COLLINS: PSU QB commits, including Central York's Beau Pribula, provide talent, options
Trace McSorley came to Penn State as an unheralded prospect.
He left as a legend, and an example that quarterback recruiting isn’t accomplished successfully through a hard-and-fast formula.
Take a deep dive into any football program’s recruiting plans, and you’ll notice plenty of similarities. Penn State’s plan when it comes to recruiting the defensive line isn’t any different than Alabama’s, which isn’t different from Oregon’s, which isn’t vastly different from Middle Tennessee State. You get the best athletes you can get, and you run with them.
It’s pretty much the same along the offensive line and at receiver and running back, too. You take the best guys you can find.
It seems it’s a little bit different at quarterback, though. Not that programs aren’t trying to get the best players they can get, but the quarterback position is so unique in sports. The player who lines up under center is practically your entire offensive identity. Name the program that won the national championship in the BCS/CFP era in spite of its quarterback; you might have to go back 20 years to find one, and it would be debatable even then.
There’s so much more to recruiting that spot, therefore, than there is at running back or linebacker. He doesn’t just have to fit your system, he has to be your system.
McSorley has been PSU's biggest recent recruit: Who has been the biggest recruit at Penn State during the James Franklin era? Some will say Saquon Barkley, because of what he means to the program now. Others will say Micah Parsons, because of his lofty ranking.
I’d argue it’s Trace McSorley. The quarterback Penn State recruited immediately before him, Christian Hackenberg, was a five-star stud. Rivals.com rated McSorley a piddly 5.6, as an athlete; not to be outdone, 247sports gave him an .8625 rating.
What does that mean? Absolutely nothing, considering McSorley led Penn State to two New Year’s Six bowls and a Big Ten championship and owns pretty much every meaningful passing record in program history. But understand this: Franklin’s staff has signed nine quarterbacks between 2014 and the 2020 class last spring. All of them — Michael O’Connor, Tommy Stevens, Jake Zembiec, Sean Clifford, Will Levis, Ta’Quan Roberson, Michael Johnson Jr. and Micah Bowens — had a higher rating from Rivals and/or 247sports than McSorley.
ALL. OF. THEM.
Pribula-McSorley comparisons: With that out of the way, I offer video evidence of Penn State’s newest verbal commitment: Beau Pribula, a three-star (and of course, higher-rated by Rivals) quarterback from Central York High School who threw for more than 1,200 yards and rushed for more 350 more as a sophomore in the fall of 2019.
Who does he remind you of?
If you don’t watch that video and think there’s even a slight resemblance to McSorley’s style of play, then you aren’t paying close enough attention.
Interesting focus at QB: Penn State’s focus on quarterbacks in the recruiting game has been interesting to say the least. Three months ago, it received a highly anticipated verbal commitment from 6-foot-4 Christian Veilleux, easily one of the most sought-after prospects at the position in the 2021 recruiting class and unquestionably the favorite to be Penn State’s quarterback of the future given his lofty rating. Veilleux stands tall in the pocket, runs hard, looks like he can be a dual threat. He’s as good a prospect at the position as Franklin’s staff has ever landed, for sure.
But what tends to matter more than anything else is how those other 10 players on offense work around you. Ultimately, they forged a big-play, high-scoring unit around McSorley, but they were a stumbling jalopy at times with Hackenberg under center. The four-star O’Connor left the program because McSorley outshined him early on. Same deal with Johnson, who entered the transfer portal in the spring a season after it became clear that the more McSorley-like Roberson had caught the coaching staff’s fancy. Stevens had a shot to show what the supremely gifted could do under center, but he wanted no part of a quarterback competition — he felt he earned the job outright before last summer — and Clifford excelled flashing enough of the deep-passing, deft-running skillset McSorley made famous in the offense.
Guys such as McSorley underrates: In other words, what McSorley did worked at Penn State, and guys like him are still somewhat underrated on the recruiting trail because they don’t boast the size or the speed or, necessarily, the arm strength the top prospects have. They’ll always have eyes on Penn State, and vice versa, because they know the formula can be successful. This staff has found a niche landing those types of quarterbacks and developing them, and it has provided quite a bit of depth at the position even with the occasional bigger, pocket passer providing plenty of possibilities in their own right.
Maybe new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca’s scheme will change that in the long run, but for right now, it should be fascinating to see how the quarterback position plays out for Penn State over the next six seasons.