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Penn State nationwide QB search underway
Penn State is primed to enter the 2018 season with one of college football’s most impressive one-two punches at quarterback. Starter Trace McSorley is well on his way toward obliterating most program records at the position, while Tommy Stevens is considered a premier No. 2 option and showed off his versatility last fall while lining up alongside McSorley in certain packages.
James Franklin, like all successful football coaches, places emphasis on rostering at least two quarterbacks you can win with today. Developmental talents — in this case, rising redshirt freshman Sean Clifford fits the bill — are also necessary further down the depth chart.
Penn State will add 2018 signee Will Levis and preferred walk-on Grayson Kline to the roster this year. Efforts to further increase a stockpile of young passers have resulted in several scholarship offers to high school standouts.
The Nittany Lions have targeted nearly 10 quarterbacks beyond the 2018 recruiting class, ranging from freshmen to juniors. Penn State secured a verbal commitment from New Jersey standout Taquan Roberson on Oct. 26, and another 2019 pledge at the position isn’t out of the question.
Factoring in the latest offers, here’s an updated breakdown of Penn State’s target board for quarterback.
2019 QB offers
Taquan Roberson, DePaul Catholic (Wayne, N.J.) — Roberson pledged to Penn State midway through a junior campaign that resulted in a state championship. He accounted for 244 yards and the game’s only touchdown in that title clash, finishing the season with 67-percent pass completion, more than 3,000 total yards and 34 scores.
Land of 10 broke down Roberson’s best attributes after he announced a commitment:
He reads and reacts with fluidity, displaying an assertive mentality that too often evades prep quarterbacks. When it comes time to air the ball out, Roberson presents tremendous arm strength. He can deliver darts while moving beyond the pocket, hitting receivers in stride even as momentum carries him away from a target. He is a highly effective runner in the open field. Pair Roberson in the backfield with another elusive rusher, such as elite 2018 Nittany Lions running back commit Ricky Slade, and defensive strategists will have a difficult time preparing for those possibilities.
Garrett Shrader, Charlotte Christian (Charlotte, N.C.) — If Penn State does indeed intend to add a second quarterback to its 2019 class, Garrett Shrader definitely is a name to know. Multiple trips to Happy Valley have made an impact, and he wowed during a July 16 camp at Penn State. Like Roberson, Shrader led his high school squad to a state championship in 2017. He completed 68 percent of pass attempts for 2,302 yards and 24 touchdowns, adding 791 yards and 10 scores on the ground. Arkansas, Mississippi State and Nebraska are among his most recent offers.
Taisun Phommachanh, Avon Old Farms (Avon, Conn.) — The newest addition to Penn State’s 2019 quarterback board, Taisun Phommachanh has the makings of a 5-star dual-threat recruit. Standing 6-foot-4, he completed 71 percent of pass attempts for 2,402 yards and 26 touchdowns in 9 games as a junior and added 13 rushing scores. Phommachanh has added offers from Florida State, Iowa, Michigan and TCU during recent months. The Nittany Lions landed fellow Connecticut QB Will Levis last summer.
Michael Johnson Jr., Sheldon (Eugene, Ore.) — This 4-star prospect plays his prep games in the Oregon Ducks’ backyard but attention has mounted from far beyond the region for Michael Johnson Jr. Penn State entered this mix in September, joining a crowd of suitors that includes Alabama, Florida State, Michigan, Miami and Ohio State. A productive three-year high school career features 5,565 passing yards, 1,878 rushing yards and 97 total touchdowns.
Max Duggan, Lewis Central (Council Bluffs, Iowa) — Penn State offered Max Duggan last June when he traveled to town for a camp. Franklin paid him a visit last season when Duggan was limited by a broken right thumb. Through three prep campaigns, Duggan has tallied 3,760 passing yards, 1,464 rushing yards and 62 total touchdowns. Former Nittany Lions offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead was quick to offer him at Mississippi State, while Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State are among other options.
Roschon Johnson, Groves (Port Neches, Texas) — Roschon Johnson is among America’s most productive high school quarterbacks, but he’s also off the board. The Texas Longhorns landed his verbal commitment in July.
2020 QB offers
Drew Pyne, New Canaan (Conn.) — Yet another Nittany Lions quarterback target from Connecticut, Drew Pyne rose to national prominence prior to his first high school game. Penn State joined a few Power 5 programs, including Alabama and Florida State, by offering him between eighth grade and his freshman year. Pyne has handled this relatively unprecedented pressure well, completing 62 percent of passes for 4,702 yards and 51 touchdowns through two prep campaigns. He attended Penn State’s Oct. 21 win over Michigan.
2021 QB offers
Caleb Williams, Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) — It only took one high school season for Caleb Williams to prove himself worthy of scholarship opportunities. Penn State entered this early pursuit Jan. 31, following offers from Maryland and Pittsburgh. Williams quickly ascended as a standout for one of the Washington, D.C., area’s premier programs. His recruitment could truly take off this spring when he hits the offseason camp circuit.
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