Trace McSorley is elite, end of discussion. That said, Penn State backup quarterback Tommy Stevens just may be the second best quarterback in the Big Ten behind Trace.
As we saw last fall, this creates quite the unique situation for the Nittany Lions. During the 2017 season Stevens was used in a plethora of ways by Nittany Lion offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead. While some of this was due to Stevens being a heck of an athlete, a big part of it was also an effort to keep Stevens happy and prevent him from transferring. Mission accomplished.
Now that he is set to return for the 2018 season and in line to be the team’s starting quarterback in 2019, how should Penn State use Tommy Stevens in 2018?
While being a jack of all trades, on top of getting mop-up duty reps at quarterback, Stevens finished 2017 190 rushing yards and four touchdowns, as well as 60 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. Through the air of he was 14/27 for 158 yards and three touchdowns.
While rotating between being in the backfield with Trace on two quarterback sets, backup quarterback reps, and wide receiver during the regular season, Tommy made his debut as the team’s starting LION in their Fiesta Bowl victory over Washington.
In 2018 it is time to unleash the LION. Ricky Rahne and his offensive staff need to use Stevens in a variety of ways this fall. Get him carries, get him the ball through the air, and use the two-quarterback set more often. Penn State should especially look to go to the two-quarterback set in the red zone as Stevens can be a receiving weapon in the end zone due to his 6-foot-5, 232 pound frame.
Having two players on the field that are as lethal throwing the ball as Trace and Tommy are could cause opposing defenses to scramble in confusion. All it takes it Tommy throwing the ball deep once out of a two-quarterback set for opposing defenses to have to prepare for it when Penn State comes to the line of scrimmage in that formation.
There's also the matter of trying to get your best players on the field as often as possible. A strong argument can be made that Stevens is one of Penn State’s ten best offensive weapons. Due to this, he needs to be on the field helping the team win football games.
The emergence of Sean Clifford should make using Stevens in 2018 easier.
While Clifford was the team’s emergency quarterback in 2017, not only did the Nittany Lions want to redshirt him they did not want to turn to a true freshman. This created some unease with using Stevens too often in case of an injury creating a potential issue at quarterback. Clifford makes this more of a non-factor in 2018.
In 2018, it is time for the Nittany Lions to unleash the LION on poor, unexpecting opposing defenses. 2018 is Tommy Stevens time to become a big part of the Nittany Lion offense.