Drew Allar delivered a solid 2023 performance for Penn State, but the pressure is on to deliver a bigger 2024 season.

A 5-star recruit out of high school, Allar stepped into the starting role last year with high expectations. His first season as a starter was admirable with the Nittany Lions going 10-2 in the regular season and delivering a top-15 unit offensively.

However, the full tale of the tape includes a rollercoaster performance from Allar. While he did finish 3 games completing better than 70% of his passes, he also completed less than 50% of his throws 5 times. That includes the two games defining Penn State’s B1G slate: A road loss to Ohio State (42.9% passing) and a home loss to Michigan (43.5%).

On Wednesday, ESPN’s Bill Connelly released his list of the 10 most interesting quarterbacks for 2024, and Allar received the top position. In his review of Allar’s 2023 season, Connelly admitted many expected “boom or bust” from the QB but instead were greeted with a “fine” season.

Now, Allar is back for another season as the Big Ten QB with the highest Total QBR from a season ago still in the conference. Here’s what Connelly had to say about Allar’s upcoming season:

Michigan is off the schedule in 2024, Ohio State has to visit State College, and coach James Franklin brought in celebrated Kansas offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki to jazz things up. If Kotelnicki can figure out how to engineer a few more successful deep shots, that could go a long way toward landing a bid in the newly expanded CFP. Even if Allar can throw the ball over the moon, that didn’t translate into downfield connections.

Penn State’s shot at the Playoff and a B1G title undoubtedly rests on Allar’s development. Fans can track all the odds for the upcoming season via Tradition’s Ohio sports betting links and apps.

2 keys to unlocking Allar’s potential

One of the biggest keys to unlocking Allar’s full value comes in the form of the new OC, Andy Kotelnicki as mentioned in Connelly’s piece. It’s also worth revisiting what went wrong on Penn State’s biggest stages a season ago.

In particular, James Franklin mentioned after the loss to Michigan that he didn’t feel then-OC Mike Yurcich called enough easy throws to allow Allar to get into an early rhythm. To no surprise, Yurcich was fired the day after that loss.

What does Kotelnicki bring to the table? For starters, he is hailed as a creative offensive mind with great knowledge and use of pre-snap motion. Here is one great example.

During one play from the 2022 season, Kansas utilized 2 quarterbacks on the field at the same time and ran a double reverse with a pass. While it initially appears complicated, the inner workings make a lot of sense.

The end result was an easy pitch-and-catch down the field for a big gain:

Kotelnicki’s motion philosophy is not limited to the passing game alone. During the 2023 game against Texas Tech, the Jayhawks used a play with an offensive lineman lined up in the slot. That lineman went in motion before the snap, building up momentum for a pancake block to open up a big hole in the ground game.

How does that creativity impact Allar? It is two-fold.

First of all, Penn State has had a strong ground game the last two seasons with Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, but the efficiency of those running backs took a step back last season. Most notably, Singleton’s yards per carry dipped by nearly 2.5 yards last season.

Finding a way to get the ground game flowing again will open up the passing attack for Allar.

The other way this creativity helps is by opening up passing windows. Specifically building off of Franklin’s criticism of the Michigan game, Kotelnicki’s philosophy should present plenty of manageable throws to get Allar (or any other QB) in rhythm.

While Kotelnicki is undoubtedly the biggest piece of the Allar puzzle, Penn State also needed help in the wide receiver room. Consider that last season, 3 of Penn State’s top 4 performers in receiving yardage were non-wide receivers, and just one wide receiver recorded more than 300 yards.

Those numbers are not going to cut it in the Big Ten, especially with a realistic shot at the 12-team Playoff. For the 2024 season, Penn State hit the portal and grabbed former 5-star prospect Julian Fleming from Ohio State. He joins the Nittany Lions as arguably one of the most important transfer pieces in the entire B1G.

Though he was pushed down Ohio State’s depth chart in 2023, Fleming has over 900 career yards and delivered 533 yards and 6 touchdowns in the 2022 campaign. Now, he gets a chance to prove he can be a true No. 1 threat while attempting to boost his NFL Draft stock.

If Fleming and Allar can find an early connection, it will open up a whole new world of possibilities for the offense. The tight end group should still be a key aspect of the offense, helping open up the field for Fleming and the receivers.

Either way, the pressure is on Allar to find his true potential this fall with a more wide-open look for the Playoff. If he doesn’t, it will be another year of “what-ifs” and missed opportunities for James Franklin’s program.