sees fewer of them. And now, the team’s latest move in what has been a years-long campaign to protect players’ heads has been to add a new layer to the outside of players’ helmets during full-contact practices. The additional shells, produced by a company called Defend Your Head, add an extra pound of protective material to helmets, in theory absorbing more force during collisions and decelerating helmets more effectively to dampen the effects of an impact on the player, according to football trainer Emily Dorman. In addition to the football team wearing them, Penn sprint

CHASE SUTTON | SPORTS PHOTO EDITOR

In addition to having fewer full-contact practices, Penn football is using new shells designed by Defend Your Head. These shells, which attach to the outside of helmets, are worn during practice to limit head injuries.

football, the team's lightweight counterpart, will also don the extra layer for the 2018 campaign.

“It’s an easy, smart step that we can take [to reduce head injuries],” Dorman said of the in-

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serts. “We’re always evaluating what’s out there.” The players wore them all offseason during full-contact practices, and they'll continue on with them even — from last Sunday on — as they ditch tackling in practice altogether. This season marks the third year of the Ivy League’s initiative to ban full-contact practices after the end of preseason training. The move was widely hailed across the nation as an innovative move by the Ancient Eight, providing fresh ideas to a game in need of change. Banning full-contact practices was among the multiple rule changes the Ivy League has made in recent years. Additionally, the conference pioneered moving kick-offs up to the 40yard line to reduce the number of kick returns, one of the most dangerous plays in the game. “I think the league is doing a great job,” Dorman said of its efforts to curb head injuries. “We helped create football, the Ivy League did. I think we have such a responsibility to help continue to foster it and grow and help football evolve to become as safe as possible. Injuries will still happen, but we need to evolve it, and the Ivy League feels a great responsibility for that.”

But as this year’s acquisition of the shells show, concussions and brain injuries have not been eliminated along with contact practices. Without providing numbers, Dorman noted that the Quakers still incur head injuries at a roughly similar rate to the rest of the sport. During the 2017 NFL season, each team saw nearly nine concussions on average for the year — likely more, when factoring in undiagnosed injuries, a persistent problem in football. Coach Ray Priore described his approach for reducing head injuries on the team as a multipronged effort. “There’s a lot of things — both in technique, how we drill [tackles], how we practice, how we protect the players — all great measures which will continually add to the safety of the student-athlete.” Despite noting that she still sees instances of unreported head injuries, Dorman expressed confidence that players were coming to better understand the need to report potential injuries and play it safe whenever in doubt. “Our [concussion] education is working. Athletes are becoming more aware and feeling more confident speaking up and saying when something is wrong,” Dorman said. “We’re seeing more instances of teammates sticking up for each other.” In addition to improving treatment, though, Priore argued that the team is always working on increasing prevention as well. “The way you minimize the concussions is by minimizing the opportunities,” Priore said. “It’s how you practice. We spend more time on video and walkthroughs today than we’ve done in the past … It used to be on the field for three hours. Now we’re on the field for an hour and 50 minutes, but we’re in the meeting rooms maybe for another hour and 20 minutes.” With Bucknell lying in wait, the time for preseason injury prevention is over. Over the next 10 weeks, the team will try to avoid as many head injuries as possible. In the event they do occur, though, Priore, Dorman, and all the athletic training staff are working to prevent one moment from having lifetime effects.


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Wide receiver corps faces new challenge Graduation of star wide out leaves big hole in offense JONATHAN POLLACK Senior Sports Editor

How do you replace a legend? A few times in football history, teams have been lucky enough to replace one legend with another. It happened with the Packers with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. It happened with the 49ers with Joe Montana and Steve Young. Penn football isn’t trying to do that. The Quakers know a talent like Justin Watson comes around once in a lifetime. So instead of trying to replace him with just one guy, it’s a whole team effort. “It’s a common question just about everywhere where you have an NFL caliber player that disappears, and how do you replace that,” offensive coordinator John Reagan said. “And the really quick answer is that there’s not a simple answer.” Even though he’s gone, Watson still looms large for this team. After all, he did account for 70 percent of the receiving touchdowns, 50 percent of the receiving yards, and just under half of the team’s receptions. But there are plenty of guys ready to step up and pitch in where they can. The two most experienced receivers Penn has are seniors

