2019 Penn State Football Preview: Quarterbacks

By Matt de Bear on August 12, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jan 1, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Ricky Slade (4) carries the ball during the first half against the Kentucky Wildcats in the 2019 Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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After three years of stability at quarterback, and a rewritten record book courtesy of Trace McSorley, Penn State must move on.


Last Year

McSorley's senior season started off with the big numbers and clutch performances. Through the season's first five games, he had over 1,000 yards through the air and 11 touchdowns to go along with 410 yards and six scores on the ground. That run was punctuated with a legendary individual performance against Ohio State, albeit in a losing effort. From that point on, however, McSorley was not the same player due to a litany of injuries.

Despite a sour ending to a record setting three-year career as a starter, Nittany Lion fans will not soon forget Trace McSorley.

The Starter

No. 14 Sean Clifford (Jr./So., 6'2, 216 lbs)

James Franklin preaches competition at every position, and despite Clifford likely having at least one leg up, the starting job is not yet his. He is, however, the huge favorite to be first off of the bus on August 31.

Clifford is in his third year with the program out of the Ohio powerhouse Cincinnati St. Xavier. He was the first commit in 2017 recruiting class, and arrived in Happy Valley as a four-star prospect. After redshirting for the 2017 season, he saw his first action late in the 51-6 blowout victory over Pitt, and what a debut it was. His lone pass of the game went for 34 yards to Brandon Polk for a touchdown. Not to be outdone, he went 3-for-3 the following week vs. Kent State, including a program record 95-yard scoring strike to Daniel George.

Clifford brings more of a pro-style element to the quarterback position that Penn State fans saw with McSorley, but make no mistake, he is more than capable with his legs. Just how much that difference in skillset impacts the offense will be one of the biggest stories of this season.

THE BACKUP

No. 7 Will Levis (So./Fr. 6'3, 229 lbs.)

If Sean Clifford has a big arm, Levis has a canon. The redshirt freshman earned his offer at a Penn State camp in the fallout from Justin Fields' de-commitment. His arm is the story, but he is no slouch as an athlete either, turning in a reported 4.65 40-yard time at the aforementioned camp.

He has the talent to push Clifford in camp, but Clifford’s extra year in the program and experience seem likely to win out.

THE RESERVES

No. 9 Ta'Quan Roberson (Fr./Fr., 5'11, 192 lbs.)

No. 13 Michael Johnson, Jr. (Fr./Fr. 6’2, 199 lbs.)

No. 14 Michael Shuster (Sr./Jr. 6'2, 210 lbs.)

No. 19 Isaac Rumery (Fr./Fr. 5'11, 203 lbs.)

The headliners of this group are the two true freshmen, Roberson and Johnson Jr. Roberson is the more complete passer at this point, and Johnson Jr. brings the type of raw athleticism you can't teach. Both players will need at least a year on the practice field, and weight room, before the coaching staff truly knows what they have. Walk-ons Shuster and Rumery round out the depth chart.

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