On December 1, 2016, Penn State was just days away from playing the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship. As you know, the Nittany Lions would go onto gain the conference’s crown, but that week remains notable for other reasons: it’s when Justin Fields committed. At the time, Fields hadn’t risen to the No. 2 ranking yet — he was ranked No. 183 overall — but anyone who followed recruiting and watched Fields’ junior film knew that he wasn’t just a mid-four-star prospect. He was the level of quarterback recruit who could elevate Penn State to the next level; multiple Big Ten Championships, a College Football Playoff appearance, and maybe even a National Title.
The Fields dream didn’t last long though. He decommitted from Penn State in April, flipped to the home-state Georgia Bulldogs, spent one year in Athens before transferring to Ohio State, where he went 20-2 with two Big Ten Titles, two College Football Playoff appearances, and one National Title game appearance.
It stung for Penn State knowing what could have been, and they’ve been searching for that quarterback who could potentially elevate the program since. Will Levis took Fields’ spot in the 2018 class, and although he had his moments, Levis has since transferred to Kentucky. In the 2019 recruiting class, the Nittany Lions took Ta’Quan Roberson and Michael Johnson Jr. — the later of which has transferred to Florida Atlantic. 2020 was a similar story, as Micah Bowens has already left Happy Valley for Oklahoma. In this year’s recruiting class, Penn State took Canadian-transplant Christian Veilleux; talented for sure, but not the “elite” prospect fans have been dreaming off.
The 2022 recruiting class — one that was expected to potentially be a two-man QB class — got off to a solid start with Central York’s Beau Pribula. Drawing “gamer” comparisons to Trace McSorley, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Pribula had a dominant junior season under a new coaching staff, throwing 34 touchdowns to just seven interceptions; a clear improvement from a modest sophomore season (six touchdowns to seven interceptions).
On his own, Pribula is quite the quarterback prospect. For my money, he should end up a consensus four-star prospect. So for most Penn State fans, they would have been happy with just Pribula had he been the only quarterback in the class. And to be clear: I don’t think anyone would be shocked if three or four years from now, Pribula is the starter in Happy Valley. But for me at least, the talent and potential within the quarterback room has been raised exponentially with the commitment of Drew Allar.
One of the first prospects Mike Yurcich offered when he arrived at Penn State, Allar quickly became one of the most important targets in all of the 2022 class.
I don’t watch a ton of highlights anymore of prospects that aren’t committed to Penn State, but for whatever reason when Allar was offered, I went to his HUDL to see why Yurcich was circling a mid-three-star prospect. After just a few minutes, I got a similar feeling to when I watched Fields’ junior highlights. That “oh yeah, this kid is not a three-star” feeling. When you have Allar’s qualities — the size, arm strength, changing of arm angles, movement within the pocket, awareness — you don’t stay a three-star very long.
247 was quick to re-rank Allar after he garnered offers from Penn State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Michigan, and Washington. His 87 rating was changed to a 94, going from the No. 453 ranked prospect to No. 89.
Provided Allar keeps his ranking inside the Top 100, he’ll be the highest ranked quarterback that James Franklin has ever had at Penn State. Of course, the legacy of highly-touted quarterback prospects in Happy Valley hasn’t been great — from Anthony Morelli to Pat Devlin to Rob Bolden to Christian Hackenberg, the “promise” has never been translated into reality.
But the fortunate side for all involved? It won’t be John Donovan working with Allar. It certainly won’t be Jay Paterno. Instead, it’ll be a legitimate offensive coordinator and quarterback coach in Mike Yurcich. To me that, that’s why Allar’s commitment is different from the rest: because things finally seem in place. Of course, Yurcich will have to prove his worth on the field. But landing a quarterback of Allar standing is showing the impact that many hoped for when Yurcich arrived.