Football Preview 2023

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makes a great Ivy League quarterback? It's complicated IN PHOTOS: A day at training camp
look at Penn football's home, Franklin Field Ivy League power rankings
to take on Colgate in season opener Meet Penn football's five captains
predictions for 2023 season TABLE
COVER Photo by Anna Vazhaeparambil Design by Lilian Liu PHOTO BY ANNA VAZHAEPARAMBIL
3 FOOTBALL PREVIEW THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2023 THEDP.COM | THE DAILY PENNSYLVANIAN Monday-Friday: 11am-9pm Saturday: 12pm-9pm Sunday: Closed Always Fresh SCHEDULE 2023 AT AT VS VS AT AT VS VS VS AT SEPT. 16 1:00 PM COLGATE SEPT. 23 3:30 P.M. BUCKNELL SEPT. 30 1:00 P.M. DARTMOUTH OCT. 07 1:00 P.M. GEORGETOWN OCT. 14 1:30 P.M. COLUMBIA OCT. 21 12:00 PM YALE OCT. 27 7:00 P.M. BROWN NOV. 04 1:00 P.M. CORNELL NOV. 11 1:00 P.M. HARVARD NOV. 18 1:00 P.M. PRINCETON

Meet Penn football's five captains for the 2023 season

Starting quarterback Aidan Sayin is the lone junior captain, joined by four seniors

At Andy Kerr Stadium in Hamilton, N.Y., it is hard to miss the big Colgate letter C logo at the 50-yard line. However, when Penn football travels to upstate New York next week to take on the Raiders they will be armed with their own set of Cs, in the form of five captains who will look to make big impacts on and off the field as the Quakers chase an Ivy League title.

The five captains are junior quarterback Aidan Sayin, senior wide receiver Joshua Casilli, senior defensive lineman Joey Slackman, senior corner Kendren Smith and the only returning captain, senior linebacker Jonathan Melvin.

According to head coach Ray Priore, with over 25 seniors on the team, there is a lot of very strong upperclassmen leadership which bodes well for the coming season.

"Those five young men always stood out from the rest," Priore said. "But I will go back and say this: They are just very representative of the full group of kids that we have in our program.”

Joey Slackman

Slackman will look to plug the hole on the defensive line left by the departure of former captain and first-team All-Ivy selection Jake Heimlicher.

"He’s got a work ethic like no other," Slackman said of Heimlicher. "So I try to emulate that, and technically when it comes to

D-Line moves and working with [his] hands he is really good.”

Slackman was second only to Heimlicher in sacks last season with 4.5. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound former wrestler and native of Commack, N.Y. also finished fourth on the team last year in total tackles and earned an honorable mention All-Ivy Selection.

As the team finishes out their final few practices of the preseason, Slackman said they need to approach the season one step at a time.

"Obviously we know our ultimate goal is to win the Ivy League, but it’s a long way away and all we can do is focus on all we can do every day.”

Aiden Sayin

The only junior to be selected as a captain this season, Sayin is not afraid of the bright lights. As the primary signal-caller last season he gained a lot of experience leading the team on the field, according to Priore, who also said he expects Sayin to take a big step forward this season.

“What we have with Aiden is 15 games of experience," Priore said. "10 games last year, which I thought he did an outstanding job as a young player acclimating himself to the situations and the game experiences. Again he's an outstanding leader on the field.”

Sayin started all 10 games last season, leading the Quakers

to an 8-2 record and fell just one game short of the Ivy-League title. He finished the season with 2,344 passing yards and 18 touchdowns to only seven interceptions.

“I want to be a little bit more vocal," Sayin said. "But there are so many leaders on this team, so I don't really feel like I need to make a drastic change in my leadership style.”

Joshua Casilli

Joining Sayin for the coin toss next weekend will be one of his favorite targets from a season ago. Casilli led the team in the first game of the season last year versus Colgate with 10 catches for 60 yards. He finished 2022 with career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns.

As a captain, Casilli said it is his responsibility to make sure the team works together as a well-oiled machine.

“We’ve got some sports cars,” he added, “We just got to keep them healthy and under control.”

Casilli looks to be one of Sayin’s primary weapons this season, although the quarterback's arsenal will be without last year's leading receiver Rory Starkey Jr., a second-team AllIvy selection, and first-team All-Ivy running back Trey Flowers, one of last year's four captains.

In addition to Flowers, the team will also be missing another former captain and firstteam All-Ivy selection, offensive

lineman Trevor Radosevich. According to Casilli, “[Radosevich] was kind of the heart and soul of the offense.”

Casilli is the first native of Pennsylvania to hold captaincy since fellow wide receiver and current Kansas City Chief Justin Watson had the honor during the 2017 season. In fact, Casilli grew up about a 15-minute drive from Watson and their two high schools will face off against each other next Friday. In his four years with Peters Township in McMurray, Pa., Casilli won two conference titles and was named to the Pennsylvania All-State team in 2019.

Kendren Smith

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound corner from Charlotte, N.C. will look to build off a career year in which he earned a first-team All-Ivy selection. His best performance last season came in the Quakers 34-14 win over Columbia on Oct. 15, where he forced two fumbles, recovered two fumbles, and added an interception. For his efforts, he was named the FedEx Ground FCS National Defensive Player of the Week and Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week.

Smith will lead an experienced unit of defensive backs that includes 11 juniors and seniors, including two All-Ivy selections from a season ago. Smith, along with senior Jaden Key, the other All-Ivy selection, will look to lock down opposing wide

receivers across the Ivy League this season.

