Penn Quakers

Penn will have tough choice to make at quarterback with 3 worthy candidates

Dave Zeitlin

Penn will have tough choice to make at quarterback with 3 worthy candidates

As the three quarterbacks stood together in the middle of Franklin Field on Monday, the veteran of the group (Will Fischer-Colbrie) playfully rustled the hair of the freshman (Ryan Glover) as the transfer (Nick Robinson) looked on and smiled.

The QB battle may be the big focus of the 2017 Penn football team’s preseason camp, but it’s clear it’s been an enjoyable one for those involved.

“We talked before camp it’s going to be a competition but that doesn’t mean we’re not teammates, that doesn’t mean we all don’t have the same goal in mind,” Fischer-Colbrie said from Penn’s media day Monday. “Of course it’s friendly. We’re all having a great time.”

Whichever players wins the job will have big shoes to fill after Alek Torgersen started the last three seasons at quarterback, leading the Quakers to a piece of the 2015 and 2016 Ivy League championships while setting program records in touchdown throws (52) and completion percentage (65.1).

Torgersen is now with the Atlanta Falcons, hoping to make it in the NFL as a third-string quarterback, while the Quakers are left without anyone who’s ever taken a snap for them.

But with that uncertainty also comes a bit of anticipation and excitement.

“The nice part of it is all three quarterbacks have done a tremendous job,” said Penn head coach Ray Priore, who hopes to unveil the starter by the end of the week ahead of the Quakers’ opener on Sept. 16. “It’s truly an open competition.”

All three have interesting pedigrees. Fischer-Colbrie, a California native, spent the last two seasons at Penn without seeing any action after transferring from the University of Colorado. Robinson also is originally from California by way of a big-time program, transferring from the University of Georgia. And Glover, a highly touted recruit from Atlanta, is vying to become a rare true freshman starter at quarterback. (Sophomore Tyler Herrick was also competing for the job at the start of camp but was since moved to receiver, and Michael Collins transferred to TCU in May).

For offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach John Reagan, all of them do certain things well enough to fit into his system and perhaps evolve in the same way Torgersen did when he learned a new offense two years ago when Reagan was hired.

“Evolve is the perfect word for it,” he said. “It’s evolving. All three guys are competing and doing a heck of a job. I think we’re excited about the position. All of them have really developed in their own way and we feel really good about where we are right now.”

Easing the transition is the fact that they get to throw the football to Justin Watson, a senior All-American and perhaps the best wide receiver in Penn’s storied history. Watson, who developed a close rapport with Torgersen, even stuck around Philly this summer (passing up a big internship opportunity in New York City) to work out with all three of them before the pads come on. 

And he was impressed with what he saw.

“I’m just really glad I don’t have to make the decision because it looks like a really tough one so far,” said Watson, who ranks second at Penn in all-time receptions and receiving yards. “We’ve got two upperclassmen who look really good in Robinson and Fischer-Colbrie and a freshman comes in, Ryan Glover, who has a cannon for an arm. … All three guys look like really good leaders and everyone is behind those three guys.”

The quarterbacks were equally effusive in their praise toward Watson, who is known at Penn for his work ethic as much as his enormous talent.

“It’s awesome,” Fischer-Colbrie said. “It makes it a lot of fun. When he’s doing all the work he’s doing, he makes you look real good. I know each of us has reaped the benefits of what he’s doing on the outside.”

“I think he’s a great leader and an awesome player,” added Glover, who admits he’s needed to catch up on a lot during the first couple of weeks of his first college season. 

And in addition to Watson, the freshman has also leaned on his two fellow quarterbacks.

“During practice, I’ll probably ask maybe 50 questions a day,” Glover said. “They’ve done a good job helping me out and helping me understand the playbook.”

That kind of trust and helpfulness, even in the heat of a positional battle, is something Priore has preached since taking over as Penn’s coach before the 2015 season. 

It’s also just one more element that will make his QB decision even tougher.

“Sometimes it’s easier when guys aren’t performing well,” Priore said. “Right now those three guys are doing it. I don’t think we’ll miss a beat there.”

Penn's miracle upset bid implodes in second half

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Penn's miracle upset bid implodes in second half


WICHITA, Kan. — Devonte Graham kept driving to the rim, using his deft crossover and blinding first step to get past Penn's defenders, only to watch every shot he put up bounce out.

He turned to teammate Malik Newman and said, "Man, I'm just not finishing."

Newman's reply: "Keep being aggressive."

Graham evidently listened.

The Big 12 player of the year finally started to get his shots to go, igniting sluggish Kansas midway through the first half and finishing with 29 points, lifting the top-seeded Jayhawks to a tough, grind-it-out 76-60 victory over the Quakers in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Lagerald Vick added 14 points for the Jayhawks (28-7), who trailed the Ivy League champs by 10 in the early stages Thursday before going on a 19-2 run late in the half to take control.

Graham, perhaps atoning for a dismal performance in last year's tournament loss to Oregon, also had six rebounds and six assists as the Jayhawks cruised into a second-round matchup with eighth-seeded Seton Hall — which beat North Carolina State — in the loaded Midwest Region.

"We didn't play well offensively the first half. We stunk," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "It's hard for us to play well offensively if we don't make shots because we don't have a big guy to throw it into right now. The way they defended us, we needed a guard to take it on himself to get downhill."

Graham stepped up to the task.

"He was just keeping everybody's heads right," Vick said. "He told us we weren't going to lose."

