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Penn Quakers prepare to pursue Ivy title
Coming off consecutive Ivy League championships and a pair of undefeated seasons in the Ancient Eight, the Penn football team finally will get started on continuing those streaks when camp gets under way on Monday.
Non-Ivy League teams around the country are going into their third weeks of preparation for the 2011 season.
“We’ve been waiting the whole time, thinking about it, building up, and now it’s time to get started,” said Brandon Copeland, a first-team all-Ivy defensive tackle last season.
Copeland is one of only four defensive starters back for Penn, which has just three holdovers on the other side of the ball. Yet, with 32 letter-winners back, the Quakers are the preseason favorite to take the championship again.
The Quakers went 9-1 overall last season for coach Al Bagnoli, who begins his 20th season at Penn with a 131-57 record that shows more wins than any coach in Ivy League history.
Penn opens up against visiting Lafayette on Sept. 17.
“We have the program where we want it in terms of identifying the right kind of kids, and in terms of how the kids approach the game,” Bagnoli said. “We had 60 kids in our conditioning test, and only one failed. We’ve done a lot of the hard work, and we’re going to get good players. Now, they might not be experienced, but they’re going to be good players and good kids. It’s just a question of how fast can they group up. You never really know until you get them under the stress of practice, or you get them under the stress of a game.”
Penn entered last season with instability at the quarterback position after an offseason injury to projected starter Keiffer Garton. This year, the Quakers return with first-team all-Ivy League selection Billy Ragone at the position. Backup Ryan Becker also demonstrated last season that he’s capable of running the team.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Ragone started eight games last year, and rushed for 60.9 yards per game while throwing for 834 on the season. The junior was 70 for 123 passing with five interceptions and six touchdown throws. Becker, a junior, played in nine games and went 44 for 76 through the air for 548 yards and two scores. He threw four picks.
“Those kids have a lot of snaps under their belts, and that’s a great foundation to build upon,” Bagnoli said. “Now we come back with that position, which is the most pivotal position you have, pretty solidified. We have two kids with lots of game experience, and we can hit the ground running without having to worry about, ‘Can they absorb everything, do they understand everything, can they control everything.’
“They’ve been there and done that, and that’s a good starting point.”
By Kevin Tatum, Philadelphia Inquirer