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Penn State Quarterbacks: McSorley’s Scouting Report on Stevens – and Vice Versa

by on April 14, 2016 9:00 PM

No one knows Tommy Stevens better than Trace McSorley.

And vice Penn State quarterback versa.

They have been Nittany Lion quarterbacks-in-waiting together for over 460 days.

That’s dating back to when Stevens arrived on campus from Indianapolis to start classes a semester early, on Jan. 12, 2015. McSorley arrived from suburban D.C. in June 2014. (Both were flippers -- more on that later.)

Since then, Trace and Tommy have been in position meetings together. And in team meetings together. They have warmed up together. They have done passing drills together. (Accompanied, always, in 2015 by Christian Hackenberg.)

Then, since January, with Hackenberg gone, they have lifted weights together and watched film together and learned Joe Moorhead’s offense together.

Over the past 13 official practices this spring -- No. 14 is Friday, their 15th and last is Saturday’s Blue-White Game -- they have alternated snaps with the first-team offense together.

And, on Wednesday night after practice, they did their first interviews of the 2016 spring season together.

Actually, they were about 20 yards apart on the Penn State practice fields, each holding court to a combined 30 reporters who hurried from McSorley to Stevens. And then back again, for about an aggregate of two dozen minutes of QB Q&A. (Hence the recent flurry of statewide signal-caller stories on the Web and in print over the past two days.)

JOE, JAMES AND RICKY

You can argue that Moorhead, their position coach and new offensive coordinator, has a better handle on each than either quarterback does.

A former QB himself, Moorhead knows his offense inside and out and, likely, same goes for his players’ skills as well – especially since Moorhead is given the opportunity to review their daily practices on video later that night and into the next day, ad infinitum – which, by definition, means “infinity” and “forevermore(head).”

Same goes for James Franklin, a two-year starter at QB for East Stroudsburg who coached quarterbacks like Josh Freeman at Kansas State, Danny O’Brien at Maryland and Jordan Rodgers at Vanderbilt, as well as working with Brett Favre while the receivers coach with the Green Bay Packers in 2005.

This spring, Franklin is more hands-on with the quarterbacks than he was in 2014-15, when John Donovan was Penn State’s coordinator, Ricky Rahne (who now coaches the tight ends) was the position coach and Hackenberg was the starter. As Franklin said the other day, “I’m in 95 percent of the quarterback meetings” these days.

Throw in Rahne, a Cornell Hall of Fame passer in college who last season worked daily with both McSorley and Stevens, and you have a triumvirate of Penn State coaches who know a thing or three about quarterbacking.

So, their opinion counts. They’ll be the ones who pick Penn State’s first starter not named McGloin or Hackenberg for the first time in 51 games -- since Jan. 1, 2012, when Rob Bolden was 7 of 26 for 137 yards, with one TD and three picks, vs. Houston in the TicketCity Bowl. Say what you want about Hackenberg’s last two seasons, but over the past half-hundred Penn State football games over the past four years you could pencil in the starting quarterback and figure he was going to produce at a level equal to and usually above the talent around him. #SanctionSaviors.

Now, McSorley or Stevens are faced with the same task.

As an encapsulated reminder, McSorley is from Virginia and wears No. 9. He is the one who will be a junior next year, had a break-out game in the TaxSlayer Bowl and stands 6 feet tall and weighs 200 pounds. He originally verballed to Vanderbilt and Franklin in July 2013, but flipped to Penn State in January 2014 -- a week after Franklin got the Nittany Lions’ top job. McSorley, who turns 21 just 11 days before the 2016 season opener, is 16 months older than Stevens.

Stevens, a sophomore next season after coming to Penn State, wears No. 4, and is 6-4 and weighs about 220, having filled out a great deal in his 16 months at PSU. He originally committed to home state Indiana University in June 2014, but flipped to Penn State in November 2014 when Franklin went looking for a QB for Penn State’s Class of 2015 after Brandon Wimbush flipped from Penn State to Notre Dame.

How the two quarterbacks perform in Saturday’s Blue-White Game will play a part in their coaches’ decision-making process. But the final call will also be based on a multitude of other factors, and the final decision of the three judges – Joe, James and Ricky – will be final. Sort of, maybe -- barring injury and/or ineffectiveness during the 2016 regular season, two possible but not very palatable possibilities for PSU.

WHAT THE QBS SAY

Still, I thought it would be interesting to see what one young quarterback had to say about the other. So I asked each QB to give me his scouting report on the other.

Their word-by-word responses told only part of the story. Also instructive is how the youngsters used the bully pulpit. While the more-veteran McSorley used the occasion to downplay any differences, Stevens – the younger of the two and sans any real-time college game experience – used the question to segue into a bit of a small stump speech for himself.

Which can be a good thing. While it is good to be humble, it is also important that your starting quarterback feel like he should be the guy. Here’s what one quarterback had to say about the other on Wednesday:

TRACE ON TOMMY:

“Great player. Six-(foot)-four. Strong arm. Fast. Smart kid.”

On the field? “Pretty similar, both pretty low-key off the field. Both like playing Xbox, do stuff like that. I’d say we’re more similar than different.”

And…

“We’re both pretty even as far as everything goes. We’re both athletic. We both have strong arms. I don’t think there’s one thing off the top of my head that one does better than the other. I may have run a faster 40, but he plays fast. He plays faster than his 40 time.

“You look at everything and we’re even, as far as I’m concerned.”

TOMMY ON TRACE:

“Trace is a great competitor. He’s an awesome guy to be around. He pushes me every day. I push him everyday. He’s done a great job so far.

“I think I’ve done good as well. We just want to keep on pushing each other ’til the first game. Whatever happens happens. I just want to help the team the best way I can.”



Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for StateCollege.com since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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