The McSorley Myth (long)

africamurphy

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As the bloom has fully come off of James Franklin’s PSU rose, the finger of blame has been pointed in numerous directions. And in a game like football, it’s never “one thing.” QB play. OL play. DL play. Coaching scheme. Coaching game management.

I’d like to posit one chief failure of James Franklin. It’s not the only one. And it’s certainly not saying that the guy has failed in every recruiting area. But he has failed significantly in the area of QB recruiting.

Trace McSorley—his Vanderbilt tagalong recruit as a new coach at PSU—was special. And I give Franklin credit for reaching on this kid against the industry’s projections and hitting a homerun (or “dinger” as Trace liked to say). But he seemed to fashion himself a QB visionary, taking athletic underachievers and maximizing their potential. It worked at Vandy, where elite QBs were a pipe dream. But Penn State—a blue blood—should not have needed to reach, year after year for QB recruits. He found success recruiting some elite players at every position. Except QB.

Most QBs in Franklin’s seven “post-McSorley” classes were top 30 kids. Far from scrubs. But far from elite prospects. Tommy Stevens in 2015. Jake Zembiec in 2016. Those two guys were par-for-the-course for post-sanctions Penn State.

But then the Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl season happened. Was it far-fetched to expect an elite QB to climb aboard Franklin’s rising starship?

Sean Clifford was PSU’s guy. Pretty much a consensus top 15 QB. And—to date—the highest rated QB Franklin has signed. (New England Patriots starter Mac Jones was similarly rated in 2017.)

But elite programs sign a Sean Clifford in every class. At least. Penn State seemed to have their guy in 2018, but Justin Fields’ stock shot up and he walked away from his commitment in the summer before his senior year. Another elite PA kid left the state (Phil Jurkovec to Notre Dame), and PSU settled for a raw athlete barely in the top 50 nationally—Will Levis.

Let me restate. The year after a Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl appearance, a team with elite NFL offensive players (Saquon Barkley, Chris Godwin, and Mike Gesicki) couldn’t sign even a top 30 quarterback.

And Franklin wonders why PSU isn’t elite?

He followed his underdog formula in the 2019 class, landing two top 30 quarterbacks upon the departure of Tommy Stevens to Mississippi State (Michael Johnson Jr. and Taquon Roberson). And another top 30 caliber kid (Micah Bowens) was all Franklin could muster in 2020.

Of course, top 5 quarterback recruits don’t always pan out. And the Bengals’ Joe Burrow was rated lower than Tommy Stevens in 2015. Everybody knows recruiting isn’t a science. But it does follow probability. You’ll find more NFL starters coming from the top 5 of recruiting rankings than from #15-20. And you’ll recognize more college stars from the top 10 of those QB lists than from #21-30.

And a college star is really all Penn State fans are wanting. But Franklin hasn’t landed top 10 recruits. His greatest recruit has had a tumultuous three years as a starter, and Clifford certainly has grit. Nobody doubts his heart. But he’s not a great QB.

He’ll make a great throw or two—like the two-point conversion gem to Dotson last Saturday—but he’ll miss easy throws more times than not. Or he’ll be a bit off and force his receivers to make circus catches. Which they rarely do. Or he’ll make the wrong read, like that 4th down desperation heave to—gulp—Cam Sullivan Brown.

You can blame the OL. You can blame scheme. But even when both of those are in place, Clifford still throws high. Or long. Or never gets the throw off at all because he reads the pocket wrong. That’s on the QB.

Ironically, Franklin seemed to have finally fixed his problem in year 9 with not one but two top 15 QB recruits verbally committed. But a hobbled Clifford and a nose-diving team might shake the faith of Allar or Pribula. Even if both of them sign in December, what’s the soonest Franklin can get an elite QB at the helm of our once-elite program?

2022? Unlikely. 2023? Perhaps. But the biggest question is will Penn State wait a decade for Franklin to put a star QB recruit on the Beaver Stadium turf?
 
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Wallace Breen

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Trace McSorley—his Vanderbilt tagalong recruit as a new coach at PSU—was special.
The only myth regarding Trace McSorley is that he was special. Sorry, he was a very average dual threat QB that was in the right place at the right time. He was surrounded by future NFL talent during his three years as a starter to include one very special Saquan Barkley and it showed as soon as #26 left for the NFL. He was very average in 2018. Simply put, any dual threat QB could have done what he did in 2016 and 2017. The QB position was the weakest link on the team and ultimately what held us back from the playoffs both years.

