More from NFL Pro Day prep

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday of last week with Penn football seniors Brandon Copeland, Joe Bonadies and Scott Lopano, observing their workouts and getting a feel for what their expectations are for Monday's Pro Day at Villanova and the draft/free agency progress. There was a lot of information that didn't make it into Monday's story, so I wanted to make sure it got out.

At Tuesday's workout, Copeland was working with Penn quarterback Ryan Becker, who had just been cleared for spring workouts after tearing his ACL last summer and missing all of the 2012 season. Becker has a rocket for an arm, which is exactly what Copeland will get at Monday's pro day and Saturday's Ravens Combine during linebacker drills. Quarterback Billy Ragone, defensive back Justyn Williams and Lopano have all played QB for Copeland the past few weeks, but Becker challenges him the most. Copeland looked good, missing just two catches out of at least 40 over the course of the workout. He's been working under the guidance of strength and conditioning coach Steven Brindle and Copeland's agent, Ed Wasielewski.

He runs routes, first as a walk-through, then halfspeed and twice at full speed. Then he does it all again in the opposite direction. After one route, he says to Becker, "If I can do these, I can do anything." He does them with ease. Then he moves on to defensive line drills, perfecting the motions that he's done day in and day out for years. Becker encourages him. "Hit it!" he yells. "You can hit harder than that!" Continue reading

2013 Penn football banquet recap

On Friday, Penn football held its annual postseason banquet to celebrate the team’s 2012 Ivy League championship, honor the seniors, and hand out the individual awards to the outstanding performers from 2012. Here is a rundown of who took home the accolades from Friday night:

Edgar Church Memorial Award (Biggest Overall Contributor)
The team’s letterwinners voted for senior quarterback Billy Ragone to receive the Edgar Church Memorial Award. Ragone started nine games for the 2012 Ivy League champions. The honorable mention All-Ivy quarterback ranked sixth in the Ivy League in total offense, seventh in passing yards and ninth in rushing. He finished the season 118-of-210 passing for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns, while also rushing for 476 yards and four touchdowns to lead the team with 1,764 yards of total offense.

Chuck Bednarik Award (Most outstanding offensive and defensive linemen)
Senior offensive lineman Joe Bonadies and senior defensive tackle Taylor Brown took home the Chuck Bednarik Award for their fantastic work in the trenches this season. Bonadies was a first-team All-Ivy and Academic All-Ivy selection, as he started all 10 games at right tackle for the second consecutive season. Brown started all 10 games on the defensive side for the second straight year, recording three sacks along with eight tackles for loss.

George Munger Award (Offensive and Defensive Most Valuable Players)
Named after Penn's Hall of Fame coach, the George Munger Award was given to senior running back Lyle Marsh and senior captain Brandon Copeland. Marsh was a second-team All-Ivy selection as he led Penn and finished eighth in the Ivy League in rushing with 515 yards, finding the endzone six times. He also led Penn with 791 all-purpose yards, while his 5.4 yards per carry ranked fifth all-time at Penn in a single season. Copeland was Penn's first solo captain in 15 years and was named first-team All-Ivy. The defensive lineman led Penn and finished seventh in the Ivy League with five sacks and was second on the team with 8.5 tackles for loss.

Reds Bagnell Award (Unsung Heroes)
Senior tight end Ryan Allen and senior linebacker Steve Lias were handed the Reds Bagnell Award, named after Hall of Fame running back Francis (Reds) Bagnell. Allen played in all 10 games and finished the season with nine catches for 107 yards and 11.9 yards per catch. Lias started all 10 games for the Quakers, finishing with 43 tackles on the year in addition to three tackles for loss and two sacks.

George A. Weiss Award (Demonstrating “Pennsylvania kind of football”)
Junior offensive lineman Chris Bush
was honored to receive the George A. Weiss Award, given to the player who best displays the toughness and determination that represents the "Pennsylvania kind of football." Bush was a second-team All-Ivy selection and Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area honoree. He started nine games at center for the Ivy League champions and played through injury during most of Penn's season-ending four-game winning streak.

Football Club Award (Distinct Athletic Achievement)
The Football Club Award was given to junior wide receiver Conner Scott on offense, senior cornerback Dave Twamley on defense, and senior punter Scott Lopano on special teams. Sophomore tight end Mitchell King and sophomore linebacker Dan Davis also received the award as offensive and defensive rookies. Scott had 52 receptions for 691 yards and five touchdowns in 2012. Twamley earned second-team All-Ivy and Academic All-Area honors as he led the team with 43 solo tackles. Lopano set Penn's career records for punts (184) and punt yards (7,111), while King played in all 10 games and finished with six catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns.