Christian Pearson and Steve Farrell. Pearson had an excellent 2016 campaign, hauling in 40 receptions for 514 yards and seven touchdowns. That effort was good enough to earn him a second team All-Ivy nod, but he regressed last season, finishing with just 14 catches. Farrell is more of a deepball specialist who makes things happen after the catch; he averages 23.3 yards per haul. As the players with the most in-game reps so far, they figure to get the lion’s share of the workload, at least early on in the season. “I think we all recognize how great [Watson] was. We’ve all been working hard towards making up that lost portion of our offense, so we can get a more balanced offense, a more balanced system,” Pearson said. “We’ve just been working hard, trying to get better each and every day, hoping we can fill those footsteps.” But the two of them won’t be enough, and they’ll be the first to say it too. They haven’t had the experience as the featured receivers, nor do they have the same skill level as Watson. So, to make up for that, the Quakers are going to need production from everyone on the depth chart. That depth chart has a lot of names that can contribute too. Guys like senior Justin Morrison,

GILLIAN DIEBOLD | DESIGN EDITOR & CHASE SUTTON | SPORTS PHOTO EDITOR

who switched from defensive back, and junior Kolton Huber, who recorded 10 catches while playing out of the slot last year.

ZACH SHELDON | SENIOR PHOTOGRAPHER & CHASE SUTTON | SPORTS PHOTO EDITOR

Senior wide receivers Steve Farrell (left) and Christian Pearson are just two of the players who will be tasked with trying to replace the production that was lost when Justin Watson graduated.

Two players wide receivers coach Rich Ulrich highlighted for their explosiveness were junior Tyler Herrick and Mike Akai. "If it’s one guy, if it’s two guys, that’s great, but for me, I hope it’s three or four,” Ulrich said. "Nothing would be better than if we replace JWat with four guys that have 45, 50 catches in a season.” With all of these receivers in the mix, the passing game is sure to look different. And there’s one particular word that head coach Ray Priore used to describe that change: unpredictable. “A byproduct of [Watson leaving] I think is that offense will be a little less predictable, because everybody knew that 75 percent of the balls would be thrown his way,” he said. "So now we’ll be able to… do

some different things schematically." Watson’s on-the-field impact is definitely going to be missed by this team. But he meant more to the team than just catches and touchdowns. “It was not as much just Justin the player, who was pretty awesome, but that leadership qualities that he had,” Priore said. “That part of him was really, really special… everybody watched him, he was the first one out at practice, he was the last one to leave.” Watson embodied the “first in, last out” mentality. Even though he was the best player on the team, he worked tirelessly, not only to better himself, but to set an example for the rest of the team. After spending time under his tutelage, this year’s crop of leaders has taken that attitude to heart and has continued the tradition of hard-working wide outs. So, who’s going to be the next Justin Watson? The answer, at least right now, is no one. But that doesn’t mean this group isn’t capable of stepping up.


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Greetings, and welcome to Pundits’ Picks! This section was formerly known by a different name, but unlike the football team from Washington, we’ve decided to move past our previously problematic branding and on to a more acceptable one. Call us soft, but we’re changing more than just our name this year. You’ll no longer see us in print — but then again, you probably haven’t opened up a DP in two years anyway, so don’t sweat it! Each week throughout this football season, you will find our Pundits’ Picks embedded within every game preview. 18 of the DP’s brightest — and least functional — bulbs will try to predict the results from across the league for you, the disinterested reader, to laugh at as we get it all wrong! The next 10 weeks will feature boatloads of intrigue. Will Penn finish in the top half of the Ivy League? Will seven teams tie for the Ancient Eight title? Will Brown make like the Browns and actually not lose a game? All these questions and more will be answered in due time. For now, though, enjoy our shitshow of a semblance of predictions for how the Ivy League will finish at the end of this season:

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A day in the life of Penn football's least heralded unit Specialists have a different punter Jake Haggard, and kickers practice schedule than most Drew Brennan, David Perkins, and MARC MARGOLIS Sports Editor

“I have some of the best hands on the team.” That's a claim you'd expect to hear from a wide receiver or cornerback. But, in this case, the declaration came from Penn football’s senior long snapper, Carson Vey. Senior kicker Jack Soslow took Vey’s claim a step further. “He has the best hands on the team.” Exchanges like these highlight the camaraderie shared among of one of football’s least heralded group — the special teams. They are rarely interviewed after games or covered in the media, but specialists play a vital role for Penn football. Given the difference with their positions, the football lives of specialists differ greatly from the rest of the team. The special teams group, which consists of Soslow, Vey, freshman

