Penn State football will have a lot of talent in the quarterback room in 2019
Redshirt senior Trace McSorley will finish his collegiate career after the bowl season. McSorley is easily the most decorated QB in Penn State football history. That leaves fans asking the question, “Who will be the starting quarterback next year?”
Two of the Class of 2019 recruits, Taquan Roberson (Wayne, N.J.) and Michael Johnson Jr. (Eugene, Ore.), are top-10 dual-threat quarterbacks. It’s safe to assume that Tommy Stevens will take the reigns under center next year, and rightfully so. He’s patiently waited for his opportunity, but on the other hand, Roberson and Johnson Jr. are the future of team.
So, will either young QB see the field next year?
Tommy Stevens, 6-5, 240 pounds, RS-Senior
Stevens looks like the ideal quarterback for any team. He has the height, weight and physique you’d want in a starter. Outside of that, Stevens brings other desirable traits that make him an ideal starter for the Penn State football team. He’s a leader and committed to the program.
To date, he’s completed 27 of the 41 passes he has attempted for 304 yards, 4 touchdowns and an interception. His game tape is pretty limited, but he has a “X” factor about him.
Stevens has also shown promise on the ground (Career stats: 76 attempts, 506 yards, 8 touchdowns). If you had to compare Stevens to a quarterback, think of the New Orleans Saints do-it-all man Taysom Hill. Stevens has shown promise as a pass catcher, can move on the ground and has the ideal size to be flex type tight end in the league … or maybe at PSU.
If he wants to focus on making it to the NFL, Stevens should explore a more developed role that makes him a weapon like Hill, and gets him involved in more plays as a receiver.
Taquan Roberson, 6-0, 185 pounds, Freshman
Roberson is listed as a dual-threat quarterback, but had pedestrian rushing numbers this season due to an ankle injury that limited his mobility. He’s excelled at passing and focused on developing his pocket presence. He threw the ball more as a senior, and finished the year with 2,432 yards, 29 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.
His height can’t be a strike against him; look at the games top quarterbacks right now in college (Tua Tagovailoa, McKenzie Milton, Kyler Murray, etc.). He could fill his frame out a bit more, and add more physicality to his play style.
Roberson is going to be a great asset to the Penn State football team. He can make all the throws, from the deep ball to a check down. The New Jersey native plays with a boat load of confidence, which is both a pro and a con. He will need to learn to protect his frame from big hits to stretch out his playing career. He’d really benefit from a year of learning on the bench, and redshirting.
Michael Johnson Jr., 6-2.5, 192 pounds, Freshman
Johnson Jr. put up impressive numbers this year that showcased why he is one of the nation’s best dual-threat quarterbacks. Over his career, Johnson has thrown for 5,287 yards, 65 touchdowns, while rushing for 2,393 yards and 34 scores.
From an athletic and physical standpoint, Johnson has all the tools needed to start at quarterback. He needs to improve on his footwork though. His passing rhythm is best suited for a short, quick passing game. He can throw an accurate long ballI do think Roberson is a better long ball passer, but Johnson’s ability to make more plays on the ground make him a more dynamic quarterback.
He’ll opt to run pretty frequently, but when those runs turn into 50-yard touchdowns, it’s hard to say he made the wrong choice. Then again, it’s easy to get away with plays like that t the high school level. If he improves as a pocket passer, and works on decision making (run vs pass), he can compete right away for a starting role, or at the least see significant playing time. He’s a great improviser when plays breakdown, and needs some fine tuning in the passing game.
Other QBs In The Mix
Sean Clifford displayed his talents this year, going 5-for-5 in limited play, passing for 195 yards and two touchdowns. He’ll certainly be in the discussion as to who should be the true backup for the year. His football IQ is high, he’s a great learner and has improved across the board in all areas.
Will Levis is another quarterback who came into the Class of 2018 with some promise. After losing Justin Fields to UGA, fans were happy to see Levis join the Penn State football team.
The starting job is Tommy Stevens’ to lose. Fans should expect Stevens to rise up to the challenge. He’s waited too long, has too many physical tools and too much locker room respect to fall flat on his face. The offense should get created and find ways to utilize Stevens in role similar to that of Saints QB Taysom Hill, and if one of the two freshman see the field this year, I think Johnson Jr. would be the guy you’d want in to make plays with his feet.