As the leader of an experienced unit, Smith said, “I think that it makes it a lot easier knowing that a lot of older guys know what we're supposed to do.”

Jonathan Melvin

The only returning captain of the bunch, the fifth-year senior recorded fifty tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble last year, earning himself an All-Ivy honorable mention. Melvin has appeared in 20 games for the Quakers since his debut in 2019

According to Melvin, as a returning captain he hopes to continue to maintain the standards set last year that helped lead the team to an 8-2 finish. However, he added that it is a new season, and there is still more work to be done if they want to win the Ivy League.

Melvin, a native of Hampton, Va., is not the first from his hometown to achieve athletic success in Philadelphia. Hampton, on the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, is also the hometown of Philadelphia 76ers and NBA legend Allen Iverson.

In terms of advice for his fellow captains, Melvin said communication is the key to being successful.

“Know that you can't talk to everybody the same way," Melvin said. "There's time for hard love. There's time for a little soft love. There’s time to put the foot down."

Now-senior defensive lineman Joey Slackman attempts to block a pass by Harvard quarterback Charlie Dean last season on Nov. 12, 2022. Now-junior quarterback Aidan Sayin makes a play against Princeton on Nov. 19, 2022. Senior defensive back Kendren Smith during last season's matchup against Lafayette on Sept. 24, 2022. Senior linebacker Jonathan Melvin covers Harvard running back Aidan Borguet on Nov. 12, 2022. Now-senior wide receiver Joshua Casilli during last season's Homecoming game against Yale on Oct. 22, 2022. PHOTOS BY ANNA VAZHAEPARAMBIL AND SAMANTHA TURNER

Football prepares to take on Colgate in season opener

The Quakers defeated the Raiders 25-14 at Franklin Field to start last season

The next installment of Penn football’s story kicks off this Saturday on Sep. 16 against the Colgate Raiders.

That headline may sound like déjà vu. Last year, Penn opened its season against Colgate (0-2) in a comeback 25-14 win at Franklin Field. It was a tale of two halves: a first half where the Quakers fell 14-3 and a second half in which the Quaker offense outscored Colgate 22-0.

This year, the Red and Blue have the firepower required to replicate that second half offensive magic. Junior quarterback Aidan Sayin is back at the helm after earning an All-Ivy honorable mention last season and throwing for 2,344 yards and 18 passing touchdowns. He is also the sole junior captain this season.

“What we have with Aidan is 15 games [of] experience," coach Ray Priore said. "I thought he did an outstanding job [last season], a younger player acclimating him to the situation.” Now as a more experienced player with strong returning receivers such as widerecievers senior Joshua Casilli and junior Julien Stokes, he has the potential to outperform his debut season as QB1.

Sayin and Casilli are two of five captains on the Quakers roster. They are joined by three more seniors: linebacker Jonathan Melvin, defensive lineman Joey Slackman, and defensive back Kendren Smith.

“Any way I tried to break [captain voting down], those five young men stood out above the rest,” Priore said when asked about voting on captains. “They are representative of the full group of kids we have at our program. They’ve done a great job through the wintertime, the springtime, been here most of the summer training.”

That summer of work will be integral against Colgate. The Raiders return their dual-threat junior quarterback Michael Brescia, who accumulated 13 rushing touchdowns and seven passing touchdowns last season. Brescia and the rest of the offense still leans

towards the running game: In its season-opening 65-0 loss against Syracuse, Colgate finished with 108 rushing yards and 52 passing yards. However, the team ran 38 rushing plays versus only 20 pass attempts.

Furthermore, Brescia ran more times than he completed a pass, finishing with eight rushing attempts and only seven completed passes. In the team's second game, – a 42-19 loss at Villanova – Brescia and Colgate tried to better integrate their passing game. Brescia threw for 225 yards on 16 completions of 30 attempts, including one touchdown and one interception.

The Quakers defense could win the game if they stall the Raiders offense in their tracks by stopping the running game and stifling Colgate's burgeoning passing game. Last season, the Quakers were a defensive stronghold against the running game: They allowed only an average of 89.4 rushing yards per game and only seven rushing touchdowns the whole season.

This opener will answer the question of how the Quakers will fill the hole left by players like Jake Heimlicher, who transferred to UCLA. But players like Melvin, Slackman, and Smith are still there. Melvin and Slackman, who both play in the front seven, received preseason second team All-Ivy honors, and Smith made preseason first team All-Ivy.

On offense the Quakers will need a new go-to guy to run the football. Trey Flowers is now an alumnus of the program after years as the main running back. He was out for a few games last season but still led the team with seven rushing touchdowns, including game-winners against Dartmouth and Princeton. Senior running back Jonathan Mulatu is expected to slide into that spot, having taken over for Flowers as the starter for three games in 2022. He ran the ball for three touchdowns last season. He and others will need to step up for the Quakers to maintain a formidable running game.

But perhaps the biggest factor going into this matchup is experience. The Raiders will have two games under their belt by the time they play the Quakers. Penn is third on their schedule, following Syracuse and Villanova. In contrast, Penn will take the field for the first time against Colgate.

“The advantage they have is the two-game head start on us. They can get all the kinks out,” Priore said. “It’ll be our first game, so there’ll be a lot of first game energy we’ll have to deal with and obviously a couple mistakes. We worry about ourselves.”