That is not to say that Trace doesn't have some special characteristics. He was deceptively smooth runner that was quicker than fast which caused problems. He never quit and was tough as nails. These attributes turned him into a fan favorite.
 

KC-KS-Lion

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The only myth regarding Trace McSorley is that he was special. Sorry, he was a very average dual threat QB that was in the right place at the right time. He was surrounded by future NFL talent during his three years as a starter to include one very special Saquan Barkley and it showed as soon as #26 left for the NFL. He was very average in 2018. Simply put, any dual threat QB could have done what he did in 2016 and 2017. The QB position was the weakest link on the team and ultimately what held us back from the playoffs both years.

That is not to say that Trace doesn't have some special characteristics. He was deceptively smooth runner that was quicker than fast which caused problems. He never quit and was tough as nails. These attributes turned him into a fan favorite.
I like Dotson, but Goodwin was a much different receiver that many of the defenses we've seen this year may not have had as much success against. We haven't seen anyone close to Barkley at RB (Journey Brown may have been a good one in his direction with is speed and evolved toughness)...I would add Gesecki as a unique offensive weapon...nobody close as a very good and freakish TE-I do love Pat F.
 
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SLion

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The reality is that Barkley was never a great physical, up the gut runner. His edge speed and moves were off the charts for someone his size. Journey was becoming a special runner that hit the middle hard and could break away. That hurt last year. I thought Cain could become that up the gut runner this year but something wrong after injury. It seems like Franklin spent too much time on pass blocking and expected Cain, Lee, Ford, Lovett would be able to move chains. That has not happened and OL not prepared to push people.
 

bvillebaron

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Feb 4, 2004
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As the rose has fully come off of James Franklin’s PSU bloom, the finger of blame has been pointed in numerous directions. And in a game like football, it’s never “one thing.” QB play. OL play. DL play. Coaching scheme. Coaching game management.

I’d like to posit one chief failure of James Franklin. It’s not the only one. And it’s certainly not saying that the guy has failed in every recruiting area. But he has failed significantly in the area of QB recruiting.

Trace McSorley—his Vanderbilt tagalong recruit as a new coach at PSU—was special. And I give Franklin credit for reaching on this kid against the industry’s projections and hitting a homerun (or “dinger” as Trace liked to say). But he seemed to fashion himself a QB visionary, taking athletic underachievers and maximizing their potential. It worked at Vandy, where elite QBs were a pipe dream. But Penn State—a blue blood—should not have needed to reach, year after year for QB recruits. He found success recruiting some elite players at every position. Except QB.

Most QBs in Franklin’s seven “post-McSorley” classes were top 30 kids. Far from scrubs. But far from elite prospects. Tommy Stevens in 2015. Jake Zembiec in 2016. Those two guys were par-for-the-course for post-sanctions Penn State.

But then the Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl season happened. Was it far-fetched to expect an elite QB to climb aboard Franklin’s rising starship?

Sean Clifford was PSU’s guy. Pretty much a consensus top 15 QB. And—to date—the highest rated QB Franklin has signed. (New England Patriots starter Mac Jones was similarly rated in 2017.)

But elite programs sign a Sean Clifford in every class. At least. Penn State seemed to have their guy in 2018, but Justin Fields’ stock shot up and he walked away from his commitment in the summer before his senior year. Another elite PA kid left the state (Phil Jurkovec to Notre Dame), and PSU settled for a raw athlete barely in the top 50 nationally—Will Levis.

Let me restate. The year after a Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl appearance, a team with elite NFL offensive players (Saquon Barkley, Chris Godwin, and Mike Gesicki) couldn’t sign even a top 30 quarterback.

And Franklin wonders why PSU isn’t elite?

He followed his underdog formula in the 2019 class, landing two top 30 quarterbacks upon the departure of Tommy Stevens to Mississippi State (Michael Johnson Jr. and Taquon Roberson). And another top 30 caliber kid (Micah Bowens) was all Franklin could muster in 2020.

Of course, top 5 quarterback recruits don’t always pan out. And the Bengals’ Joe Burrow was rated lower than Tommy Stevens in 2015. Everybody knows recruiting isn’t a science. But it does follow probability. You’ll find more NFL starters coming from the top 5 of recruiting rankings than from #15-20. And you’ll recognize more college stars from the top 10 of those QB lists than from #21-30.