A.J. Brodeur had 14 points to lead the Quakers (24-9), but he was just 6 of 16 from the field and committed five turnovers. He was also 1 of 5 from the foul line, where Penn was 5 of 14 as a team.

"Give Kansas a ton of credit. Thought they played a terrific game," Penn coach Steve Donahue said. "It was a great basketball game for about 35 minutes. Then they finished us off."

The Jayhawks played most of the way without 7-footer Udoka Azubuike, who hurt a ligament in his left knee in practice last week. The sophomore center played three minutes, all in the first half, and struggled to move around while wearing a bulky brace on his leg.

Newman, the MVP of last week's Big 12 Tournament, and Svi Mykhailiuk scored 10 points apiece for Kansas, which won its 12th consecutive NCAA opener — and avoided some ignominious history.

Trying to succeed where 132 other No. 16 seeds had failed, the Quakers raced to a 21-11 lead with about 7 minutes left in the first half. They leaned on their stingy perimeter defense to limit the hot-shooting Jayhawks' 3-point barrage, and their pick-and-roll offense was humming.

It took the Big 12 player of the year to restore some order.

Graham picked the pocket of Caleb Wood on defense, trailed a fast-break play and was there to lay in Mykhailiuk's missed layup, trigging what would become a 19-2 run over the next six minutes.

Graham added back-to-back baskets at the rim, then knocked down a pair of 3s later in the run. He capped his 19-point first-half barrage by drawing a foul as the Quakers were attempted to give a foul away, then hitting all three foul shots.

That gave the Big 12 champions a 33-26 lead heading into the locker room.

Penn hung around until midway through the second half, when the bigger, stronger Jayhawks began to assert control. Their veteran backcourt did most of the work, slowly drawing away.

"Credit to Graham, he realized what was going on in the game. He has a great feel for the game," Penn's Darnell Foreman said. "Knowing he's a senior, he had to step up and force the tone and create and he did a great job of that."

More on Doke
Self said Azubuike could have played "five or six minutes," but he wasn't needed in the second half. The hope is to get him to 80 percent in practice Friday and play more regular minutes Saturday.

Big picture
Penn was one of the top 3-point defenders in the nation, and the Jayhawks missed eight of their first nine attempts. But Kansas still went 7 of 17 for the game, and each of those 3s seemed to come whenever Penn was threatening to make a run.

Kansas only got four points from its bench, a big concern going forward. The Jayhawks have used a short lineup all season, made even shorter by Azubuike's absence. But teams with little depth tend to wear down in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Up next
Penn is headed for the offseason while the Jayhawks, who made their first appearance in Wichita since 1992, will face Seton Hall on Saturday.

Penn makes it 2 Big 5 teams in the NCAA Tourney

Penn makes it 2 Big 5 teams in the NCAA Tourney

Darnell Foreman scored 19 points, AJ Brodeur had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Penn earned its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007 with a 68-65 win over Harvard in the Ivy League Tournament title game Sunday.

Ryan Betley added 17 points for the Quakers (24-8), who will be making their 24th appearance in the NCAAs.

Senior Caleb Wood, a junior college transfer, drilled two straight 3-pointers, getting fouled on the second, to put Penn ahead 63-60 with 3:42 remaining. Betley followed with a 3-point play, before Harvard's Christian Juzang pulled the Crimson to 66-63 with a 3-pointer with 47.6 seconds to go.

Harvard trimmed Penn's lead to 66-65 on two Justin Bassey foul shots with 14.6 seconds left. But after Betley hit two free throws, Bassey and Juzang both missed potentially game-tying threes in the final seconds, and Penn fans stormed the court for a celebration a decade in the making.

Chris Lewis led Harvard (18-13) with 16 points, while Bassey had 15 and Seth Towns, the league's player of the year, finished with 13.

Harvard and Penn proved to be the top two teams in the Ivies this year after sharing the regular-season title with 12-2 conference records and then dominating Cornell and Yale, respectively, in Saturday's Ivy League Tournament semifinal games.

And after splitting their two regular-season meetings, both teams traded punches like heavyweight fighters in front of a packed crowd at the Palestra, Penn's home gym.

Fueled by a 16-0 run in which Penn was held scoreless for seven minutes, Harvard led 30-17 with five minutes left in the first half. That's when the Quakers turned things around, closing the first half on a 17-2 run capped by a Foreman 3-pointer right before the buzzer. Foreman, who sprinted right into the locker room as the Palestra crowd went wild, scored his 19 points all in the first half.

The Quakers continued to surge after the break, with sophomore standouts Brodeur and Betley combining to score the first 11 points of the first half to put the Quakers ahead 45-32 and complete a 28-2 run spanning halves.

Trailing by 10 midway through the second half, Harvard reeled off a 13-0 run to take a 58-55 lead, sparked by 3-point plays from Bassey and Juzang.

Once a staple of the NCAA Tournament, Penn went to the tourney seven times between 1999 and 2007 before falling on hard times, due in large part to the rise of Harvard.

Big picture
Harvard: Despite Sunday's result, the Crimson continue to be the class of the Ivies with Tommy Amaker at the helm, having won six Ivy League championships since 2011 with NCAA Tournament wins in 2013 and 2014.

Penn: The Quakers have made a speedy turnaround under third-year coach Steve Donahue. And with only two key players graduating and several underclassmen returning from injury, they should be poised to remain at the top of the Ivies next season and beyond.

Up next
Harvard receives an automatic berth in the NIT by virtue of its top seed in the Ivies.

Penn is headed to the NCAA Tournament.