It is a similar situation to last season’s opener, with Colgate already having played two games before taking on Penn. But if it is anything like last year, Penn will leave upstate New York with the first win of its season.

PHOTO BY ANNA VAZHAEPARAMBIL Now-junior tight end Bryce Myers in last season's matchup against Colgate on Sept. 17, 2022.

Standing guard: Inside Penn football’s offensive line’s retool for the upcoming season

The Quakers will have to replace multiple starters from 2022, including former captain Trevor Radosevich

Last year, Penn football’s offense was in the top half of the Ivy League, scoring 26.6 points per game — the most since 2017 — en route to an impressive 8-2 record and a second-place finish in the Ivy League. Whether the Quakers can sustain that success will largely depend on how well the offensive line can dominate the trenches.

But this season, the Quakers will have several new faces along the offensive line. Two week one starters — sophomore left tackle Netinho Olivieri and sophomore center Jake Bingham — have yet to start a game for Penn. Beyond that, junior right guard Will Bergin has only appeared in three games during his time in Red and Blue.

Fortunately for Penn, though, there are two starters who possess a wealth of experience playing up front for the Quakers. Left guard Jake Ligos and right tackle Jack Purcell are a pair of fifth-year seniors who are returning for one last season with the Red and Blue.

Ligos started all 10 games for Penn last year, and Purcell has 18 starts over the last two seasons. Both were key players in an offensive line that allowed only 15 sacks — third in the Ivy League — and a marked improvement from 2021, when pass rushers got to Quaker quarterbacks 23 times.

This season, both Ligos and Purcell are settling into their new roles as the experienced pieces on the line.

“Jack and I have both had two pretty intense internships, but I don’t think either of us are ready to join the workforce just yet,” Ligos said with a chuckle. “It’s nice to come back and have a little bit of a lighter schedule, and just enjoy football and hanging around the guys.”

Despite the starters for Saturday’s game against Colgate being confirmed to The Daily Pennsylvanian earlier this week earlier this week, offensive line coach Kyle Metzler said that Penn plans to use several offensive linemen in a rotation at certain positions. This reflects how, during preseason camp, Metzler wasn’t ready to name a full set of starters yet.

“Well, I think the goal is to play

seven, eight guys [during the nonconference season],” Metzler said.

“The goal is to try and get guys experienced and obviously we're going to. There's not a huge drop off right now between [guys five through seven], so we're going to try and get guys repetitions and get them experience, and then go from there.”

Offensive coordinator Dan Swanstrom echoed that sentiment, commenting on the skill that he saw in training camp from some of the younger offensive linemen on the Quaker roster.

“We got some nice athletes,” he said. “We got some big strong players and young players. We like what they can do athletically and we're just ready to see if they're varsity football players here in the next couple weeks.”

This year, the Quaker offensive line will need to replace Trevor

Radosevich, who had three years of playing experience with Penn. For the past two years, he was the starting center, and earned All-Ivy recognition both years, including first team honors in 2022, when he was also a captain. With his Ivy League eligibility up, Radosevich went to Cincinnati as a graduate transfer for the 2023 season.

“Trevor did a great job for us. He was a tremendous leader, and he's a smart football player,” Metzler said. "He was also a three-year starter for me, so he had a ton of experience. Obviously, it's hard to replace that type of experience.”

For veterans like Ligos and Purcell, they now have to step up and provide some of the leadership Radosevich previously played a big part of.

“He’s definitely a tough guy to replace,” Purcell said of Radosevich. “I think we’re kind of doing

it by committee … we’re doing our best stepping up, trying to be vocal, and making sure everyone is on the same track.”

This year, Penn’s offense has a lot of work to do — and a reputation to protect. Beyond just not allowing many sacks, Penn’s passing offense had over 250 yards per game and 18 touchdowns a season ago, both second in the Ivy League. But the rushing attack was seventh in the Ancient Eight, as the Quakers only managed 98.2 yards per game on the ground.

Trying to improve that — especially since last year’s leading rusher Trey Flowers has played his last down in the Red and Blue — will largely be up to the downhill pressure the offensive line can generate.

With its mix of seniors and less experienced, younger players, this year’s offensive line could be

the basis of the unit for years to come. In this way, the Quakers are hoping that the line can be good this year, while building the depth required to sustain success.

But the focus for the team right now is contending to win an Ivy League title — Penn’s first since 2016. For fifth-year seniors like Ligos and Purcell, 2023 represents one last ride in Red and Blue, and a chance to go out on top.

“I'd say for the 10 or so fifthyears that we have coming back, we've really seen it all,” Purcell said. “We came in, we were average, 5-5. We were really bad, 3-7. Last year we were on an uptick. I think it would be a tremendous reward to come in this year and see all that hard work pay off with a ring but really just being with this same nucleus of guys since we were 18 years old has been a tremendous experience.”

PHOTO BY JESSE ZHANG Now-Penn alumnus Trevor Radosevich (left) and now-junior Will Bergin (right) on the offensive line during last season's Homecoming game on Oct. 22, 2022.

It has been said that a team is only as good as its quarterback. But if you ask Penn junior signal-caller Aidan Sayin, a quarterback is only as good as his mindset.

“A great college QB knows what to do on every play,” Sayin said. “He’s confident, confident that he’s going to make the right play almost every time. He’s not going into any play nervous.”

