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Get To Know Penn State Quarterback Will Levis

Now that Penn State has a quarterback controversy on its hands, you might as well get to know the new sheriff in town. Currently, that’d be Will Levis.

Following yet another rough start to Penn State’s most recent matchup against Nebraska on Saturday, Levis replaced starting quarterback Sean Clifford in the second half. He is a 6’3″, 222-pound redshirt sophomore Middletown, Ct. native.

Despite ultimately losing 30-23, Levis’s dynamic and spirited play propelled the Nittany Lions to a 14-point margin of victory in the second half and consequently sparked a debate over who should keep the job.

As a member of Penn State’s esteemed 2018 recruiting class, the highest-ranked of the James Franklin era, Levis was a late addition to replace former Penn State commit and current Ohio State starting quarterback Justin Fields.

As a recruit, 247Sports, Rivals, and ESPN rated Levis as the second-best prospect in Connecticut. A three-star prospect, Levis chose the Nittany Lions over other notable schools like Florida State, Iowa, North Carolina, and Ole Miss.

Levis redshirted for his first season and served as the fourth-string quarterback behind Trace McSorley, Tommy Stevens, and Sean Clifford. As a redshirt sophomore, Levis sprung into a two-man quarterback competition the following offseason.

During that offseason, Clifford and Levis battled for the starting quarterback position following the departure of Tommy Stevens to Mississippi State. While Clifford entered camp as the projected starter, Levis’s competitive work ethic made the competition closer than the coaching staff had originally anticipated.

“He’s an extremely positive kid. He’s got a great build and his arm strength is nearly unmatched,” former offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne said last June. “I’m excited about what he brings to the table, he’s a better athlete than people give him credit for.”

Later on in camp, Levis received lofty praise from James Franklin.

“Will’s an interesting guy,’’ Franklin said in July 2019. “You guys come to practice, you see it. Will looks like Troy Aikman. Will can throw the ball, he is big, he is strong, he is explosive, smart. So we’ve got two guys that we feel really good about.”

Clifford ultimately won the starting job, but an injury to his right leg against Ohio State last year gave Levis the first meaningful snaps of his college career. Early in the third quarter, Levis orchestrated a nine-play, 75-yard drive to cut the deficit to two scores.

On the following possession, a forced fumble by linebacker Micah Parsons set the Nittany Lions up in prime scoring position inside of the 15-yard line. Once again, Levis’s legs provided Ohio State with problems, as he powered into the end zone to bring the game to a seven-point margin.

Later in the game, an interception on a pass intended for Pat Freiermuth derailed the Nittany Lions’ upset bid against the Buckeyes. Although mistakes were made, Levis’s gritty performance showcased his talent on a national stage, as he finished the game with 57 yards passing on six completions, coupled with 34 yards on the ground.

With Clifford’s injury still lingering, Levis earned the starting position for the 2019 season finale against Rutgers following the Ohio State loss. In an underwhelming 27-6 victory against the 2-10 Scarlet Knights, Levis’s legs hurt the opposition for four quarters. He finished the game with 108 rushing yards on 17 attempts, good for 6.4 yards per carry. On 14 passing attempts, Levis completed eight passes for 81 yards during the contest.

Clifford returned to full-strength for the Cotton Bowl against Memphis and entered the 2020 offseason as the clear-cut starting quarterback. Four games into the season, Clifford currently sits with six interceptions and two fumbles on his resume.

In relief of Clifford against Nebraska on Saturday, Levis finished the game with less than a 50% completion rate but garnered 219 passing yards in just one half of play. He also proved to be more of a threat with his legs by rushing for 66 yards on 18 carries.

Although Levis’s numbers aren’t necessarily pretty, his exciting hard-nosed brand of football can certainly rejuvenate the Nittany Lions after an abysmal 0-4 start. His improvement in the passing game and running ability re-energized Penn State against Nebraska and could do the same for the remainder of the season.


James Franklin has yet to name a starter for Saturday’s home contest against Iowa. The Hawkeyes enter the game as 2.5-point favorites, marking the first time the Nittany Lions have been home underdogs to a team not named Ohio State since 2015 against Michigan.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a freshman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania majoring in Journalism. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan, and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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