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Penn State’s Future at Quarterback Remains Bright with Two Elite Signees

by on December 20, 2018 4:00 AM

Since James Franklin arrived at Penn State, he has placed a strong emphasis on encouraging competition at position groups. But for the first time since he took the job, there will not be someone named Christian Hackenberg or Trace McSorley in the quarterback room. And after next year, neither will there be a Tommy Stevens. 

Life after Stevens opens up the door for a competition at quarterback, which is why Franklin pushed so hard for two signal-callers in the 2019 recruiting class. As a result, he landed a pair of four-star dual-threat quarterbacks Taquan Roberson and Michael Johnson Jr.

Roberson, a New Jersey native, attended local power DePaul Catholic, and has drawn comparisons to McSorley  due to his size, play style, and intangibles. He committed to Penn State in October 2017, becoming the second pledge of a class that will end with more than 20. During the 14 months he’s been committed, Roberson earned another star, making him a blue chip prospect.

Whereas Roberson emerged during his junior and senior seasons, Johnson, has been on the national recruiting scene since he was a freshman. With a 4.5 40-time and a flashy playmaking ability, he has shown strong potential to fit into Penn State’s run-pass option offense. Johnson announced this summer that he would be traveling across the country to join Penn State’s class.

So, why would two such highly-recruited guys at the most prized position in the game decide to go to the same college, where one is likely guaranteed to sit, transfer, or change positions? James Franklin and his love of competition.

“A big factor was Coach Franklin,” Johnson said. “I wanted to play for a coach who is one of the best. He has a vision that I believe in and want to be apart of. The family atmosphere that I felt on my official was unreal.

“Also, Trace is leaving so there will be competition. I think competition makes everybody better. I’m excited to be competing with a great group of guys day in and day out and becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

When you hear about a recruiting class that has two quarterbacks, the immediate reaction is almost always wondering which one will transfer first. That’s far from the mindset Johnson has and something he’s discussed at length with McSorley, who was one of two quarterbacks in the 2014 recruiting class, sat behind Hackenberg for a year, and eventually beat out Stevens for the starting job. 

“I first talked to Trace at the Elite 11. On my visit he just told me that ‘anywhere you go you’re going to have to compete,'” Johnson said. “I don’t shy away from competition. I’m most excited to be surrounded by great guys that will push each other to be the best we all can be.” 

This will be the first two quarterback class Penn State brings in since that 2014 duo James Franklin pieced together upon his arrival at Penn State with Michael O’Connor. The higher-rated of the two brought in that year, O’Connor, transferred following his freshman season. He was recruited by Bill O’Brien but stayed on board despite O’Brien’s move to the NFL. 

Roberson and Johnson will both be enrolling at Penn State in January and presumably make their Beaver Stadium debuts during this year’s Blue-White game. 

“I’m early enrolling to give myself the best opportunities possible. I want to get in and learn the playbook and get in the flow of things so by the time the spring game comes around I’ll be relaxed,” Johnson said. “I haven’t thought much about playing in Beaver Stadium yet, but I’m sure it will be a surreal moment.”

With an abundance of young weapons already on campus in KJ Hamler, Pat Friermuth, Justin Shorter, Ricky Slade, and Jahan Dotson and newly signed prospects like Devyn Ford, Noah Cain, and John Dunmore coming in, it’s not hard to see why Penn State is a quarterback recruit’s dream.

But with Stevens, Sean Clifford, and Will Levis already on campus, nothing will come easy for the two four-star freshmen, as only competition will decide the future of Penn State’s quarterback position.

 



Brian Bachman is a Penn State student and contributor to Onward State.
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