The conference that Sayin and the Quakers call home, the Ivy League, is proof of just how pivotal QB play can be for a team’s overall success. Last season, three of the Ancient Eight’s top four teams in the final standings

were also top four in passing offense (Penn, Princeton, and Harvard). And as the league prepares for the season ahead, the role that signal-callers will play cannot be overstated.

Coming off an Ivy League honorable mention in his first full season as a starter, Sayin is one of the better quarterbacks in the Ancient Eight. The Quaker offense is designed squarely around him, finishing second in the conference in both completions and passing yards in 2022. But if the Red and Blue want to take the next step toward winning the conference crown, they will need Sayin to be even


“I think all the quarterbacks in the Ivy League are at a really high level,” defensive coordinator Bob Benson said. “If you take the All-League guys, you basically go straight through the league [standings]. Yale’s had success offensively because their leader, he’s a gamer. It’s extremely difficult to defend him in terms of keeping him in the pocket and defending the pass.”

Benson is spot on, both in his assessment of Yale quarterback Nolan Grooms and in his attribution of team success to QB success. Grooms led the Bulldogs to an Ivy League title last season en route to a first team All-Ivy selection, doing most of his damage on the ground with the Ivy’s second highest rushing yard total. His style is vastly different from that of the league’s other elite leaders, but the result is the same: each of the league’s top three teams in 2022 saw their quarterback receive AllIvy honors.

Grooms is back for his senior year, as is Princeton quarterback Blake Stenstrom, who earned the second team All-Ivy nod in 2022. That places the

pressure on Sayin to climb the ladder, and importantly, to take the Quakers with him.

“An elite QB makes a great difference in the team,” Sayin said. “I think the QB is a player that a lot of the team looks to for that leadership, that spark. If the offense isn’t playing well, the QB needs to give them that spark to make it go.”

No quarterback in the Ivy League completed more passes than Sayin in 2022, and that is a result of both his excellent efficiency and the way Penn’s offense is designed to run. The Red and Blue run a tremendous amount of short passes, particularly swing routes out of the backfield, which results in an outsized amount of passes for Sayin. His 391 attempts were 41 more than any other Ancient Eight passer, but his 5.99 yards per attempt ranked eighth among starters.

The Red and Blue’s offense will likely take a similar shape in 2023, but if Sayin can continue to improve, that spark could light the fuse for a dynamic Quaker scoring attack.

Last season, Princeton’s Stenstrom trailed Sayin from an attempts perspective, but it was

the Tigers’ signal-caller who led the conference in yards, completion percentage, and efficiency.

In the Ivy League, as in many other conferences across the nation, the QB wears the crown. It is the most important position on the field, and arguably the most important in all of sports.

But the Ancient Eight is notable still for just how linearly a great QB influences great success– if you don’t have a top-of-the-line signal-caller, you’ll never find yourself at the top of the standings.

And yet, even within such a small conference, success at the QB position looks wildly different. From Grooms and his ground-pounding approach to Stensrom and his aerial attack, great quarterbacks come in all shapes and sizes. And that is where Sayin’s opportunity lies — he does not need to fill a prototypical model, he just needs to be the best version of himself.

Sayin is already one of the best the Ancient Eight has to offer. But for Penn to achieve their title aspirations, it is not enough for Sayin to compete for the title of best quarterback in the conference. He needs to own it.

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What makes a great Ivy League quarterback?
It's complicated.
Penn junior quarterback Aidan Sayin is one of the best in the Ancient Eight, but that may not be enough
WALKER CARNATHAN Deputy Sports Editor


Just over nine months ago, Penn football pulled off what almost no one had predicted: a shocking 20-19 victory over defending co-champion and crowd-favorite Princeton. That miraculous win ended the team’s up-anddown year on a high note, and it has certainly built up expectations for what this 2023 season will bring.

As players and coaches prepare for their fast-approaching opener against Colgate on Saturday, The Daily Pennsylvanian's photographers attended practice to capture the team hard at work ahead of game day. From drills with weighted mannequins to two-minute, head-to-head scrimmages, here is a morning at football training camp, in photos.

PHOTO BY ANNA VAZHAEPARAMBIL Practice begins at 8:30 a.m. with team stretches on Franklin Field's turf, led by strength and conditioning coach Miguel Rivera. PHOTO BY ANNA VAZHAEPARAMBIL Junior running back Aaron Jones scores a touchdown to end the scrimmage. PHOTO BY KAMELIJA PATOSKA Near the end of practice, players go head-to-head against each other in a twominute drill, which emulates the high energy and stress of game day. PHOTO BY ANNA VAZHAEPARAMBIL Junior defensive lineman Sulayman Adeoye practices the swim move on popup dummies with other members of his position group. PHOTO BY ANNA VAZHAEPARAMBIL Head coach Ray Priore addresses his team at the end of practice about the upcoming season opener against Colgate. PHOTO BY ANNA VAZHAEPARAMBIL Sophomore wide receiver Jared Richardson extends to catch while being pursued by sophomore defensive back David Okechukwu. PHOTO BY ANNA VAZHAEPARAMBIL Junior quarterback Aidan Sayin reads the field during a scrimmage play with the other starters. PHOTO BY ELLIE PIRTLE Seniors Jack Iuliano (left) and Mitzseen Joseph (right) execute hand fighting drills under the guidance of defensive line coach Hank Hughes. ANNA VAZHAEPARAMBIL Photo Editor
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Here's who transferred out of Penn football after the 2022 season

Many key Quakers who were out of elgibility in Red and Blue went elsewhere for 2023

Penn football is set to start its season off strong with a roster sporting several fresh faces. While many prospective new players seek to start their journey as Quakers, the team is noticeably missing some familiar faces. The new season saw the departure of five Quakers: former seniors Trevor

Radosevich, Jake Heimlicher, Garrett Morris and Rory Starkey transferred to use their last year of playing eligibility at Cincinnati, UCLA, and Samford, respectively. Former sophomore Trevor Mayberry also made the decision to transfer to the west coast and will be sporting Stanford’s colors

this fall. While their presence will be missed, this season offers opportunities for fresh talents to come forward.

