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James Franklin promises quarterback duel at Penn State

Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
  • Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens are battling for Penn State's starting quarterback job.
  • As preseason camp starts, McSorley holds the edge, but Stevens still has a chance to win the job.
  • Penn State started training camp practice on Thursday. The season opener is Sept. 3 vs. Kent State.

STATE COLLEGE — Everything is new with the Penn State offense as it begins preparations for the 2016 football season.

A new offensive coordinator has installed a new offensive system to replace the one that had the Nittany Lions at or near the bottom of the Big Ten statistics for the last two seasons.

Trace McSorley, seen here in action in last season's TaxSlayer Bowl, is the favorite to be Penn State's starting quarterback this season.

Now the question is: Which new quarterback will direct this offense implemented by the new coordinator, former Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead?

Christian Hackenberg is gone to the NFL, and his replacement will come from his backups for the last two seasons — redshirt sophomore Trace McSorley and redshirt freshman Tommy Stevens.

The 6-foot, 201-pound McSorley is the only quarterback on the roster who has seen game action, having replaced an injured Hackenberg in the TaxSlayer Bowl and thrown for two touchdowns in the loss to Georgia. He also had a fine Blue-White game, although he played with the first team against the second-team defense.

But head coach James Franklin, while acknowledging that McSorley holds the edge as the team began training camp on Thursday, said that the 6-4, 215-pound Stevens will be given every opportunity to win the starter's job.

"There was a gap after the spring, but the gap wasn't significant," Franklin said. "So this camp is going to give Trace the ability to keep the gap, and Tommy has the ability from the end of spring ball to close the gap. Then we'll look at the first couple of weeks of camp and see where we're at at that point."

Franklin said the competition could last until the week of the season opener, Sept. 3 against Kent State.

McSorley: McSorley said he's ready to go.

"Coach said there's going to be competition all through camp, and we all understand that," he said. "So I've got to just keep working hard, trying to prove myself every day.

"You've got to take practice one day at a time. That's all I can control is the next play, the next rep. That's the best way I can approach it. Then after all the days build up together, the big picture will be coming along."

Stevens: Stevens, who showed in the Blue-White game that he's not afraid to run, said he's not overly excited about Franklin giving him a chance to win the job.

"It's a good feeling," he said, "but I'm not really concerned about that. I'm more worried about getting these guys better and giving this team the best chance to win. Just take it day to day, do as much as I can and help this team be as good as possible."

Moorhead: Moorhead was hired last December after four years at Fordham, during which the Rams established 16 school records on offense and won three straight Patriot League offensive player of the year awards.

The Nittany Lions are seeking an offensive turnaround. They ranked 13th in total offense and 11th in scoring in the Big Ten last season, a year that cost offensive coordinator John Donovan his job.

Moorhead said a good quarterback is one "who can beat you with his brains, beat you with his arm and beat you with his legs." He said he'll take "a passer who can run rather than a runner who can pass."

COLLINS: Joe Moorhead is most important Nittany Lion

He said he likes both McSorley and Stevens and said their skill sets are "incredibly similar."

"Both are smart guys. Both understand the game and have a great foundation of offensive football," Moorhead said. "Both guys [have] strong arms and can make all the necessary throws and who are a threat to run the ball, either by design or when the play breaks down and you can make a play when it's not there."


Junior College transfer Tyrell Chavis officially listed on Penn State roster

Chavis: Junior college defensive tackle Tyrell Chavis appears to be cleared for preseason activity after passing his academic requirements at Nassau Community College in New York, and was listed on the official roster passed out at Penn State’s media day on Thursday morning.

Chavis signed with Penn State in February and was originally supposed to get to campus in June. He failed to meet academic requirements that would have allowed his official transfer and therefore had to make those up this summer.

"I think Chavis is a great story," Franklin said. "He’s had to overcome a lot of things in his life. To me, this is why I coach, stories like this … He’s going to be one of those success stories … I’m really proud of him.”

Chavis is expected to make an immediate impact on a defensive line that lost three of its four starters to the NFL draft in the spring. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound defensive tackle has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

The Centre Daily Times contributed to this report.