You all know by now that head coach James Franklin has finally named redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford as starting quarterback, winning the battle with redshirt freshman Will Levis. That’s good — nice to know who’s doing the signal relaying and field generalizing. Otherwise, as the proof will be in the pudding, I’ll make no further comments until Clifford gets a few real games under his belt.
Now, let’s look at what’s going on with Penn State’s former quarterbacks, Tommy Stevens and Trace McSorley, followed by a trip down memory lane.
Stevens to Start for the Bulldogs
Tommy Stevens “won” the starting job for Joe Moorhead’s Mississippi State Bulldogs, but I think the handwriting was on the wall from the time Stevens agreed to transfer there last May. At the time, it was probably more than a vague notion that Stevens would start.
As it played out at Mississippi State, dual-threat quarterback Keytaon Thompson (I think that first name needs an apostrophe somewhere), was the heir apparent to the signal caller slot vacated by Nick Fitzgerald, a prolific, record breaking Mississippi State quarterback who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Big shoes to fill there, young lads.
K-Thom has now thrown in the towel, entering the NCAA transfer portal. He knows a done deal when he sees one.
As for the “competition”, Tommy Stevens had the edge with Moorhead from the start, especially with respect to familiarity with “the system.” Stevens is the better passer. We’ll see how it all fits together with the rest of the sludge at the bottom of the SEC tank.
McSorley Shines with Hated Ravens
Ya hate ta see it! Yeah, that’s what I was thinking when former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley was drafted in the sixth round by the maximal hate object of Steelers fans, the Baltimoronic Ravens. While I had strong reservations (deeply into puking territory) about the team he wound up with, I like the kid’s winning attitude, so I follow him in spite of the nausea.
After a mediocre first outing in the Ravens’ first pre-season game in which he went 9-22 and threw a couple of interceptions, which I’ll attribute to stage fright and rookie jitters, Trace got a surprise call from head coach John Harbaugh telling him he was starting in place of backup quarterback Robert Griffin III in last week’s game. Griffin had injured his thumb, and Harbaugh was holding out starting QB Lamar Jackson, so McSorley got the starting nod against the Iggles.
His stat line was pretty pretty pretty phenomenal: 19-28, 203 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs passing; six yards and a TD on four carries rushing. His QB rating was 112.7 in the 26-15 victory.
What’s a GM to do?
Now, what, Ravens fans ask? Well, you should expect a lot of head scratching from Baltimorons. The Ravens clearly want to keep McSorley around, but in what role? They had been giving him special teams work, which really wasn’t his thing. He had never attended a special teams meeting at Penn State, and his desire is to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Will the Ravens keep a third-string quarterback on the roster? Could they relegate Trace to special teams duty just to keep him hanging around? Will they try to hang onto him by assigning him to the practice squad while taking their chances that he won’t land a contract with an NFL team in a quest for some raw quarterback talent to develop?
Even the Baltimorons do not know.
Other Former Penn State Quarterbacks
I can’t get through a season without writing the name Anthony Morelli. There, I’ve done it! Wherefore art Thou, Sir Anthony? The former Penn State quasi-legend was last seen running X-Factor Sports Performance & QB Academy in Westfield, Indiana.
Christian Hackenberg is another disappointment who never made it in the NFL. After a few unsuccessful stints with other NFL teams, Hack was cut by the Cincinnati Bengals from their practice squad before the 2018 season. He then participated in QB camp with the fledgling Alliance of American Football League and was drafted in the second round by the Memphis Express. But he sucked in his first three outings and was replaced by Zach Mettenberger. But then Mettenberger got injured, and to add insult to injury, head coach Mike Singletary replaced him with Brandon Silvers, not Hack. On the same day, signed Johnny Manziel as Silvers’ backup, thus effectively sealing the deal for Hack to play Left Out. Of course, as we all know, the Alliance League folded before its first season had finished.
At this point, rumor has it that Hackenberg is still hoping against hope for an NFL job somewhere.
I’ll shine the spotlight on one more Penn State quarterback, Richie Lucas, who turned 81 this past spring. He’s the first Nittany Lions quarterback I ever watched play, so the Heisman Trophy runner-up from 1959 (beat out by Billy Cannon of LSU) is always in my mind when I think back to the old days at Penn State.
But, you know…
There ain’t nothing like this time of year. Everybody is looking forward to a great season of football, even though it hardly feels like fall yet. The Big Ten East should be the usual fun-fest and we’re hoping that the Nittany Lions are right in the thick of it.
What’s the make it or break it game for them kitties in your opinion?
(I’ll be back with a look at the Potato Vandals from Idaho later in the week. Maybe even tomorrow? Who knows, already?)