And a college star is really all Penn State fans are wanting. But Franklin hasn’t landed top 10 recruits. His greatest recruit has had a tumultuous three years as a starter, and Clifford certainly has grit. Nobody doubts his heart. But he’s not a great QB.

He’ll make a great throw or two—like the two-point conversion gem to Dotson last Saturday—but he’ll miss easy throws more times than not. Or he’ll be a bit off and force his receivers to make circus catches. Which they rarely do. Or he’ll make the wrong read, like that 4th down desperation heave to—gulp—Cam Sullivan Brown.

You can blame the OL. You can blame scheme. But even when both of those are in place, Clifford still throws high. Or long. Or never gets the throw off at all because he reads the pocket wrong. That’s on the QB.

Ironically, Franklin seemed to have finally fixed his problem in year 9 with not one but two top 15 QB recruits verbally committed. But a hobbled Clifford and a nose-diving team might shake the faith of Allar or Pribula. Even if both of them sign in December, what’s the soonest Franklin can get an elite QB at the helm of our once-elite program?

2022? Unlikely. 2023? Perhaps. But the biggest question is will Penn State wait a decade for Franklin to put a star QB recruit on the Beaver Stadium turf?
Agree that the lack of a stud QB is the biggest difference. But it’s not for a lack of trying. Do you think Clifford’s numbers would be better if he played behind the same offensive lines as Mac Jones did at Alabama? Jurkovec did so well at ND that he transferred to BC.
 

africamurphy

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The only myth regarding Trace McSorley is that he was special. Sorry, he was a very average dual threat QB that was in the right place at the right time. He was surrounded by future NFL talent during his three years as a starter to include one very special Saquan Barkley and it showed as soon as #26 left for the NFL. He was very average in 2018. Simply put, any dual threat QB could have done what he did in 2016 and 2017. The QB position was the weakest link on the team and ultimately what held us back from the playoffs both years.

That is not to say that Trace doesn't have some special characteristics. He was deceptively smooth runner that was quicker than fast which caused problems. He never quit and was tough as nails. These attributes turned him into a fan favorite.
Disagree. The NFL disagrees. You don't catch on an NFL roster for multiple years if you're not good.

I think my larger point is that Trace (albeit NOT an elite QB by any stretch) defied the odds. A 3-star, marginal college prospect at QB who became a great college QB...those are rare. The formula has NOT panned out for Franklin though. Stevens was never going to be better at PSU than Trace. Levis was never going to be better at PSU than Clifford. And those were our closest "misses"...all the others--Zembiec, Johnson Jr., Bowens--weren't even close. Roberson and Villeaux are probable busts as well.

Franklin can't land elite QBs. PSU won't be elite. My theory in a nutshell.
 
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africamurphy

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Agree that the lack of a stud QB is the biggest difference. But it’s not for a lack of trying. Do you think Clifford’s numbers would be better if he played behind the same offensive lines as Mac Jones did at Alabama? Jurkovec did so well at ND that he transferred to BC.
Theoretically, yes his numbers would have been better at Bama. But his lack of "eliteness" wouldn't have allowed him to beat out any of Bama's QB's the past 6 years.

Go back to the Blake Sims/Jake Coker years and Clifford may have been an equal comparison there. He would have led those teams to 11-1, I think.
 

The Spin Meister

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An altered state
Methinks the biggest obstacle to recruiting a top 10 top 15 QB was running the RPO. If you are a high school junior with every major school begging you to play there you also believe 100% that you will be in the NFL after3-4 years of college ball. That means you look for an offense that runs something close to an NFL offense. And with an OC/QB coach that can prep a kid for the pro game. And running the RPO takes a physical toll on QBs that would spook a kid looking to the pros.

With our new OC and his new system we should have a shot at getting top QB talent. If both Allan and Pribula matriculate and even one does very well it could start a trend.
 

danvillenit

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Disagree. The NFL disagrees. You don't catch on an NFL roster for multiple years if you're not good.

I think my larger point is that Trace (albeit NOT an elite QB by any stretch) defied the odds. A 3-star, marginal college prospect at QB who became a great college QB...those are rare. The formula has NOT panned out for Franklin though. Stevens was never going to be better at PSU than Trace. Levis was never going to be better at PSU than Clifford. And those were our closest "misses"...all the others--Zembiec, Johnson Jr., Bowens--weren't even close. Roberson and Villeaux are probable busts as well.