Trevor Radosevich

Offensive Line, Cincinnati

Following a stellar career at

Penn where he was a stalwart in the center of the Quakers' offensive line and two-time team captain, Radosevich will be standing on the Bearcats' offensive line this fall. He earned first team All-Ivy in 2022 after earning second team honors the previous season and started all 10 games as a Quaker.

Jake Heimlicher

Defensive Line, UCLA

Heimlicher will be on the defensive line for the Bruins this fall, following a career at Penn in the same position where he played in 31 games as a Quaker and was a starter in his last 20 games. In 2022, Heimlicher saw action in all 10 games. He was also cocaptain, third team Associated Press FCS All-American, fourth team Phil Steele/DraftScout AllAmerican, first team All-Ivy, a Buck Buchanan Award finalist, and named as a finalist for the FCS defensive player of the year.

Trevor Mayberry, Offensive Line, Stanford

Mayberry left Penn as a sophomore with an impressive record, having started 18 games over the last two years at left tackle. His high school record is equally as impressive, having been a four-time letter winner at Jesuit High School in Odessa, Fla. and serving as team captain his senior year.

Garrett Morris, Linebacker, Samford Morris comes to Samford as a transfer from Penn, having played in all 10 games for the Quakers in 2022. While in Red and Blue, Morris helped lead the defense with 71 tackles including 37 solo stops. He was named first team All-Ivy and collected 45 tackles in 10 games for Penn in 2021.

Rory Starkey, Jr., Wide Receiver, Samford

Following four impressive seasons at Penn where he caught 119 passes for 1,549 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Quakers, Starkey is joining Samford as a wide receiver. During his time at Penn, Starkey was named second team All-Ivy after leading Penn in receiving with 56 catches for 515 yards and four touchdowns in 2022. Starkey caught 24 passes for 391 yards and a team-best three touchdowns, becoming the 22nd player in program history to record 1,000 career receiving yards.

Former Penn offensive lineman Trevor Radosevich takes the field during the game against Yale at Franklin Field on Oct. 22, 2022 ALL PHOTOS BY ANNA VAZHAEPARAMBIL Former Penn wide receiver Rory Starkey, Jr. catches a pass from quarterback Aidan Sayin at Powers Field in Princeton, N.J. on Nov. 19, 2022 Former Penn defensive lineman Jake Heimlicher faces off against Colgate during the game at Franklin Field on Sept. 17, 2022 Former Penn linebacker Garrett Morris tackles a Princeton wide receiver during the game at Powers Field in Princeton, N.J. on Nov. 19, 2022.

Through the years: A look at Penn football's home, Franklin Field


When a Penn student thinks of Commencement, an image of Franklin Field surely flashes in their mind. Ever since 1986, the University’s Commencement Ceremonies have been held at Franklin Field, having brought notable speakers such as Barbara Bush (1990), Hillary Clinton (1993), Jimmy Carter (1998), Bono (2004), Denzel Washington (2011), 1999 College graduate John Legend (2014), and most recently, Idina Menzel (2023).


The oldest Division I college football stadium in the nation. The oldest two-tiered stadium in the country. The fourth largest FCS venue. A maximum seating capacity upward of 52,000. First and foremost, though, home to the Penn Quakers.

On the precipice of its 14th decade with its doors open, historic Franklin Field stands not only as a Penn staple, but also as a Philadelphia landmark. It has housed Penn football, sprint football, track and field, and lacrosse for years, as well as Commencement, intramural and club sports, military training, and the opera — to name a few. Here’s a look back on the storied history of Franklin Field.


Built to house the running of the first Penn Relays, $100,000 — equivalent to approximately $3.6 million in 2023 — was dedicated to the construction of Franklin Field in April 1895. Equipping the help of architects Frank Miles Day and Brother, Charles Klauder, construction of a permanent stadium began at the turn of the century. The original site — named after the university’s founder, Benjamin Franklin — featured its signature horseshoe shape, a quarter-mile track, football field, baseball diamond (the site was home to the Penn baseball team until 1924), and indoor training facilities.

Later that year, Penn football played its first game at Franklin Field

— marking the use of the nation’s first scoreboard. After 10 straight shoutout games to spark the season, the Quakers would cap the 1895 season with a pristine 14-0 record.


From its early years, Franklin Field has boasted a multipurpose nature. Prior to its brief stint as the host site of Spring Fling from 2008-2016, Franklin Field hosted Verdi’s Grand Opera Aida to a crowd of over 30,000 people in 1916 — the first largescale, open-air opera in the United States.


1922 marks a monumental year in the stadium’s history, the year Franklin Field became the Franklin Field we know today. After the original wooden bleachers were torn down, the concrete lower tier was constructed. In 1925, designers Day & Klauder added the bowl’s second tier, crafting the historic skeleton that has remained unchanged to this day.