Daniel Karrash, heads out onto the practice field 35-40 minutes before the rest of the team to perform warmup drills and various individual exercises. When the rest of the team arrives, it marks the beginning of “specials” period, where the specialists work on all types of snaps, punts, and field goals that could occur in games. Once practice gets underway for the rest of the team, Soslow, Vey, and Haggard move to the sidelines, where they spend time perfecting their crafts. Coach Ray Priore allots two or three blocks each practice for special teams. In between these blocks, the specialists work on all aspects of their technique such as footwork and dry snaps, as they cannot take the field to kick or snap with the rest of the team on the field. “Most of the time what we want to work on is more up to us because we have a good idea of exactly what it takes to make ourselves better,” Soslow said. For Soslow, he aims to kick the

CHASE SUTTON | SPORTS PHOTO EDITOR

While position players might have drills that require them to be on the field throughout an entire practice, specialists like senior kicker Jack Soslow do most of their work during practice on the sidelines.

ball 50 times per practice, including 12-20 live kicks. During live kicks, he urges his teammates to try and get in his head to simulate the pressure of a game.

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The best trash talkers on the team include senior defensive lineman Cooper Gardner, senior defensive back Sam Philippi, and offensive coordinator John Reagan. Soslow also praised last year’s starting quarterback, Will FischerColbrie, for being someone who always got in his head. However, on this day, it was sophomore holder David Perkins who delivered the most merciless line of the afternoon. “Perkins had a good one,” Soslow laughed. “He said ‘Soslow, you know you’re not as good as you were last year’ right before [I was] about to kick, but I nailed it.” A typical day for Vey includes 20-25 live short snaps, which does not include various drills he does on the side. Still, for game day, its important for both aces to stay as fresh as possible. As Saturday approaches, the seniors wane off reps. “Finding that right balance is probably the hardest thing to do but we’ve been doing it for four years now,” Vey said. “I think we’ve found a good balance on how to prioritize each practice to the way we want to.” Aside from the physical repetition, the mental side of special teams is what makes the difference during games. Before proving to be one of the best kickers in the Ivy League last season, Soslow had a different role in his sophomore season as

the team's kickoff specialist. He missed his only field goal attempt that year, but after changing his approach, he saw success. “It wasn’t until I could harness the mental aspect of kicking, [that] was the point I became good,” Soslow said. “What I did was I changed up my attitude to have instead of zero focus, 100 percent focus. So when I’m back there, it’s 100 percent focus on what I need to succeed — rather than detaching myself from the pressure of the situation, it’s learning with how to deal with it.” He felt that constantly repeating the same motion to commit it to muscle memory made him less prepared for pressure situations, where the variables differ from routine kicks in practice. Not treating any kick in practice as "just another kick" transformed Soslow into one of the most accurate kickers in the country. For Vey, he is mainly focused on making sure he stays out of the headlines. “Go do your job and get it done. It’s as simple as that,” Vey said. “If they don’t call your name during the game, you probably had a great game.” As the season approaches, chances are that most of the starters and coaches will receive more acclaim and attention than the special teams unit. But that's just the way they want it.


Quakers return key players on both sides of the ball YOSEF WEITZMAN Sports Editor

With Justin Watson off to the NFL, many of the questions surrounding Penn football this offseason have been focused on how the Quakers will replace the production of the team’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving touchdowns. Those questions are fully warranted, but the Red and Blue’s performance in each of the other positions groups could prove to be just as important. Ahead of Penn’s season-opener against Bucknell on Saturday, take a look at the players you can expect to shine at every position.

If coach Ray Priore knows who his starting quarterback will be in Week 1, he’s done a good job of keeping it under wraps. Will Fischer-Colbrie, who took the majority of last year’s snaps from under center, has graduated, which leaves junior Nick Robinson and sophomore Ryan Glover in a two-man competition for the job this year. Robinson has the advantage as far as experience goes — he appeared in six games last season and threw for six touchdowns — but Glover, who competed in long jump events in high school, would present a bigger threat with his feet. The two players will almost certainly split drives come Saturday with the coaching staff paying close attention to who performs better.

Running Back Player to watch: Karekin Brooks Biggest loss: Tre Solomon

It’s already been well-documented that Penn will have its hands full replacing Watson this season, but that’s far from the Quakers’ only loss in the wide receiver and tight end group; the team’s second-leading receiver in tight end Nicholas Bokun graduated too. With those two players gone, the Red and Blue’s receiving corps this year will be largely made of inexperienced and unproven talent. That could present a bigger issue if the team’s quarterback play is inconsistent again, but for now, expect to see the coaching staff spread playing time around with seniors Christian Pearson, Steve Farrell, and Logan Sharp carrying the biggest loads early on.

