Lessons Learned Waiting Behind Christian Hackenberg Have McSorley, Stevens Ready For The Job
A new era has dawned under center at Penn State. Christian Hackenberg, who manned the helm for the last three seasons, moved on to the NFL. In his place will either be Trace McSorely, a redshirt sophomore who’s spent the last two years learning behind Hackenberg, or Tommy Stevens, a redshirt freshman who did the same in a lesser capacity, manning the scout team while McSorley earned practice reps with the first team.
Both understand the magnitude of this summer’s battle; the title of Penn State’s starting quarterback is a glamorous one, and both players feel prepared to assume all that comes with it. Hackenberg’s departure wasn’t the only change in Happy Valley; offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead left his post as head coach of Fordham to install his exciting offense at Penn State. His system prefers a mobile quarterback who can make every throw that’s asked of him, and luckily both Stevens and McSorley fit the bill.
But neither would be in the position they’re currently in without the tutelage of Hackenberg. Even if it was simply observing how he approached each day, the Nittany Lion legend instilled, among other traits, the knowledge of what it takes to be a starting quarterback. “I learned a lot from Christian,” McSorley said. “You go from what he sees when he’s back there in the pocket looking at a defense to how he kind of handled everything. It was a rough two years, but he handled it great. Just how he handled all the adversity. I feel ready for the spotlight.”
For Stevens, who’s put on a considerable amount of muscle since arriving as a raw, lanky prospect last season, Hackenberg made a similar mark — albeit in a more subtle way. “It’s really helped me. I think ultimately the best thing for me is time,” Stevens said. “I’m still developing as a quarterback, and my body’s still developing. Sitting behind Christian really helped me a lot, just watching how he went to work.”
Though they’ve learned in different ways from their predecessor, both quarterbacks feel prepared. As for their relationship? Stevens said they’ve grown close over the last year, both on the field and off. “I feel me and Trace have a pretty good relationship,” Stevens said. “We were always together, always working out in the weightroom, on the field throwing whenever we can.”
Though Franklin remained vague about his plan going forward at the quarterback position, there can only be one outcome. It’ll either be McSorley or Stevens, not both. But after waiting in the wings, both players know what they bring to the table. Thanks to the legend who came before them, Penn State is headed in the right direction, no matter who ends up starting under center this fall.