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Future at quarterback looks bright for Nittany Lions

Penn State football has stocked its quarterback cupboard with some very talented players.

Penn State football has had the luxury of a star quarterback for the past three seasons. Trace McSorley will leave Happy Valley as the all-time leader in wins, and the record holder of numerous career and single season marks. Unfortunately, his time with the Nittany Lions is up, meaning that someone new is set to take over at quarterback.

Fortunately, the future of the quarterback position at Penn State appears bright, thanks to a great job of recruiting by James Franklin and his staff.

Next season starts the Tommy Stevens era for the Nittany Lions. He’s been McSorley’s backup the past three years and will finally get his chance to take over the reigns of the Penn State offense.

In 2015, Stevens was the No. 9 prospect in the state of Indiana and the No. 22 dual-threat quarterback in the nation as rated by 247Sports. At six-foot-five, 240 pounds, Stevens is a big quarterback with excellent athletic ability that allows him to be used beyond just throwing the football.

During his senior year of high school he ran for 842 yards and 10 touchdowns, so it’s no surprise that Penn State has tried to make great use of his elite athleticism by getting him into the game in a variety of ways

This past season he completed eight of his 11 passes (72 percent) for 110 yards and a touchdown. He added 28 rushes for 118 yards and two scores. Aside from being listed on the depth chart as the backup quarterback, the coaching staff created a position called “Lion” for Stevens.

It will be Stevens’ time next season, and I see a break out year for him, similar to what Miles Sanders did this year after sitting behind Saquon Barkley.

Stevens could be one of the toughest players to stop in the Big Ten next year. If conference opponents thought they had a hard time with McSorley, wait until they get a load of Stevens. He is more athletic and stronger than McSorley.

Behind Stevens on the depth chart is Sean Clifford. A special player in high school, Clifford put up  a total of 21 touchdowns (12 rushing and 9 passing) and was named team MVP during his senior season. Clifford also was named the most accurate quarterback at the 2016 Elite 11 Competition, a competition for the premier high school quarterbacks in the nation.

He was rated a four-star recruit by 247Sports and the No. 8 pro-style quarterback in the 2017 class.

During the 2018 season, Clifford was able to get some valuable time on the field, and showed why Penn State fans should be excited for the future. He completed all five passes that he attempted for 195 yards and two touchdowns, including Penn State’s longest reception in history — a 95-yard bomb to freshman wide receiver Daniel George.

Clifford has the mobility of Steve Young and the deep ball touch of Drew Brees, making him a very intriguing talent.

Also on the current roster is 2018 three-star recruit, Will Levis.  Landing Levis was just a great  job of recruiting by Penn State after missing out on five-star quarterback Justin Fields. The Nittany Lions picked up a commitment from a special competitor in Levis.

I had an interview with Levis for Philly Sports Network after he had just thrown for 375 yards and six touchdowns in a high school game the week before. He told me the one thing he improved on the most was his knowledge of the game and that Penn State was getting a leader.

An underrated attribute about of Levis is his athletic ability. He is able to make great throws on his feet and he could be the most physically impressive quarterback at Penn State since Daryll Clark.

Franklin and his staff didn’t stop picking up quarterbacks after the 2018 class, as the 2019 class also boasts some talented prospects.

Taquon Roberson is coming off a big season for DePaul Catholic,  passing for 2,432 yards, 29 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. He ran for 314 yards and three touchdowns and averaged 8.3 yards per carry.

At six-foot-one,190 pounds, the four-star dual-threat quarterback is a more athletic McSorley, and just as tough.

Joining Roberson in Penn State’s 2019 recruiting class is Michael Johnson Jr. The four-star, dual-threat quarterback is six-foot-four and brings a killer arm and elite athleticism.

Truthfully, Johnson has the potential to be the best quarterback out all of those already listed. This past season in high school he was almost always the most impactful player on the field. He threw for 1,707 yards, 19 touchdowns, and had a 132.5 quarterback rating. Johnson Jr.  also ran  for 1,177 yards and 16 touchdowns, including a 93-yard scoring run.

Next: Penn State Football: Ricky Slade gives offense another option at running back

Penn State appears loaded at the quarterback position for the next few seasons. 2019 will belong to Stevens, then Clifford should take over. After that, it will be an interesting battle between Levis, Roberson, and Johnson Jr.

 

 

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