Let's Have a Reasonable Discussion About Trace McSorley

By Matt de Bear on October 1, 2017 at 11:29 am
Sep 9, 2017; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley (9) drops back in the pocket during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

I am going to get this out of the way right up front. It is the elephant in the room, and we can't have a reasonable talk about Penn State's quarterback play until we address it. Unless he gets hurt, or completely implodes, Trace McSorley is not being replaced as Penn State's starting quarterback. He will take every meaningful snap from here through the end of the season, and will do so again next year as a fifth-year senior.

Sep 23, 2017; Iowa City, IA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin celebrates with quarterback Trace McSorley (9) after the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Penn State won 21-19. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
McSorley led a magical final drive in Iowa City, but the wizardry hasn't been flowing like last year.  (Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)

Tommy Stevens is a very talented quarterback, full of potential. He has also thrown 13 career passes, and exactly zero in a meaningful situation. In fact, of his probably 40 odd snaps as the Nittany Lions' signal caller, zero have come with a game in question. He is the very definition of an unknown. He's not going to step in and, I don't know, lead an 80-yard game winning drive in Kinnick Stadium to keep an conference title and playoff berth in play. To stay otherwise is intellectually dishonest at best.

That is also to say nothing of the ramifications inside a locker room where McSorley has only gone 16-3 as Penn State's starting quarterback, led the team to a Big Ten title, and become one of the team's leaders. You don't "just pull" guys like that. Just ask Urban Meyer.

I am glad we got that out of the way.

Now, I think most Penn State fans will readily admit that McSorley has not played at the level he did to close out the 2016 Big Ten championship season. The pocket presence that became arguably his best trait in the second half of the season has disappeared behind a young offensive line, and his confidence in his receivers to win one-on-one battles has waned without Chris Godwin. It is also fair to say that the junior signal caller, and the offense as a whole, have pressed more and more. All of these things are reasonable, accurate, and worthy of discussion.

We should probably also acknowledge that he is averaging over 270 yards per game, a 3-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio (and really, less than that given the hail mary pick vs. Pitt), and led one of Penn State's all-time great drives to win in Iowa City last week. All of these things are reasonable, accurate, and worthy of discussion.

Unless he gets hurt, or completely implodes, Trace McSorley will take every meaningful snap from here through the end of the season.

Why is it then, that in the comments of our articles, on our Facebook page, and in the seats at Beaver Stadium, or any other stadium, Penn State fans gravitate towards the extremes of either infallibility, or complete ineffective? There is a spot in this discussion for "Trace McSorley has been great for this team, he is the starting quarterback, will continue to be the starting quarterback, but he's pressing a bit". 

That last part is more or less where I stand. I look around college football, and I can count on one hand the number of quarterbacks that would have more success than McSorley has had early in 2017 with this offense. The expectations that last year's second half created are almost unrealistic. That doesn't mean, however, that we shouldn't be looking for improvement. Let's just be reasonable about it.

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