Penn State uses spring to install new offense, find new QB
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) The competition between Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens to run Penn State's revamped offense now moves to its next phase.
New offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead has spent the past month trying to lift confidence levels and install a new scheme after two seasons of lackluster offense by the Nittany Lions.
''He's got a system that I believe in that I think made sense for our team right now,'' Penn State coach James Franklin said. ''It's a combination of what Joe was doing (as head coach at Fordham) but I also think it's a combination of what we're returning now. It's a beautiful marriage at the right time.''
Penn State players praised the new offensive approach all spring where a common theme developed. They were intrigued with the speed at which it is called, operates and resets.
Having a run-pass option - and a quarterback mobile enough to take advantage of it - is a new look too, and one that might keep McSorley and Stevens away from the seemingly constant pressure their predecessor, Christian Hackenberg, faced on a weekly basis.
Franklin is hoping that another year of experience for his often beleaguered offensive linemen, coupled with the fact that each player has a legitimate backup pushing for playing time now, will make a difference.
''We went from having lack of numbers and lack of depth and lack of experience on the offensive line, from nine scholarship players to now 17 scholarship players on the o-line,'' Franklin said. ''I was very, very pleased with what we were able to get done.''
Added stability up front has helped Franklin and Moorhead better evaluate the quarterbacks. They'll continue to do so into fall camp.
''I don't think it's fair to our football team and I don't think it's fair to Tommy right now to name a starter when I think Tommy can really close the gap from now and (fall),'' Franklin said. "That's also going to create a competitive edge in our locker room and keep Trace working because he's got a lot of areas to improve as well.''
But McSorley was nearly flawless in Saturday's Blue-White game.
McSorley, who played all but one series with the first team in the scrimmage, completed 23 of 27 passes for 281 yards and four touchdowns to lead Blue to a 37-0 win over White. McSorley decided on targets quickly, threw well on the run and spread the ball around.
His lone error came early on an intermediate throw intended for tight end Mike Gesicki, when the quarterback overshot his 6-foot-6 target. Amani Oruwariye intercepted the pass.
''Offense did a real good job of moving the ball, making successful plays and successful drives, finishing drives with touchdowns,'' McSorley said. ''I think we were real happy with how this day went. I think I did well. There's definitely some things I could do better.''
Meanwhile, Stevens worked with the second team and completed 7 of 14 passes for 48 yards. He got one series with the Blue team toward the end of the game.
Penn State's starting defense is also adjusting to a new coordinator.
Although Brent Pry was an in-house hire and is using the same system players were used to under Bob Shoop, the Nittany Lions have used a different defensive look with many of its returning starters out with injuries or recovering from injuries sustained last fall.
With three-fourths of one of the nations' top defensive lines lost to graduation, Penn State also played much of the spring without linebackers Nyeem Wartman-White and Brandon Bell. Wartman-White, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last September and Bell, who multiple ailments late last season, sat out for precautionary reasons.
''It just creates a chance to look at some more guys, to get some more reps so you view it as a positive,'' Pry said. ''Get those guys well, get them healthy and get them ready to go.''