Franklin can't land elite QBs. PSU won't be elite. My theory in a nutshell.
Up to now I would agree. An elite QB would have turned half of Franklin’s losses into wins which would have translated to a couple playoff appearances and elite status
 
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danvillenit

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Methinks the biggest obstacle to recruiting a top 10 top 15 QB was running the RPO. If you are a high school junior with every major school begging you to play there you also believe 100% that you will be in the NFL in 3-4 years. That means you look for an offense that runs something close to an NFL offense. And with an OC/QB coach that can prep a kid for the pro game. And running the RPO takes a physical toll on QBs that would spook a kid looking to the pros.

With our new OC and his new system we should have a shot at getting top QB talent. If both Allan and Pribula matriculate and even one does very well it could start a trend.
Not sure if anyone heard Ryan Day’s pc last week. In response to a question about his QB running more, he replied that they tell the elite QB recruits you won’t have to run near as much as at some other schools. They have elite athletes at all positions so QB doesn’t get wear and tear. A major recruiting advantage in his opinion
 

PSUSignore

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But then the Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl season happened. Was it far-fetched to expect an elite QB to climb aboard Franklin’s rising starship?
Justin Fields was Franklin's guy. Until he wasn't. Let's not forget that Franklin was in on Fields very early and once he climbed up the recruiting rankings he jumped ship. Had Fields stuck with PSU Clifford never happens. One concern I have is due to offensive scheme (QB runs) and consistently weak OL play, it seems that we have a QB injury just about every season. Add in tons of churn at offensive coordinator and these could be key reasons why top flight QBs don't fully commit. Hopefully Allar sticks and excels once he's here.
 
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BiochemPSU

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Clifford has been fine. He doesn't have the god-given gifts of Hack nor the against the odds "I'll make it happen" mentality of Trace, but he has heart and has improved. With a better o-line, no injuries, and a real run threat that brings some balance to the offense, this year could have been different. It is what it is.

The real problem at PSU isn't CJF's questionable game management skills, a lack of talent at any one position, or failure to have position coaches stay and develop their systems and players, it's years of being behind OSU in winning, recruiting, position coaching hires, and facilities. Following sanctions, the gap in recruiting between us and them was made too wide to overcome with any consistency. Add the 4 team playoff with the same 4 or 5 schools every year getting to go and the rich just got richer. Michigan, who has the history, money, and the best coach on paper in the conference can't close the gap either; and they didn;t have sanctions to deal with. The rest of the BIG has no chance until OSU comes back down to earth for two or three straight seasons.
 

IANit

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The only myth regarding Trace McSorley is that he was special. Sorry, he was a very average dual threat QB that was in the right place at the right time. He was surrounded by future NFL talent during his three years as a starter to include one very special Saquan Barkley and it showed as soon as #26 left for the NFL. He was very average in 2018. Simply put, any dual threat QB could have done what he did in 2016 and 2017. The QB position was the weakest link on the team and ultimately what held us back from the playoffs both years.

That is not to say that Trace doesn't have some special characteristics. He was deceptively smooth runner that was quicker than fast which caused problems. He never quit and was tough as nails. These attributes turned him into a fan favorite.
The main myth regarding Trace McSorley was that he had a pop-gun arm and had to throw passes up for grabs to his NFL-level receivers. He had a good-enough arm, was accurate, made good decisions, and could make things happen with his feet. I disagree that he was the weakest link on the team.

You can blame it on poor QB play - I blame it on unfortunate scheduling that 2016 started out 2-2. The players didn't really figure out the offense until the second half of the Minnesota game. From that point, the offense was virtually unstoppable.

In 2017, we had 2 chances to make the CFP - one was to beat Ohio State, the other was to beat Michigan State.

We led Ohio State 38-27 in the 4th quarter. We led MSU 24-21 starting the 4th quarter. I put those losses on the defense, not the QB. I would have expected Barkley to step up and make the difference on offense in both situations. He didn't.

As far as McSorley being exposed after Barkley left - in 2018, we were up 26-14 in the 4th quarter. Ohio State came back to make it 27-26. McSorley had a dominant performance in that game (461 total yards), but I guess it was his fault our defense was giving up 47-yard TDs on one drive and getting carved up on the next drive. Even after that we still had a chance to come back. Most coaches would want to put the ball in the hot player's hands with 4th-and-5 and little time left and let him try to make a play. We handed off to Miles Sanders, who hadn't done much all night, and he got stuffed.

McSorley was injured against Iowa and still brought us back to win, getting a huge long TD run after it appeared that he was going to be unable to run at all in the second half.
 