 Coach Lake Award (Leadership, Team Spirit, and Penn Pride)
Awarded for the first time in 2010, the Lake Award is presented in honor of Coach Dan "Lake" Staffieri, a team motivator for 33 seasons. Senior running back Jeff Jack was the recipient of the award for the 2012 season. Jack played in all 10 games, starting the last seven for the Red and Blue. He ran for 413 yards and had four rushing touchdowns on the season.

Man of the Year Award
Along with the awards given to the athletes, Hench Murray, C'66, GEd'67, was named the Man of the Year for his continued dedication to and support of Penn's football program. Murray played baseball while attending Penn, and has served as the color analyst for the football team for 33 seasons.

A fifth year for Ragone, Colavita and Marsh?

With Super Bowl week in full swing, it's worth noting what the Penn football team is up to this offseason. Specifically, three seniors and their plans for an extra season at Franklin Field.

If seniors Billy Ragone, Brandon Colavita and Lyle Marsh have it their way, they'll be back on the field for the 2013 season as fifth-year seniors. Ragone missed his freshman campaign with a shoulder injury, Colavita was out most of last season and Marsh missed much of his sophomore and junior seasons. While Ragone and Marsh have had time to plan their academic schedules in order to gain a fifth year of eligibility from the Ivy League, Colavita has had less time to plan. But according to Penn Associate Director of Communications Eric Dolan, all three plan to apply but have not officially submitted anything to the league.

The trio will have to wait several months before they find out if they can play another season. Official paperwork does not go to the Ivy League until later this semester, and the athletes won't hear from the league office until May — at the earliest. Penn wide receiver Joe Holder, Class of 2012, didn't hear from the Ivy League regarding his fifth-year status until August, just weeks before the season started officially. And Cornell lacrosse player Rob Pannell, who broke his foot in the second game of his season last spring, was approved by the Ivy League in early August.

Five Penn players named first team All-Ivy

The Ivy League office today announced its All-Ivy teams, and five Penn players were named to the first team: DL Brandon Copeland, P Scott Lopano, OL Joe Bonadies, LB Dan Davis and DB Sebastian Jaskowski.

This is Copeland's third time on the first-team, something only 39 other players have done in the past (Brown DB AJ Cruz also earned his third first-team nod). He has a shot at being named one of the defensive finalists for Ivy Player of the Year, which will be announced next Tuesday.

None of Penn's first-team picks were unanimous selections. Also, Penn was outdone in first-team picks by Harvard, which had 10 first team All-Ivy nods and 19 total.

Eight others were named to the second team or honorable mention. Click the jump to see those: Continue reading

This Week on 33rd Street: Nov. 16

Previewing our final Penn football game of the season, Senior Sports Ed. Megan Soisson, football writer John Phillips and I break down the Quakers' 30-21 win over Harvard (see story) and debate whether or not that momentum will carry over into Saturday's bout against Cornell in Ithaca with an outright Ivy League title on the line:

Three Up, Three Down: Cornell Edition

Breaking down last week’s Three Up Three Down is simple: the ups were right and the downs were wrong. That’s because the Quakers had to be on the up and up in every way to beat Harvard and they were. I predicted they’d be flagged a lot, struggle on third downs and struggle in the running game. They weren't, and they didn’t.

At least I nailed the positives, of which there were so many for Penn last week. Dave Twamley came up with another interception and Conner Scott had a few big catches, including a touchdown. And attendance was even pretty respectable. So who’ll be up and who’ll be down at Cornell?

Three Up —

Andrew Holland: This is Holland’s time to shine, and he couldn’t ask for a better setup for success. He’s going up against the Ivy League’s worst pass defense and looked more than tolerable under center in the final quarter against Harvard, throwing the dagger touchdown to Mitchell King. Up is better than backup, and Holland will get his moment.

Steve Lias: In his final collegiate game, Lias should keep up the stellar linebacker play of the last couple of weeks. Penn linebackers combined for six tackles for a loss and two sacks last week. Against Cornell’s mediocre offensive line, Lias and the rest of this linebacking corps should go out on top.

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Game Nine: Harvard — The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The Penn football team entered its Ivy tilt against Harvard and final home game of the season as a significant underdog against the No. 25 team in the FCS. But the Quakers proved their resolve and determination could not be matched as they marched to a 30-21 victory over the Crimson to clinch at least a share of their third Ancient Eight title in four years and 16th championship overall (see recap). Here's a rundown of the good, bad and ugly points in case you missed them:

THE GOOD: What else? An Ivy League title. There was no doubt coming into the season that Harvard was the favorite to defend its Ivy crown. And despite a loss to Princeton on Oct. 20, the Crimson appeared prime to do so, especially against Penn, which had squeaked out wins against lowly Columbia and Brown and even lost to Ancient Eight basement-dweller Yale (which, it should be noted, still has just one Ivy win this year — against Penn). But it wasn't meant to be, as the Quakers carried all of the momentum they had accumulated a week ago in Princeton into Saturday and never took their foot off the gas. Perhaps the ghosts of 1982 had something to do with it, too.

