Penn coach Al Bagnoli will spend his final season guiding the Quakers with serious inexperience at quarterback. Yet Bagnoli, who has guided the Quakers to nine Ivy League titles in his 22 seasons, feels there is great upside under center.
During the spring, Bagnoli announced that this would be his final season, and he will be replaced by defensive coordinator Ray Priore. Bagnoli said Monday that if the season were to start today, sophomore Alek Torgersen would be the starting quarterback, and senior Patton Chillura would be No. 2.
The season does not begin until Sept. 20 at Jacksonville, which gives his quarterbacks some time to gain experience.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Torgersen threw 10 passes last season, all coming in the season finale against visiting Cornell. He completed six passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns during a late-game appearance in Penn's 42-41 loss.
Chillura hasn't seen any game action during his Penn career.
Last season, seniors Billy Ragone and Ryan Becker manned the quarterback position. Another quarterback, Adam Strouss, who attempted one pass last year, has been moved to receiver.
Ragone was an outstanding runner, and Becker was known more for his passing ability. Apparently, neither has the gun for an arm that Torgersen possesses.
"He can sling it and has a rocket arm, and we saw it a little bit last year against Cornell," said senior receiver Conner Scott, who caught one of Torgersen's two touchdown passes.
Torgersen, who hails from Huntington Beach, Calif., says that brief experience proved beneficial.
"As of right now, there isn't much experience at the quarterback position," Torgersen said. "Getting playing time was really helpful for me, and it was really fun."
Bagnoli gave Torgersen's passing ability high praise.
"We haven't had a pure thrower like him, probably back to Mike Mitchell in the early 2000s," said Bagnoli of a player who was a first-team all-Ivy selection in 2002 and 2003. "[Torgersen] has that rare ability to throw balls accurately short, intermediate, and long."
The long part should be stressed.
"What he does best is throw the deep ball," Scott said. "As long as we can run under it, we are ready to go."
Despite his strong arm, don't look for Penn to put the ball up 50 times a game. Still, it could give the Quakers, who went 4-6 last year, more offensive versatility.
"He gives you enough of escapability, enough of a run presence, and he can make all the throws. He can make them out of the pocket and in the pocket," Bagnoli said. "He has a tremendous upside, and it is a matter of getting more comfortable inside our offense."