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bvillebaron

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Justin Fields was Franklin's guy. Until he wasn't. Let's not forget that Franklin was in on Fields very early and once he climbed up the recruiting rankings he jumped ship. Had Fields stuck with PSU Clifford never happens. One concern I have is due to offensive scheme (QB runs) and consistently weak OL play, it seems that we have a QB injury just about every season. Add in tons of churn at offensive coordinator and these could be key reasons why top flight QBs don't fully commit. Hopefully Allar sticks and excels once he's here.
PSU isn’t running the RPO nearly as much this year and I think they only did it twice against Michigan. Your point about running QBs and the risk of injury is correct but Clifford was hurt against Iowa while throwing the ball.
 

bvillebaron

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Clifford has been fine. He doesn't have the god-given gifts of Hack nor the against the odds "I'll make it happen" mentality of Trace, but he has heart and has improved. With a better o-line, no injuries, and a real run threat that brings some balance to the offense, this year could have been different. It is what it is.

The real problem at PSU isn't CJF's questionable game management skills, a lack of talent at any one position, or failure to have position coaches stay and develop their systems and players, it's years of being behind OSU in winning, recruiting, position coaching hires, and facilities. Following sanctions, the gap in recruiting between us and them was made too wide to overcome with any consistency. Add the 4 team playoff with the same 4 or 5 schools every year getting to go and the rich just got richer. Michigan, who has the history, money, and the best coach on paper in the conference can't close the gap either; and they didn;t have sanctions to deal with. The rest of the BIG has no chance until OSU comes back down to earth for two or three straight seasons.
Agreed. Alabama doesn’t really have to recruit in the normal sense of the word; they simply select from among the kids that want to go there. For all the bitching about Franklin’s lack of success against OSU, he has beaten them and played OSU on balance better than anyone else in the Big unlike Harbaugh who makes even more money and has yet to beat OSU or win a Big Championship.
 

The Spin Meister

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PSU isn’t running the RPO nearly as much this year and I think they only did it twice against Michigan. Your point about running QBs and the risk of injury is correct but Clifford was hurt against Iowa while throwing the ball.
Any player can hurt on any play. What happened on a single play is irrelevant. The point is that running the RPO offense puts a QB at higher risk.
 

PSUSignore

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Any player can hurt on any play. What happened on a single play is irrelevant. The point is that running the RPO offense puts a QB at higher risk.
I think his point was that we don't run as much RPO as we used to, which is fine. My point was it's not only the RPO scheme that caused injuries, we've also had bad OLs during Franklin's tenure, which could just as easily increase the risk of QB injury.

In how many of Franklin's seasons so far have we managed to get our starting QB through the full season without missing time due to injury? I don't have time to research it but anecdotally it feels like it hasn't happened more than 1-2 times.
 
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BBHorn86

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Methinks the biggest obstacle to recruiting a top 10 top 15 QB was running the RPO. If you are a high school junior with every major school begging you to play there you also believe 100% that you will be in the NFL after3-4 years of college ball. That means you look for an offense that runs something close to an NFL offense. And with an OC/QB coach that can prep a kid for the pro game. And running the RPO takes a physical toll on QBs that would spook a kid looking to the pros.

With our new OC and his new system we should have a shot at getting top QB talent. If both Allan and Pribula matriculate and even one does very well it could start a trend.
And what do you call the offense OSU and Oregon run? OSU absolutely runs RPO, the difference is their OL and ability to make plays without the QB needing to run. Fields would break defenses back with 3rd down runs because there are simply too many weapons to account for. OSU's OL rarely allows a DL to get to the mesh point our OL consistently struggles with that. You can't keep the backfield clean the RPO is blown up.
 

Ian

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No comparing the talent these guys have played with.

Trace played with Barkley and Sanders at RB. Godwin, Blacknall, Hamilton, Hamler, Johnson, and Thompkins at WR. All got into the league. Gesicki and Feiermuth at TE. OL was good, not great, over his three yrs. Aren’t three of them in the league now?

Clifford has played with Brown for half a season and a committee at RB. Hamler and Dotson at WR. Freiermuth (1 yr.) and a committee at TE. OL that has regressed over his 3 yrs. Fries and Menet were the best.
 