ALSO GOOD: Penn's ground game. On a single run in the first quarter, Lyle Marsh surpassed the yardage total the Crimson had allowed on average all season when he sprinted 47 yards from the Penn 23 to the Harvard 30. The Crimson entered with the best run defense in the FCS, allowing less than 44 yards per game, but they couldn't stop the Quakers, who totaled 227 yards on the day. Lyle Marsh became the first Harvard foe to eclipse the century mark, running for 130 yards on 27 carries. Billy Ragone also had a day with 95 yards on 16 rushes. More on him...

THE BAD: Ragone is done. On the final play of the third quarter, Ragone scrambled for seven yards and a first before he was met by the 6-foot-3, 270-pound frame of Harvard defensive lineman Nnamdi Obukwelu. His ankle twisted in a way it definitely isn't supposed to, and the senior quarterback had to be carted off the field. Andrew Holland replaced him for all of the fourth quarter and will be the starter in next week's season finale at Cornell.

THE UGLY: Ragone's twisted ankle. Watching what happened to Ragone is not for the faint of heart. It wasn't quite USC's Marcus Lattimore from two weeks ago, but it's disgusting enough that we'll give fair warning before divulging that you can see it here.

This Week on 33rd Street: Nov. 9, Part II

In this week's football segment, I sit down with Associate Sports Ed. Kenny Kasper to talk Penn football. The Quakers upset Princeton on the road, 28-21, a week ago, and have set themselves up for a de facto championship game Saturday against No. 25 Harvard at Franklin Field (see preview). The Crimson rank near the top of the Ancient Eight in almost every category, so what will the Red and Blue need to do to come out on top?

Three Up, Three Down: Princeton Edition

Last week’s predictions were mostly on the mark. Connor Loftus got “up” from his 21-yard miss at Yale to kick the game-winner against Brown and Penn’s tight ends stayed “up” and caught four receptions for 44 yards as quarterback Billy Ragone continued to spread the wealth from the pocket, hitting seven different receivers.

But Penn didn’t get behind in the early going, holding Brown’s potent first-half offense to just a field goal before halftime. So who’s up and who’s down on Saturday against Princeton?

Three up —

Conner Scott: After disappearing in the second half against Brown, expect to hear Scott’s number called more consistently at Princeton, which boasts the second-worst passing defense in the Ivy League. Scott abused two-time first-team All-Ivy Brown cornerback A.J. Cruz early and often last week, so he can make any defensive backfield look silly, let alone Princeton’s.

Jeff Jack: After rushing the ball less than both Ragone and Lyle Marsh for the first time all season last week, expect Jack to literally carry more of the load on Saturday. Jack looked good last week against the Ivy League’s second-ranked rushing defense, averaging 5.2 yards per carry against the Bears. Look for Marsh to be used more as a receiver to mitigate Princeton’s fearsome pass rush and exploit the Tigers’ suspect pass defense, leaving the ground game to Jack.

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Three Up, Three Down: Brown Edition


Last week’s predictions were hit or miss — Billy Ragone struggled more than I expected against Yale’s bottom-ranked scoring defense among Ivies. But I did call the Bulldogs’ gashing of Penn’s defensive front.  Ultimately, though, I would never have guessed that the egg that the Quakers laid at the Yale Bowl would be as big as it was.  So who’s up and who’s down against Brown? 

Three Up —

Tight ends:  In Joe Holder's absence and with Cameron Countryman not a safe bet just yet, tight ends Ryan Allen and Mitch King have been stepping up when needed as secondary targets for Ragone and Holland. King's 32-yard reception in the second quarter from Penn's own 10-yard line jumpstarted an 8-play, 89-yard drive that gave the Quakers their only touchdown of the game last week, and both TEs combined for three catches for 41 yards against Columbia. Brown will undoubtedly match two-time first-team All-Ivy cornerback A.J. Cruz up with Conner Scott, and that should make for quite a battle. Look for Penn's QBs to continue to look to King and Allen to exploit the rest of Brown's average secondary.

Dan Davis:  Davis led all Quakers at Yale with 10 tackles and showed flashes of impressive pursuit in both run and pass blitz situations. Still, his grasp of Penn's complex defensive schemes isn't quite where it needs to be per linebackers coach Dan Wood in this week's Penn Football Weekly.  Davis embodies the rest of the defense in that he has great athleticism, potential, and versatility (playing 11 different positions in high school), but he still isn't experienced enough to be great. Nevertheless, look for him to be a ballhawk Saturday.

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