1922 also saw the first football radio broadcast, originating from none other than Franklin Field.

Carried by Philadelphia’s WIP station, the broadcast aired the PennCornell rivalry for the thousands of fans tuned in. In 1940, the first commercially televised college football game also took place at Franklin Field when Philco Radio & Television Corporation televised Penn’s 51-0 blowout of the Maryland Terrapins.


The history of Franklin Field extends into politics as well. On June 27, 1936, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt concluded the Democratic National Convention at the stadium when he delivered his speech accepting the nomination for his second presidential term. In what may be one of the largest crowds the stadium has ever seen, Franklin Field opened its doors to over 100,000 people that evening.


Franklin Field entered its NFL era in 1958 when the Philadelphia Eagles called the stadium home for the first time.

In order to accommodate larger crowds, the Eagles made the move from Connie Mack Stadium following the 1957 season. During the team's stint at Franklin Field, it held the 1960 NFL Championship Game, when the Birds defeated Green Bay 17-13 aided by the efforts of linebacker/center and Penn alumnus Chuck Bednarik. The Eagles played their final game at Franklin Field in 1970, before moving to Veterans Stadium.

Other professional sports have had their debuts at Franklin Field as well, such as when the Philadelphia Atoms of the North American Soccer League relocated there for the 1976 season and welcomed soccer great Pelé in a game against the New York Cosmos. Additionally,

the first Rugby League match between the United States and Australia in 2004, and the inaugural championship game for Major League Ultimate in 2013 were both hosted at the stadium.


Home to many “firsts'', Franklin Field is widely considered the birthplace of Philadelphia's negative reputation when it comes to sports fans. On Dec. 15, 1968 — during an already rough Eagles performance — a cheery Christmas performance planned for halftime turned sour when bad weather struck, and the scheduled Santa Claus appearance had to be canceled.

Fans, already spewing expletives to the players and coaches, were unamused by the stand-in Santa — a young fan invited to the field to toss candy canes with the cheerleaders — and began to loudly boo as they tossed snowballs on the field.

The Eagles went on to lose the game 17-13, and Philadelphia fans lost respect by many, sparking the “worst sports fans” stereotype.


Though its structure remains intact, Franklin Field has gone through a plethora of enhancements and improvements. The natural grass was replaced with AstroTurf in 1969, and due to the Eagles’ residency at the time, it became the first NFL stadium to make the switch to artificial turf.

Bono’s 2004 visit to Franklin Field as Commencement speaker wasn’t his first. Seven years earlier, the lead singer and popular Irish band, U2, held its Philadelphia show at Franklin Field while on the first leg of their PopMart Tour to a sold out crowd of over 50,000 people.


No category remains untouched by Franklin Field’s history, as the site has dabbled in cinema too. As one of the primary filming locations for M. Night Shyamalan’s "Unbreakable," Bruce Willis’s character is pictured as a security guard in the stadium in part one of the trilogy.


Due to current construction efforts on College Hall, the Class of 2027's Convocation ceremony this year was held on Franklin Field — another "first" to add to the stadium's already lengthy list. Whether future Convocation ceremonies will resume on College Green or not remain uncertain.

Franklin Field and its historics continue to make headlines today as just a couple of weeks ago, it was one of 18 stadiums designated for Congressional protection.

Members of Congress announced on Aug. 25 the creation of the Historic Stadium Caucus, a non-partisan group devised to preserve the “integrity” of college football venues. Part of the conservation mission would focus on enhancing security and making technological upgrades. For a stadium so rich with history, such as Franklin Field, said efforts would go a long way towards keeping its character alive for decades to come.

PHOTO BY CHASE SUTTON Franklin Field, the oldest Division I college football stadium in the nation.
The iconic, two-tiered concrete stadium was first completed in 1925

Checking in on Penn in the NFL: Week One

Justin Watson had two catches for 45 yards in the Kansas City Chiefs' season opener

The 2023-24 NFL season is officially underway, with week one already in the books. It’s time to check in on the Penn alumni that’ll be playing in the pros this year.

Greg Van Roten — Guard, Las Vegas Raiders

Van Roten spent last season with the Buffalo Bills and then signed with the Raiders this offseason. The former Red and Blue star came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent back in 2012. He has since spent time with a myriad of other teams including the Packers, Seahawks, Jaguars, Panthers, and Jets, in addition to the Bills and Raiders. Van Roten also had a stint with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. This season he will be tasked with protecting the Raiders’ new quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo. In his ninth NFL season, Van Roten has proven to be a solid veteran and a great depth piece for many teams looking to bolster

their offensive line. The Raiders swung for the fences when they handed Garoppolo a massive contract this offseason, and the playoff expectations are buzzing.

Justin Watson — Wide Receiver, Kansas City Chiefs

In the AFC West alongside Van Roten, Watson looks to continue his career with the Chiefs after re-signing back in April. He had a superb season in 2022, starting five games and scoring a pair of touchdowns as a rotational receiver. He had 15 catches for 315 yards over the course of the season and with the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl in February, Watson is now a twotime NFL champion, with his team aspiring to repeat in 2024.

Watson will hope for a more featured role, especially since star tight end Travis Kelce missed week one due to injury. In the Chiefs' first game against the Detroit Lions, he notched two receptions for 45 yards. He is a candidate to be a breakout player

for the Chiefs this year, especially with superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes at the helm of this explosive offense.