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PSUcup1

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Agreed. Alabama doesn’t really have to recruit in the normal sense of the word; they simply select from among the kids that want to go there. For all the bitching about Franklin’s lack of success against OSU, he has beaten them and played OSU on balance better than anyone else in the Big unlike Harbaugh who makes even more money and has yet to beat OSU or win a Big Championship.
I believe that Franklin makes more than Harbaugh
 

The Spin Meister

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And what do you call the offense OSU and Oregon run? OSU absolutely runs RPO, the difference is their OL and ability to make plays without the QB needing to run. Fields would break defenses back with 3rd down runs because there are simply too many weapons to account for. OSU's OL rarely allows a DL to get to the mesh point our OL consistently struggles with that. You can't keep the backfield clean the RPO is blown up.
How many carries per game did Fields run out of RPO and not scrambles on pass plays?
 

Wallace Breen

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Disagree. The NFL disagrees. You don't catch on an NFL roster for multiple years if you're not good.

I think my larger point is that Trace (albeit NOT an elite QB by any stretch) defied the odds. A 3-star, marginal college prospect at QB who became a great college QB...those are rare. The formula has NOT panned out for Franklin though. Stevens was never going to be better at PSU than Trace. Levis was never going to be better at PSU than Clifford. And those were our closest "misses"...all the others--Zembiec, Johnson Jr., Bowens--weren't even close. Roberson and Villeaux are probable busts as well.

Franklin can't land elite QBs. PSU won't be elite. My theory in a nutshell.
Actually, the NFL doesn't disagree. The Ravens immediately turned him into a practice player during his first rookie camp. Trace was not a great college QB nor was he a good one. He was very average in just about every way. He was propped up by Barkley, Godwin, Gesicki and Hamilton. The proof is in the pudding. In 2018, when most were gone and he was the man, he was very average despite higher than usual talent around him.
 

MacNit07

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As the bloom has fully come off of James Franklin’s PSU rose, the finger of blame has been pointed in numerous directions. And in a game like football, it’s never “one thing.” QB play. OL play. DL play. Coaching scheme. Coaching game management.

I’d like to posit one chief failure of James Franklin. It’s not the only one. And it’s certainly not saying that the guy has failed in every recruiting area. But he has failed significantly in the area of QB recruiting.

Trace McSorley—his Vanderbilt tagalong recruit as a new coach at PSU—was special. And I give Franklin credit for reaching on this kid against the industry’s projections and hitting a homerun (or “dinger” as Trace liked to say). But he seemed to fashion himself a QB visionary, taking athletic underachievers and maximizing their potential. It worked at Vandy, where elite QBs were a pipe dream. But Penn State—a blue blood—should not have needed to reach, year after year for QB recruits. He found success recruiting some elite players at every position. Except QB.

Most QBs in Franklin’s seven “post-McSorley” classes were top 30 kids. Far from scrubs. But far from elite prospects. Tommy Stevens in 2015. Jake Zembiec in 2016. Those two guys were par-for-the-course for post-sanctions Penn State.

But then the Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl season happened. Was it far-fetched to expect an elite QB to climb aboard Franklin’s rising starship?

Sean Clifford was PSU’s guy. Pretty much a consensus top 15 QB. And—to date—the highest rated QB Franklin has signed. (New England Patriots starter Mac Jones was similarly rated in 2017.)

But elite programs sign a Sean Clifford in every class. At least. Penn State seemed to have their guy in 2018, but Justin Fields’ stock shot up and he walked away from his commitment in the summer before his senior year. Another elite PA kid left the state (Phil Jurkovec to Notre Dame), and PSU settled for a raw athlete barely in the top 50 nationally—Will Levis.

Let me restate. The year after a Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl appearance, a team with elite NFL offensive players (Saquon Barkley, Chris Godwin, and Mike Gesicki) couldn’t sign even a top 30 quarterback.

And Franklin wonders why PSU isn’t elite?

He followed his underdog formula in the 2019 class, landing two top 30 quarterbacks upon the departure of Tommy Stevens to Mississippi State (Michael Johnson Jr. and Taquon Roberson). And another top 30 caliber kid (Micah Bowens) was all Franklin could muster in 2020.

Of course, top 5 quarterback recruits don’t always pan out. And the Bengals’ Joe Burrow was rated lower than Tommy Stevens in 2015. Everybody knows recruiting isn’t a science. But it does follow probability. You’ll find more NFL starters coming from the top 5 of recruiting rankings than from #15-20. And you’ll recognize more college stars from the top 10 of those QB lists than from #21-30.

