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Is Penn State's Drew Allar Ready for More Reps?

James Franklin hoped to play the freshman QB early against Ohio and Central Michigan. Another chance might emerge vs. Northwestern.
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Penn State coach James Franklin twice has mentioned his plan to give freshman quarterback Drew Allar a second-quarter series this season. Franklin did so again following the Lions 33-14 win over Central Michigan, saying the staff intended to play Allar early against both Ohio and the Chippewas.

"That did not happen," Franklin said after the game.

Could it happen Saturday, when the No. 11 Lions host Northwestern, which brings a three-game losing streak to Beaver Stadium? Franklin wasn't about to give away that information freely Tuesday.

But the coach did say that, as in the previous four games, Allar will play should Penn State take another comfortable lead. That would be his fifth game, thus ending Allar's chance to redshirt, though Penn State had little intention of redshirting him this season. 

"Fortunately, Sean Clifford and the offense and the coaches and the defense have allowed us to be in a situation where we've been able to get [Allar] time in every game," Franklin said. "And not just Drew but [Christian Veilleux] as well. There's a ton of value in that. We would love to be able to do that again this week."

The key difference, however, is that Franklin specifically noted after the fact that Penn State planned to play Allar in the second quarter of those two non-conference games. Allar has played seven series this season, all in the second half, including his debut during the third quarter of a one-possession game at Purdue.

He didn't enter in the first half against Central Michigan largely because the game was tied 14-14 in the second quarter before the Lions took a 21-14 lead into halftime. Allar entered in the fourth quarter, played one series and finished 2-for-5 for 20 yards.

Penn State had a better chance to play Allar early against Ohio, a game it led 16-0 in the second quarter. With 9:14 remaining in the first half, the Lions took possession at their own 43-yard line, marking a series that Allar could have played. But Franklin stuck with Clifford for the next three series, one of which ended with a touchdown just before halftime.

Allar took over with a 26-7 lead and 11:33 left in the third quarter. He led Penn State on a 5-play, 70-yard scoring drive, which he capped with a lovely 32-yard touchdown pass to Omari Evans.

Franklin has rated Clifford's play strongly this season, noting that the quarterback is more "even-keeled" than in past years. Yet the coach still places substantial value on getting Allar early playing time.

First, it puts Allar in game-crucial situations with the first-team offense. That didn't happen last season, and Penn State might have lost the Iowa game because of it. Further, the move would allow Franklin and his staff to evaluate Allar from a starter's perspective, should that need arise.

In addition, as Franklin suggested this week, that's how also college football works in the NIL and transfer portal era.

"We're getting the guys in the game a little bit earlier than maybe we had in the past, and that is really putting a priority on creating depth," Franklin said. "That is based on previous experiences. That is what I think we need to do in 2022, with making sure that as many guys in the locker room feel like they're getting opportunities."

Penn State is doing this beyond quarterback. The Lions are playing multiple players are cornerback, splitting reps at middle linebacker and guard (when Hunter Nourzad was healthy), playing multiple kickers and getting freshman Abdul Carter reps at linebacker behind (and even alongside) established starter Curtis Jacobs.

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But quarterback invites the most questions, particularly when a 5-star recruit is playing behind a fourth-year starter. Franklin has been answering the questions all year. He'll continue until something drastic changes.

"A lot of it is a rep thing with him," Franklin said before the Central Michigan game. "He needs to gain as much experience as possible."

Penn State hosts Northwestern at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. ESPN will televise.

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AllPennState is the place for Penn State news, opinion and perspective on the SI.com network. Publisher Mark Wogenrich has covered Penn State for more than 20 years, tracking three coaching staffs, three Big Ten titles and a catalog of great stories. Follow him on Twitter @MarkWogenrich. And consider subscribing (button's on the home page) for more great content across the SI.com network.