With Louis Vecchio now playing as a graduate transfer at Vanderbilt and Taylor Hendrickson having graduated, Penn has some holes to fill up front. That could leave room for one of the team’s newly recruited defensive linemen to break out, but the largest burden will most likely fall on seniors Brody Graham and Cooper Gardner. Graham and Gardner combined to appear in 19 games with 10 starts on the line last year for the Quakers, and both showed enough to suggest that they could be key cogs in their final seasons for the Red and Blue.

Linebacker Player to watch: Nick Miller Biggest loss: Colton Moskal In 2017, Penn’s linebacker group was led by Nick Miller, and in 2018, that shouldn’t change. The 5’11’’ senior captain was a finalist for Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year last season, and barring injury,

should be one of the strongest defensive forces in the Ancient Eight again this year. Other returners, like Jay Cammon, Jr., Nico Ament, and Connor Jangro, will help round out the core of Penn’s defense as the team will have to replace Colton Moskal, who was second on the team in tackles (to Miller) last season with 60.

Defensive Back Player to watch: Sam Philippi Biggest loss: N/A Senior safety Sam Philippi has been a key part of Penn’s secondary ever since he first arrived at the University as a freshman, and he will once again lead the unit — and the team — as a captain this year. Returning to join him will be several other defensive backs who all started games last season, including Conor O’Brien, Luke Bullock, Jacob Martin, and Jared Noble. The Red and Blue’s secondary is one of the team’s most experienced units and should be a strength of the defense,

but with the defensive line somewhat depleted from last year, the pressure will be even higher for the backs to stick to their assignments.

Special Teams Player to watch: Jack Soslow Biggest loss: Hunter Kelly The long snapper, kicker, and punter trio of Carson Vey, Jack Soslow, and Hunter Kelly was one of the best and most experienced special teams units in the Ivy League last season. Kelly, who was honorable mention All-Ivy in both 2016 and 2017, has graduated, but Soslow and Vey will both return this season for their senior seasons. Soslow is coming off a first-team AllIvy season and Vey has started all 30 games over the last three seasons. The one question mark for the Quakers’ special teams unit is how well they'll replace Kelly. Ahead of the season-opener, freshman Jake Haggard and junior Drew Brennan are competing for the starting job.

Offensive Line Player to watch: Tommy Dennis Biggest loss: Nathan Kirchmier Growing pains are to be expected anytime a team has to replace twofifths of its offensive line, but that’s especially the case when one of the starters is a first-team All-Ivy center like Nathan Kirchmier. With a new player set to start at center, too, the center-quarterback relationship will be one to keep a close eye on — but Penn will have talent returning on both sides of the line. 2017 second-team All-Ivy left tackle and senior captain Tommy Dennis figures to be charged with protecting the quarterback’s blind side once again, and between Greg Begnoche and Jeff Gibbs, the entire right side of the line is returning.

FOOTBALL PREVIEW 2 1

Losing a 2016 unanimous firstteam All-Ivy and 2017 second-team All-Ivy running back in Tre Solomon to graduation is a blow, but that doesn’t mean you should expect the Quakers to lose a step in the backfield this season.

Wide Receiver/Tight End Player to watch: Christian Pearson Biggest loss: Justin Watson

Defensive Line Player to watch: Brody Graham Biggest loss: Louis Vecchio

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2018

Quarterback Player to watch: Ryan Glover Biggest loss: Will Fischer-Colbrie

Karekin Brooks, who led Penn with 840 rushing yards last season, is back for his junior season, and his classmate Abe Willows, who scored two touchdowns in 2017, is back too. Brooks may very well be the top rusher in the Ivy League this year, and the pair of Brooks and Willows could be the league’s best one-two punch. The only major concern with this group is a lack of experience — none of the team’s running backs are seniors.