Kevin Stefanski

— Head Coach, Cleveland Browns

Stefanski enters the 2023 season with sky-high expectations. After trading for quarterback Deshaun Watson in March 2022, it's boom or bust for the Browns. With an excellent running back in Nick Chubb and solid defense led by defensive end Myles Garrett, the Browns have a lot of talent and potential to make a run in the playoffs. Of course, much of their success or downfall will be based on Watson’s play, and it remains to be seen if he can return to his MVP level form. If this team’s trajectory spirals downward, Stefanski may be on the coaching hot seat. However, picking up an impressive win over the Cincinnati Bengals this past weekend was a great way to start and steer this team in the right direction.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF MELISSA MELVIN-RODRIGUEZ/PANTHERS Penn alumnus Greg Van Roten signed with the Las Vegas Raiders for his ninth NFL season. PHOTO BY CHASE SUTTON Penn alumnus and Kansas City wide receiver Justin Watson is now a two-time NFL champion, with the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl in February.

Preseason Ivy League power rankings

Where do the Quakers stack up against the rest of the Ancient Eight?

1. Yale Bulldogs

2022 season: 8-2, 6-1 Ivy, 1st place

The defending champs aim to maintain their momentum this coming season. With an offense centered around returning senior quarterback Nolan Grooms, who led his team in both passing and rushing yards a season ago, the Bulldogs can count on another strong season with core players intact. In 2022, they ranked first in scoring offense

and second in scoring defense for the Ivy League, making Yale the dominant team of the Ancient Eight last season, and they are favored to repeat as champions this upcoming season. Heading into their 150th season, the Bulldogs, along with reigning Ivy League Coach of the Year Tony Reno, are confident in their prospects.

2. Princeton Tigers

2022 season: 8-2, 5-2 Ivy, 3rd place

Princeton made headlines in the college sports world last March with their men's basketball team's Cinderella run to the Sweet 16. But can that same magic translate to the gridiron this fall? The odds for the Tigers are reasonable this upcoming season, with returning Ivy League passing yards leader and senior quarterback Blake Stenstrom, along with Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year

and senior linebacker Liam Johnson, leading the way to redemption after narrowly conceding the Ivy League title on the final day of the season. Following the departure of leading wide receiver Andrei Iosivas to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Tigers will need to adapt to the absence of one of their most seasoned offensive weapons. Don't underestimate Princeton — their chance of success is as good as it gets.

3. Penn Quakers

2022 season: 8-2, 5-2

The Quakers enter the season with victories over both higher-ranked teams — Yale and Princeton — from the previous season. With signature wins such as giving last year's champions, Yale, their only conference loss, Penn has consistently demonstrated the strong skill set necessary to compete at the highest level. However, time is ticking for the Quakers to make a meaningful mark, having

Ivy, 2nd place

not won an Ivy League title since 2016. Considering that all of Penn's first-team All-Ivy members were seniors last season, there may be some concerns within the team, but confidence remains in their ability to develop their current talent to high levels. Junior quarterback Aidan Sayin will need to step up to break the past year's Philadelphia curse and lead the Quakers to victory.

4. Harvard Crimson

2022 season: 6-4, 4-3 Ivy, 4th place

Crimson fans eagerly await Harvard's return to dominance of decades past. It has been eight years since their last championship, which was a three-way tie, and Harvard must prioritize defensive improvements, as they were ranked sixth defensively last year in the Ancient Eight. After losing the Ivy League's leading rusher, Aidan Borguet,

5. Columbia Lions

2022 season: 6-4, 3-4 Ivy, 5th place

The Lions aspire to take the right steps in ending their 62-year conference title drought this year. Winning the league may be a long shot for this squad, but developing young talent and relying on their upperclassmen for the future could prove to be very rewarding. Columbia is led offensively by junior wide receiver Bryson Canty and senior running back

Joey Giorgi — who were named first-team and second-team All-Ivy in 2022, respectively — while junior defensive lineman Justin Townsend anchors the defense. After the retirement of longtime head coach Al Bagnoli, interim coach and former Penn wide receiver Mark Fabish enters this year with plenty of potential.

6. Dartmouth Big Green

2022 season: 3-7, 2-5 Ivy, 7th place

Ranked last in offensive production and squarely in the middle of the pack defensively, the Big Green did not display much prowess in last year's season. Questions arise this season regarding the lack of a single player being named first-team All-Ivy last season. Hope

lies in the hands of senior linebacker Macklin Ayers, the 2022 Ivy League leader in average tackles per game. Boasting a successful history as a program with 20 Ivy League titles to its name, Dartmouth must regain its standing to succeed soon.

7. Brown Bears

2022 season: 3-7, 1-6 Ivy, 8th place

Brown's football team managed only one conference win last season — a nailbiting three-point victory over Penn. Besides that game, Brown has not shown much potential for improvement in the upcoming season. The Bears did feature eight players on the preseason All-Ivy

teams, including preseason first-team All-Ivy selection and senior wide receiver Wes Rockett, as well as defensive backs Isaiah Reed and Cooper DeVaue. Brown is led by former starting quarterback from the 1990s and fifth-year head coach James Perry.

8. Cornell Big Red

2022 season: 5-5, 2-5 Ivy, 6th place

Harvard must also make adjustments on the offense, but hope remains with returning first-team All-Ivy tight end Tyler Neville.

Tim Murphy enters his 30th season at the helm of this Crimson squad, so only time will tell how this seasoned veteran coach will navigate adjustments for a team eager to return to the top.

