By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – After a few years of hovering around the .500 mark, the Penn Quakers have returned to their post as the dominant team in the Ivy League.   The last two seasons have seen Penn go a combined 17-3 overall, and 14-0 in the Ivy League, and that has equaled back-to-back Ancient 8 titles.

Now the Quakers are eyeing a third straight championship, and head coach Al Bagnoli says training camp has gone well.

“I think a lot of it is measured by the injury situation,” he says.  “So far nothing catastrophic has happened to us, which has been great.   I think you measure it by how your young kids take that next step, and I’ve been very pleased with this year’s sophomores, who were last year’s freshmen — how much they’ve progressed.  And then how much your marquee players have improved, physically and mentally.   And I think our marquee kids have all returned in really good shape, really good grasp of they are trying to do, and a really nice job on the leadership front.”

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When it comes to strengths in 2011, Bagnoli likes the his talent and depth under center and in the backfield.

“Let’s start at quarterback with (junior) Billy Ragone, who was first-team All-(Ivy) League coming back.   (Sophomore) Ryan Becker, who is the back-up quarterback, played a lot last year.   (Junior) Andrew Holland, who you don’t know anything about but is really talented, is the third quarterback.  Then you move to the backfield and you have (junior Brandon) Colavita, (junior Jeff) Jack, and (uunior Lyle) Marsh all coming back.”

That backfield was punishing in 2010, with  Colavita, Jack and Marsh combining for some 1,300 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns on the ground.   Marsh only suited up for two of the games before suffering a season-ending injury.

Ragone was great at quarterback as a run/pass threat.  He completed 57 percent of his passes in 2010, with six touchdowns, while rushing for 548 yards and another seven scores.

Bagnoli says the offensive line was a question mark coming in to camp.

“We graduated six seniors last year and we needed some young kids to take that next step.  And again, it goes back to what I said about the sophomores now having a much better understanding of our offense, physically being more developed.  I think, when the smoke clears, that group will be competent.  I think we have a couple of really good players there with (senior LT Greg) Van Roten and (junior RG Mike) Pinciotti.  And we have some young guys that I think have a lot of ability.  And as the season goes on, I think they’ll get better and better.”

On the other side of the ball, Bagnoli thinks they are in pretty good shape.

“I feel really good about our defensive line situation.  (Junior DT) Jared Sholly is back after last year, being out the entire year.  Obviously, (junior DT) Brandon Copeland is an elite defensive lineman in this league.   (Senior) Eric Rask at linebacker — our corners are back — so we have enough talent on all three different levels.  I think we have some pretty good playmakers on defense.”

Last season the Quakers allowed just 14.5 points per game.

Something else to keep an eye on is the kicking game.  The Quakers have to replace the all-time leading scorer in program history in placekicker Andrew Samson.   Freshman Connor Loftus and senior Dan Lipschutz are in the mix for that gig.

Penn begins the 2011 season next Saturday, September 17th, at home against Lafayette.

Reported by Matt Leon, KYW Newsradio 1060

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