And a college star is really all Penn State fans are wanting. But Franklin hasn’t landed top 10 recruits. His greatest recruit has had a tumultuous three years as a starter, and Clifford certainly has grit. Nobody doubts his heart. But he’s not a great QB.

He’ll make a great throw or two—like the two-point conversion gem to Dotson last Saturday—but he’ll miss easy throws more times than not. Or he’ll be a bit off and force his receivers to make circus catches. Which they rarely do. Or he’ll make the wrong read, like that 4th down desperation heave to—gulp—Cam Sullivan Brown.

You can blame the OL. You can blame scheme. But even when both of those are in place, Clifford still throws high. Or long. Or never gets the throw off at all because he reads the pocket wrong. That’s on the QB.

Ironically, Franklin seemed to have finally fixed his problem in year 9 with not one but two top 15 QB recruits verbally committed. But a hobbled Clifford and a nose-diving team might shake the faith of Allar or Pribula. Even if both of them sign in December, what’s the soonest Franklin can get an elite QB at the helm of our once-elite program?

2022? Unlikely. 2023? Perhaps. But the biggest question is will Penn State wait a decade for Franklin to put a star QB recruit on the Beaver Stadium turf?
Well done.
 
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fastlax16

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it's years of being behind OSU in winning, recruiting, position coaching hires, and facilities. Following sanctions, the gap in recruiting between us and them was made too wide to overcome with any consistency. Add the 4 team playoff with the same 4 or 5 schools every year getting to go and the rich just got richer. Michigan, who has the history, money, and the best coach on paper in the conference can't close the gap either; and they didn;t have sanctions to deal with. The rest of the BIG has no chance until OSU comes back down to earth for two or three straight seasons.

This. Shame too as there were chances to change the narrative but it didn't happen. The back to back 1 point losses in 17 and 18 coupled with the Fields transfer saving OSU from starting Tate Martell are just a few things that could have gone differently and made a huge impact but didn't. Sucks.
 

africamurphy

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Not sure if anyone heard Ryan Day’s pc last week. In response to a question about his QB running more, he replied that they tell the elite QB recruits you won’t have to run near as much as at some other schools. They have elite athletes at all positions so QB doesn’t get wear and tear. A major recruiting advantage in his opinion
It'll be interesting to see how long this works for Day. How many times did Ohio State beat us solely because they had a running QB who bailed them out on 3rd and long? Smith, Pryor, Miller, Barrett, Fields. Meyer didn't care about putting QBs in the NFL, so he got the best athlete that could throw and put the ball in THAT guy's hands all game long.

Which is essentially Franklin's philosophy too.

Key difference...we haven't gotten elite athletes or elite passers. Good college QBs don't make for great college football teams (let alone ELITE teams).
 

africamurphy

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Actually, the NFL doesn't disagree. The Ravens immediately turned him into a practice player during his first rookie camp. Trace was not a great college QB nor was he a good one. He was very average in just about every way. He was propped up by Barkley, Godwin, Gesicki and Hamilton. The proof is in the pudding. In 2018, when most were gone and he was the man, he was very average despite higher than usual talent around him.
This is incorrect. After being drafted late in the 2019 draft, he was one of the three roster QBs for the Ravens in 2019 and 2020. He made the roster twice. He was cut in 2021 and immediately picked up as a a practice squad player. He is still with the Ravens.

Not that this is saying much, but Trace was Penn State's 2nd best QB of the past 25 years. Matt McGloin was first. (MRob didn't play QB in the NFL, so I won't classify him as such.)
 

CbusLion10

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“average” college qb’s don’t stick on NFL rosters. McSorely wasn’t excellent but he was very good mostly because he was smart, decisive/confident. His legs won many games for Penn State 2016-2018.

Defense, specifically tackling, was what kept Penn State from hitting the next level.

and I’ll take MRob any day of the week over McGloin, thanks. My god what a tank.
 

Wallace Breen

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Sean Clifford, DC, MRob, McGloin. Heck, I would take Hack and Rashard Casey even though they played on dysfunctional teams with bad coached that refused to play to their strengths.
 
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PSUEngineer89

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It'll be interesting to see how long this works for Day. How many times did Ohio State beat us solely because they had a running QB who bailed them out on 3rd and long? Smith, Pryor, Miller, Barrett, Fields. Meyer didn't care about putting QBs in the NFL, so he got the best athlete that could throw and put the ball in THAT guy's hands all game long.

Which is essentially Franklin's philosophy too.