For the past 17 years, the Big Red has not had a lot of winning. Cornell, led by honorable mention All-Ivy junior quarterback Jameson Wang, must push to change this

narrative of mediocrity. Returning secondteam All-Ivy senior kicker Jackson Kennedy also plays a crucial role in this team's steady journey back to the win column.


The Editors' forecast: Penn football 2023

How will the Quakers fare after a dramatic improvement from 2021 to 2022?

Caleb Crain, Sports Editor

Penn football no longer has to prove that it is one of the better teams in the Ivy League; the team did that with last year's 8-2 record. The 2023 campaign will instead be judged on whether the Quakers can sustain that success, and if they can win their first Ivy title since 2016. If it seems like a higher standard, it is, but Penn has earned it.

Offensively, junior quarterback Aidan Sayin excelled last year,

Some may call on skill, others luck, but I believe Penn football’s key factor this season takes on a different form. Depth.

Last season’s 34-31 hiccup of a defeat at Brown. A 14-37 blowout loss to Harvard at home. What do both games have in common? They showcased a lack of depth. The fizzling of a flame as the season stretched on. After

What does it take to achieve perfection? That is the question Penn football will attempt to answer this season. After an 8-2 campaign in 2022, the Quakers return with a goal in their mind and a fire in their hearts. The margin between 8-2 and 10-0 is perilously slim, and I

leading a unit that passed for over 250 yards per game. While Sayin will be without last year's leading receiver in Rory Starkey Jr., senior wideouts Joshua Casilli and Malone Howley will be back. Beyond that, Sayin showed impressive power and accuracy on deep passes in practice, including into small catch windows.

The rushing attack, though, is where larger question makers loom. Leading rusher from 2022 Trey Flowers played his last game in Red

a miraculous 6-0 start in 2022, no one could’ve predicted the Quakers fighting tooth and nail for a potential four-way Ivy title tie in their final game. But this year’s foundation is stronger than ever. There’s experience, there’s offense, there’s hunger. But most importantly, there’s depth. Ask any Quaker athlete, and they’ll confirm that strength and conditioning is at the forefront of

believe this year's Red and Blue team has what it takes to run the table.

The first ingredient for a perfect season is simple: an elite roster. Though Penn lost several key contributors from last year's Ivy League runner-up team, the team return a great deal of talent on both sides of the ball, as Caleb

and Blue, but senior running back Jonathan Mulatu is slated to be the week-one starter for Penn. Behind him on the depth chart, though, is junior Jacob Cisneros and sophomore Isaac Shabay, who combined for just t10yards on four attempts last season. Given that the Quakers finished seventh in the Ivy League in rushing last season, these new pieces will have to contribute in a major way for Penn to take the next leap forward.

Last season, Penn's defense was

every mind in the Red and Blue’s training staff. Hitting the weight room isn’t just for building one’s so-called dream physique. That extra time spent in the gym will be clutch come November, when the exhaustion and injuries start creeping in, but the Quakers still have Harvard and Princeton on the docket.

Now, taking on the preseasonpoll favorite Yale on the road

referenced in his prediction. But it is not just the familiar faces that will make the difference in Penn's campaign — it is those we do not expect. Many Quakers do not break out until later in their career — recently-graduated running back Trey Flowers was a first team AllIvy selection in 2022, but had just 467 rushing yards throughout his

exemplary. The Quakers finished second in the Ivy League in rushing yards allowed, and third in points per game allowed. But there will be some key pieces who need to be replaced, such as Jake Heimlicher, who led Penn with nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss a year ago. But now it will be up to senior captain Joey Slackman and the rest of the defensive line to replicate that impact. However, Penn will likely start nine seniors against Colgate on Saturday, so experience

may prove a challenge — one that even Quaker depth may not be able to tackle. Strength training can only take Penn so far, and when the team goes toeto-toe with the Bulldogs in the middle of its season, it won’t be a matter of who’s still got gas left in the tank. It will come down to new faces stepping into the vacant roles in Penn’s rushing attack. It will come down

entire collegiate career prior. Penn has found tremendous recruiting success over the past few years, and it is only a matter of time before some of those seeds start to bloom.

The other, and arguably more important aspect of a perfect season is much trickier: luck. There have been many fantastic teams in sports history, but very few have

shouldn't be an issue.

Penn has proven that it can win games in the Ivy League. The question is, can they stay there. I think they can; the Quakers are returning tons of production. But with a schedule that sees trips to Yale and Harvard in late October and November before the final game of the season versus Princeton, the Ivy League may once again prove hard to predict.

Predicted Record: 9-1, Ivy League Champions

to a resilient defensive line that must prove themselves to be more than impressive if it wishes to hold the Bulldogs — who in 2022 ranked fifth in the FCS in scoring defense and ninth in rushing offense — even against the toughest of pushbacks. An Ivy title is up for grabs, and Penn football has proven it can snag it. Now, it’s time to execute.

Predicted Record: 9-1

the remarkable distinction of undefeated. But after seven years of bad breaks since their last Ancient Eight crown, the Red and Blue are due for a magical year. Penn is capable of an undefeated season — it will just take a little bit of luck to get there.

Predicted Record: 10-0, Ivy League Champions

PHOTO BY ANNA VAZHAEPARAMBIL DP sports editors Alexis Garcia, Walker Carnathan, and Caleb Crain make their picks for the 2023 football season.