Tommy Stevens Shows Potential To Thrive In ‘Lion’ Role And Beyond
Tommy Stevens will again serve as Penn State’s backup quarterback, but the redshirt junior should also see plenty of playing time in his new “Lion” role.
The Indianapolis native emerged as a triple threat for the Nittany Lions last season, making the most of his limited opportunities behind starter Trace McSorley.
With 11 career touchdowns under his belt, the physically imposing Stevens is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams whenever he steps on the field.
Over the past two seasons, Stevens has averaged more than eight yards per carry, tallying just shy of 400 yards rushing. He hauled in 12 catches for 60 yards and a pair of scores in 2017.
Stevens may even prove to be Penn State’s best option as a pass-catching tight end in red-zone situations this season, with the position still up for grabs after the end of the Mike Gesicki era.
Though he watched much of spring practice from the sidelines in a walking boot and didn’t play in April’s Blue-White game, Stevens is nonetheless one of the Big Ten’s most experienced backup quarterbacks.
The 6-foot-5, 232-pound Stevens mulled a transfer from the program earlier this offseason, but eventually decided Penn State was the place for him. If everything goes according to plan, he’ll take the reins as the team’s starting quarterback as a senior in 2019.
“I talked to some schools, but ultimately, I know what I have here,” Stevens said in late March. “I love Penn State, I love the relationships I have here, and I love playing football with my best friends. After looking around, I realized that this is the best place for me and this is what I want to do moving forward.”
Stevens saved the best performance of his career to date for last year’s regular season finale against Maryland — racking up four total touchdowns in a 66-3 win over the Terrapins.
In the process, he became the first Penn State quarterback in more than a century to rush for 100-plus yards and three touchdowns in a game, joining Eugene “Shorty” Miller (1913 vs. Carnegie Tech).
With McSorley attempting 96 percent of Penn State’s passes the past two seasons, Stevens hasn’t had much of a chance to drive the ball down the field with the first-team offense. Instead, he’s largely been relegated to a Michael Robinson-type role during the first few years of Zack Mills’ reign as starting quarterback.
Of course, Robinson garnered Big Ten offensive player of the year honors as a senior in 2005 — his only full season as the starter — leading the Nittany Lions to a thrilling triple-overtime victory over Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
Stevens wouldn’t have returned to Penn State if he wasn’t confident in offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne’s vision for him in 2018 and beyond. The season opener versus Appalachian State on September 1 will offer the first glimpse of how Rahne plans to utilize his multi-talented “Lion.”
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Penn State’s linebackers played a huge role in Saturday’s nerve-wracking victory.
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