Key difference...we haven't gotten elite athletes or elite passers. Good college QBs don't make for great college football teams (let alone ELITE teams).
Keep posting. You're doing a great job.

Good observations followed solid logic.
 
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Cowbell Man

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The reality is that Barkley was never a great physical, up the gut runner. His edge speed and moves were off the charts for someone his size. Journey was becoming a special runner that hit the middle hard and could break away. That hurt last year. I thought Cain could become that up the gut runner this year but something wrong after injury. It seems like Franklin spent too much time on pass blocking and expected Cain, Lee, Ford, Lovett would be able to move chains. That has not happened and OL not prepared to push people.
Brown’s play was nothing short of great. His YPC was in the Ki-Jana and LJ stratosphere…top 3 in all of PSU’s history….and with a OL slightly better than this one. Absurd speed too.
What is lost in the discussion is that it took injuries to Cain and Ford for the staff to notice Brown was that good, that much better, and give him the carries.

Seems like it’s playing out all over again with Lee.
 
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PSUEngineer89

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Brown’s play was nothing short of great. His YPC was in the Ki-Jana and LJ stratosphere…and with a OL slightly better than this one. Absurd speed too.
What is lost in the discussion is that it took injuries to Cain and Ford for the staff to notice Brown was that good and give him the carries.

Seems like it’s playing out all over again with Lee.
I like Lee. He is strong, like a bull.

He's a poor man's version of Aaron Harris, pre-injury.
 

Ian

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Just like with Fields committing to Georgia after Moorehead left, PSU was in a very strong position with Caleb Williams out of DC before Rahne left for ODU. I truly believe that one of the reasons KC was let go was because they lost their grip on Williams after he was hired and he ended up at Oklahoma. These were both the kind of QB's that you need to land to get to that elite level and they would have appropriately followed the great years of 2016-17 when PSU was a hot commodity. They were there for the taking but Franklin could not hold on to them because of the OC promotions to HC elsewhere. Now they are in a similar position to keep Allar and lets hope they do because Prib's is just another McSorley/Clifford type of QB.
 

Jerry

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“average” college qb’s don’t stick on NFL rosters. McSorely wasn’t excellent but he was very good mostly because he was smart, decisive/confident. His legs won many games for Penn State 2016-2018.

Defense, specifically tackling, was what kept Penn State from hitting the next level.

and I’ll take MRob any day of the week over McGloin, thanks. My god what a tank.

I'll take the 2005 edition of MRob over any Penn State QB of the last 25 years. Tough as nails. Great leader. A winner through and through. The only game he lost that year was to the refs in Ann Arbor.
 

HartfordLlion

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Disagree. The NFL disagrees. You don't catch on an NFL roster for multiple years if you're not good.

I think my larger point is that Trace (albeit NOT an elite QB by any stretch) defied the odds. A 3-star, marginal college prospect at QB who became a great college QB...those are rare. The formula has NOT panned out for Franklin though. Stevens was never going to be better at PSU than Trace. Levis was never going to be better at PSU than Clifford. And those were our closest "misses"...all the others--Zembiec, Johnson Jr., Bowens--weren't even close. Roberson and Villeaux are probable busts as well.

Franklin can't land elite QBs. PSU won't be elite. My theory in a nutshell.

Trace has played 3 game in his NFL career, one he took only one snap. 3-10- 90yds. He got passed over by a rookie this year, he's practice fodder basically running the scout team. Matt McGloin had a more productive NFL career three years in.

Trace had great players surrounding him at PSU. Over half a dozen NFL players on the offensive side of the ball his first two years. When a good chunk of those players moved on to the NFL Trace became a very average college QB his SR year.
 
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Wallace Breen

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Just like with Fields committing to Georgia after Moorehead left, PSU was in a very strong position with Caleb Williams out of DC before Rahne left for ODU. I truly believe that one of the reasons KC was let go was because they lost their grip on Williams after he was hired and he ended up at Oklahoma. These were both the kind of QB's that you need to land to get to that elite level and they would have appropriately followed the great years of 2016-17 when PSU was a hot commodity. They were there for the taking but Franklin could not hold on to them because of the OC promotions to HC elsewhere. Now they are in a similar position to keep Allar and lets hope they do because Prib's is just another McSorley/Clifford type of QB.
Clifford is not like McSorley. Trace is a run first dual threat. Sean Clifford is a mobile pro-style QB. Trace is more like a poor man's Adrian Martinez whereas Clifford is more like Darryl Clark.