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A positional breakdown of Penn's roster


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After coming close, the defense is hungry for more Veteran unit poised to propel team to a title COLE JACOBSON Senior Sports Reporter

Caught up in all the storylines surrounding Penn football’s quarterback controversy and Justin Watson breaking every record in sight was one cold, hard fact about the 2017 season: The Quakers’ defense was not where it needed to be for an Ivy League three-peat. While there were certainly some major highs on defense — Nick Miller’s historic season, holding usual juggernaut Harvard to six points, the epic goal-line stand against Cornell — the unit’s lows may have cost the team a shot at its third straight title. Penn allowed 25.7 points per game after giving up only 21.3 a year prior, and its average of 5.71 yards allowed per play ranked worst in the Ivy League. And now, after the offense graduated several stars including Watson, Tre Solomon, and firstteam All-Ivy center Nathan Kirchmier, one thing is clear: If Penn football is to return to Ivy League supremacy, its defense will have to raise its game. Fortunately for Penn, based on the Quakers’ array of returning

talent, it very well could do so. Only three defensive starters from a year ago departed: defensive ends Louis Vecchio and Tayler Hendrickson, and linebacker Colton Moskal. Twelve of the team’s top 15 tacklers return, including a trio of rising seniors who earned All-Ivy honors in 2017. With such a veteran core coming back, confidence is sky-high that these returners can push the team to contender status once again. “I don’t think there’s a bigger role for the offense or defense to fill, but we embrace adversity as a defense,” senior captain and safety Sam Philippi said. “Last season, we had an opportunity to make those clutch plays, and we didn’t do it. We lost three [Ivy] games by a combination of 11 points. Those are the details that we really want to stress this season, and we’re really ready to make those changes this year.” If the defense is to turn things around, everything will likely start with the team’s secondary. After defensive coordinator Bob Benson drastically improved the team’s pass defense in each of his first two seasons, Penn took a major step back in the area in 2017. After ranking 40th in the country in 2016 with an impressive de-

fensive pass efficiency of 121.26, Penn slid down to 108th in the metric at 145.93 last season. And after two straight seasons ranking in the top two in the league in interceptions, Penn only secured five interceptions in 2017, better than only six other teams in the entire FCS. But if there’s any positional unit that's best-equipped for a major turnaround, it’s the same one that needs it the most. Unlike last season, when the team was coming off of the graduation of safety Alex Moore and the transfer of first-team All-Ivy pick Mason Williams, the secondary is rich with returning talent. Led by four-year starter Philippi at safety, every contributor from last year’s group is back, including corners Jyron Walker, Jared Noble, and Conor O’Brien, safeties Jacob Martin and Luke Bullock, and more. With so many experienced names coming back, there’s no group on the roster that has as much familiarity with both one another and Penn’s upcoming opponents. And the Quakers plan to use that to their advantage. “We have a chemistry that we know when we need to make calls, and we know when we need to talk to each other. We’re always with each other watching film; we

have lunch meetings everyday,” Philippi said. “I think that camaraderie and that chemistry together is huge to be able to know what someone else is thinking when you don’t even have to talk to them.” In contrast, the front seven is losing three starters, most notably Vanderbilt graduate-transfer Vecchio. But that group also has one of the finest defensive players Penn football has seen in quite some time. Linebacker Nick Miller was all over the field in both the pass and run game in 2017. The thenjunior’s total of 104 tackles was the highest by any Quaker in 20 years, and his list of accolades includes being a finalist for the Ivy Defensive Player of the Year award and being the only Ivy League defensive player named as a 2018 STATS FCS Preseason All-American. Miller is far from the only important returner in the linebacker corps. Brian O’Neill, Connor Jangro, and converted running back Jay Cammon Jr. all started at times in 2017. But with the unofficial status as the league’s best returning defensive player, Miller and his blue-collar approach will need to thrive for Penn to get back to the pinnacle of the league. “He’s one of the hardest work-

ers you’ll ever find,” senior defensive tackle Cooper Gardner said of his classmate. “He’s one of those guys — he’s not all about talking about it, he’s all about being about it. He just puts his nose down every day, works his butt off, and gets the job done.” If returning talent wasn’t enough to help the Quakers’ defense, though, they undoubtedly have the motivation to match. Though last season’s fourthplace finish might sound like a far cry from a league championship, the reality was that Penn’s losses to Dartmouth and Columbia came on walk-off touchdowns by the opponent. And after Penn allowed more than 400 yards in both of those games to open the Ivy season 0-2, its defense has one simple creed: never again. “I don’t think I’ve gone a day without thinking of at least one of those games. The Dartmouth game, national television, pretty much no worse way to lose than that. I’ve got a screenshot of Columbia celebrating after they won on my phone as my screensaver, cause that game really pretty much upsets my stomach every time I think about it,” Philippi said. “So when kickoff comes for those games, they’re gonna remember what happened last year.”


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HIGHLIGHTS FROM MEDIA DAY

In the last week of August, Penn football hosted its annual media day, where reporters got their first looks of the team and talked to players and coachs about the upcoming season.

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2018

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