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Penn State Football: McSorley Ready For Next Step, Even If That Means Less Hitting

by on August 01, 2016 12:00 PM

Trace McSorley likes hitting people.

Which is bit curious, considering he's a quarterback.

But if you watch the tape it starts to make sense, an All-State defensive back in high school, McSorley has never been one to shy away from lowering the shoulder and handing out some pain. 

"That was just kind of one of the first things I felll in love with in football in general was the contact," McSorley said earlier this summer, weeks away from training camp. "My dad was a defensive player when he played so something he instilled in me as a kid growing up playing, was the contact, so it was just one of the first things I fell in love with."

The irony here of course is that McSorley is the odds on favorite to take over the starting quarterback job after following Christian Hackenberg's departure to the NFL. Hackenberg perhaps one of the most hit, sacked, and generally attacked quarterbacks in all of college football.

From one guy who watched his body contort in every possible and impossible shape, to a guy who has spent a good portion of his football career intentionally crashing into other people.

"I think it can help," McSorley said of his affinity for hitting. "But it's something you've got to be smart about, knowing when you've got to take the hit, if you're trying to gain an extra yard and you've already got the first down then might not be worth it. Then again if it's third-and-1 that's a different situation. If there's a huge dude bearing down on you, eh maybe you don't want to do that, it comes naturally and preparing and a lot of that comes from the coaching staff, understanding down and distance.

Adjusting and learning hasn't just applied to McSorley's penchant for contact, nearly everything has changed. He has gone from the likely quarterback of Penn State's future to the all-but-official starter for the present. The result is brighter light to stand in, a new offense to learn and far more responsibilities to manage.

Like answering the same questions over and over again. Which has to be frustrating, right?

"Sometimes," he said with a laugh. "I just feel like I'm repeating myself so I try to find new ways to word the answer but it ends up coming out the same way."

It'll come with time.

In truth those that kind of pressure pales in comparison to the challenges that lie ahead. Replacing Hackenberg is no small task, albeit their vasty different styles of play will render comparisons far less meaningful. Nevertheless there's a lot to Hackenberg that went beyond just making plays, and that's something McSorley is still learning about.

"Hack was a great quarterback and one of the best ever to play at Penn State, so there is some pressure to step in and fill those shoes because that was such a solid part of the team the past few years," McSorley said. "With all of the things that were happening, we knew who the quarterback was. We knew he was the guy. He won games for us and I think that, you have to step in and fill those shoes and take responsibility in that regard."

Fortunately for McSorley, he doesn't have to go at it alone. With a roster as full of offensive talent as it has ever been in a post sanction era, there are plenty of options and plenty of opportunities to let someone else do the work. A surplus of receivers doesn't hurt the cause and neither does having a Saquon Barkley in the backfield to literally carry the load.

"Just knowing we don't have to force everything, we don't have make everything happen, we just have to get the ball to our playmakers and let them make a guy miss and go and get yards," McSorley said. "So i think that's a huge benefit that we'll have at the quarterback position where we don't have a ton of playing time or experience."

And a new offense won't hurt either. Joe Moorhead's run-pass-option scheme coupled with a pass attack that reacts to what the defense is showing lends itself favorably to an efficient and quarterback friendly situation.

"We're throwing against a look that we want as opposed to not hoping that we get the good look. [last year] we were anticipating the look that we were going to get and we're calling play for that. Whereas now we know that if a safety inserts here we've got a route coming in right behind him."

How well does it all turn out? That's something nobody will know the answer to for a few more weeks and really for a few more months.

But it's safe to say McSorley seems poised to do whatever he's asked to do.

Even if that means less hitting.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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