For the past few weeks, we at Black Shoe Diaries have been discussion several candidates to serve as MVPs of the offense and defense. Today we take a look at the Nittany Lions’ quarterback, Trace McSorley.
McSorley isn’t your prototypical NFL quarterback, as he lacks the pure arm strength and height to make NFL scouts drool. As such, he wasn’t a coveted recruit coming out of high school. What he lacked in prototypical metrics, however, he made up in, what do you call it, Moxie. McSorley started at quarterback all four years in high school, and reached the Virginia State Championship every time (won three of them). That competitiveness would prove useful later on.
McSorley committed to Vanderbilt, and followed James Franklin from there to Penn State. He was recruited to play both quarterback and safety out of high school. He opted to play quarterback at the college level, and sat his first season as a redshirt. His second season, he backed up Christian Hackenberg for the year, and saw his first meaningful action in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Georgia. In that game, McSorley threw for 142 yards and two touchdowns, leading a comeback effort that fell one pass short of being completed. This was only the beginning.
Having put his time in, McSorley took over as the starter this season and did not disappoint. Even with his rocky start where he had most of his turnovers for the season, including three of his 8 interceptions, McSorley proved that he would excel in this offense. He only got better as the season progressed.
McSorley’s competitiveness and desire to win showed after his worst game against Michigan, where he apologized to the fans for that type of performance. He and his teammates assured the fans that this would not happen again, and it didn’t. He bounced back after that game and began using his legs more and more, which opened up the passing game to heights not seen since Daryll Clark was running the offense. His ability to avoid sacks when the offensive line wasn’t at its best allowed for drives to remain alive when, previously, this would lead to stalled drive after stalled drive.
After his gutsy performance in the second half against Minnesota, McSorley simply poured it on. Even when the running game wasn’t working to perfection, McSorley found ways to connect with his litany of weapons through the air. And as he got more comfortable with the offense, his completion percentage improved, and his turnovers nearly vanished, and his rushing and passing yards increased, and the offense got better as a whole. By the time they Nittany Lions finished the Rose Bowl (via winning the Big Ten, which, again, was something not done at Penn State since Daryll Clark was commandeering the offense), McSorley already held the records for single season passing yards and touchdowns, previously held by Matt McGloin and Daryll Clark, respectively.
There’s no denying that guys like Saquon Barkley are once in a lifetime type players. However, Trace McSorley has proved to be an integral part of this offense, and has single-handedly kept the Lions in games where, had he not been there, would have gone the other way. His improvement over the past season has added a dimension to the offense we haven’t seen since Daryll Clark, and like that season, it’s led to Penn State being at the top of the Big Ten yet again. The sky is the limit for The Wizard and the rest of the offense moving forward.