Trace McSorley was originally set to be a member of the Vanderbilt Commodores, but flipped his commitment to Penn State when James Franklin took the job in Happy Valley. A three-star prospect out of Virginia, McSorley was going to get his shot at quarterback, but there was also a chance that should quarterback not work out, McSorley could make the switch to safety.
As it turned out, the switch to safety never entered the equation. McSorley beat out fellow 2014 QB signee Michael O’Connor (a four-star, nbd) for the backup role as a true freshman, and then served as Christian Hackenberg’s for an additional season in 2015. While fans got to see a bit of what McSorley could do a redshirt freshman (he nearly led the Nittany Lions to a come-from-behind victory against Georgia in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl) there were still questions as to if he’d be capable as a starting quarterback — because, you know, noodle arm.
McSorley beat out Tommy Stevens for the starting role in 2016, but it wasn’t all smiles and sunshines immediately. McSorley was hot and cold for the first four games of Penn State’s season, which included losses to Michigan and Pitt. But as we all know with that 2016 season, magic eventually struck. Penn State went onto win nine games in a row, notably beating the No. 2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and then defeating Wisconsin to capture the Big Ten championship. During that eight-game stretch, McSorley was magnificent, having a 20/2 TD/INT ratio, while adding in an additional five touchdowns on the ground. Although Penn State fell to USC in the Rose Bowl, it was clear that an all-timer would be leading Penn State at quarterback for the next two seasons.
McSorley was even better in 2017, even if Penn State fell short of a College Football Playoff birth. McSorley had 28 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions, all the while improving his completion percentage from 57.9% to 66.5%. In the Fiesta Bowl against a strong Washington defense, McSorley had his best outing, highlighted by his 12-12 completion rate on third downs. Yes, 12-for-freaking-12.
Then there was 2018 which did not go quite as planned. McSorley struggled with accuracy, and to compound that, his wide receivers did him no help, dropping what felt like every other freaking pass. Because Penn State couldn’t move the ball through the air as it had in recent years, the offense depended upon McSorley’s legs more and more. While that had its success (McSorley finished the year with 798 yards on the ground), it also came with a cost — that is, injuries. McSorley was hampered the last half of the season with a knee injury that negated him out his lateral movement, and certainly didn’t help with his accuracy issues either.
That isn’t to say McSorley didn’t have his moments in 2018. He led a game-tying drive against Appalachian State to open the season, and put on one of the most incredible performances Beaver Stadium had seen when he accounted for 461 yards against Ohio State. But overall, it was a frustrating year for No. 9.
WHAT YOU’RE GETTING
So much of the Trace McSorley-NFL discussion is about what he isn’t. He isn’t tall or big enough. His arm isn’t strong enough. He isn’t accurate enough to make up for those other shortcomings. He’s a gunslinger who will try to force things deep too often.
But you know what Trace McSorley is? He’s a winner. He has a ridiculous work ethic, and his game preparation rivals any quarterback in the draft. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, but yet, has the utmost confidence in his abilities. And if you want to talk about heart, just watch him against Ohio State in 2018. He put the team on his back, and did whatever it took. If that meant flinging his 202-pound body into 235-pound linebackers, then so be it. Whatever it took, Trace was willing to do.
While Trace is far from the perfect quarterback, you always felt like you had a chance with him at the helm. Did he always come through? No. But the moment never felt too big for him either, which I think is an important component in an NFL quarterback.
For Trace at the next level, it will come down to this — will the accuracy return? If he can be the 2017 version and build off that, he’ll carve out an NFL career. If his accuracy struggles continue, then there might just be too much going against him.
I think you know which side my money is on, though.