This is the third in a series of position previews for the 2018 Penn State football team heading into the Blue-White game. Check out yesterday’s preview of the Linebackers here.)
With Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki, and DaeSean Hamilton all headed to the NFL Draft, as well as the offensive coordinator who called the shots taking his talents down to Starkville to be Mississippi State’s new head ball coach, the 2018 edition of the Penn State offense will have a ton of production to replace at key positions.
Thankfully, quarterback is not one of those positions. Given the fact that QB has the least amount of drama with regards to who the starter will be, it’s probably best to channel the spirit of the “Seefood” app from Silicon Valley and separate this group into two categories: Trace McSorley and Not Trace McSorley.
What more is there to say? With Saquon gone, Trace will be the focal point of the offense in 2018. This could lead to him being able to push himself into serious Heisman Trophy contention, much like how Barkley flirted with it for a good portion of last season. Given that he will start the season only 1,088 passing yards behind Christian Hackenberg’s school record, expect Trace to eclipse that with little trouble. He also has the distinction of holding the school record in consecutive games with a touchdown pass, 28 in a row dating back to the 2016 Taxslayer Bowl, so he has completed a touchdown pass in quite literally ever single game he has ever started in.
Not Trace McSorley
In perhaps the biggest surprise of the offseason, backup Tommy Stevens opted to remain with the team in 2018, setting himself up to be the de-facto starter in 2019 when Trace graduates. Given that Tommy will be graduating with his undergraduate degree next month, virtually everyone outside the program assumed he would transfer someplace where he could win the starting job and give himself two years to show the NFL what he’s truly made of. Instead, Tommy will see an increased role in the specially-created “Lion” position in which he will do just about everything except kick the ball (although, given how dire the placekicking situation is, him being the kicker isn’t totally out of the question). The best comparison to Tommy’s situation of course, would be Michael Robinson. Here’s to seeing Tommy leading the 2019 squad to a Big Ten title, much like M-Rob did back in 2005.
Meanwhile, Sean Clifford seems to have a firm grip on the number three slot on the depth chart. The redshirt freshman and former four-star recruit will get quite the learning experience sitting behind Trace and Tommy for the next couple of seasons before he battles for what should be a wide-open QB spot come 2020.
Jake Zembiec and walk-on Michael Shuster make up the remainder of the depth chart for the Spring. Will Levis will not arrive until the start of the second Summer session, which is typically around the end of June. Expect Zembiec and Shuster, as well as Clifford, to see the bulk of the action in the Blue-White game. Given how Zembiec appears to be getting passed on the depth chart, and Penn State’s tight crunch with regards to getting down to the NCAA limited 85 scholarships, it would be quite shocking if he were still wearing a Nittany Lions jersey come this Fall.
Tomorrow: Defensive Line