Drew Allar Exhibits Heightened Chemistry With Wide Receivers, Shakes Off Slow Start During Penn State Football’s Blue-White Game
While Penn State football head coach James Franklin remains adamant that every position group will warrant an “open competition” until the initial depth chart hits the wire in early September, most outside the program’s confines view the sentiment to be merely coach speak.
Since the moment former five-star quarterback Drew Allar planted roots in Happy Valley as an early enrollee last January, he was all but deemed as Sean Clifford’s certain heir-apparent at the position upon his departure.
Just two days before the Nittany Lions opened their 2022 campaign at Purdue, Franklin elevated Allar to the squad’s second-string role, ousting second-year gunslinger Christian Veilleux, who has since moved on to Pitt via the transfer portal.
With nearly 18 months of experience in the Lasch Building under his belt, Allar’s progression is now under the spotlight in the midst of a two-man battle with signal caller Beau Pribula.
Although a combination of physical talent and aptness to the playbook is vital in Franklin naming an eventual starter, the head coach thinks the developed intangible characteristics are just as crucial in determining who carries the upper hand.
“We can’t throw it enough,” Franklin said postgame. “Our quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs, we cannot throw enough all summer… They just can’t throw enough to build that consistency and chemistry.”
Directly out of the gate, Allar’s chemistry with the Nittany Lions’ new-look receiver room appeared shaky. Without the likes of Parker Washington and Mitchell Tinsley manning the corps on the outside, the second-year passer fell victim to an immediate three-and-out, with the lone pickup coming on a one-yard rush by Nick Singleton.
However, the two-play setback seemingly calmed Allar’s nerves, leading to an established nine-play drive with him at the helm. The sophomore completed 3-of-4 attempts through the air on the series, including two key connections with fellow Class of 2022 signee, Omari Evans.
While Clifford grew accustomed to prolonged chemistry in the wide receiver room from having KJ Hamler, Jahan Dotson, and Parker Washington as mainstays over his four-year starting tenure, Evans has been at Allar’s side from the beginning of each other’s careers in the blue and white.
Last season, the explosive duo scored their first-ever touchdowns on a 32-yard pitch and catch against Ohio, en route to a 46-10 drubbing of the Bobcats. Today, the connection picked up right where it left off with a similar, 28-yard strike from Allar to Evans in the same spot — Beaver Stadium’s north endzone.
“Me and Drew’s relationship is great,” Evans said. “We talk a lot, and we hang out a lot. We just have to keep working and keep scoring touchdowns.”
Throughout the onset of the unit’s spring practice periods, Franklin has declared KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Trey Wallace as two of the Nittany Lions’ three presumed starters at wide receiver heading into fall camp. But, the intangible linkage between Allar and Evans, as Franklin alluded to being essential moving forward, could propel the Texas native into the third key pass catcher in the rotation.
“I think [our relationship] has progressed a pretty significant amount,” Allar said. “I think Omari is just enjoyable to be around. He knows what he’s doing for the offense, so you can trust him to be in the right spot at the right time.”
Aside from picking up timely chunk yardages from Evans alone, Allar was able to command the secondary with his vision, leading to seven completions of 12 yards or more throughout the four-quarter display. But, his most prominent sequence of carefully scanning his progressions came during his lone touchdown toss in the opening quarter.
Franklin’s “six seconds at a time” mantra felt like an eternity during the tail end of Allar’s second possession, as his 6’5” frame stood in the pocket, scanned his first read to his left, and his next two to the field’s right side. In the end, it was all to eventually pan back and find Evans in the open field for the walk-in score.
“It was kind of just a left-to-right read,” Allar said. “The linebacker took my first read, and then the hole player carried with [KeAndre Lambert-Smith] on the over route, so that opened up the space for Omari.”
Entering the 2022 slate, Clifford had previously been deemed the Nittany Lions’ starter for 33 matchups before taking Ross-Ade Stadium’s grounds for the start of his farewell tour.
Conversely, the combination of Allar and Pribula currently accounts for zero total starts ahead of week one’s looming bout with West Virginia. While Franklin’s call for team-building and chemistry cultivation at the quarterback and wide receiver level is necessary, Allar showed the ability answered the bell with flying colors during the spring-closing intrasquad scrimmage.
“It felt great… I felt like this was my first time, really to come out here with the ones with Drew in this stadium,” Lambert-Smith said. “We have to build more chemistry, a better connection with him and the whole offense in general. But, I feel like that’s coming along well… We’ll get on the right page.”
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