I’m going to borrow a little phrase from former Penn State offensive coordinator and now Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead.
Before the start of the 2017 season, Moorhead responded to claims that Trace McSorley was just a “drop back and chuck it up” quarterback. In Moorhead’s calm, cool manner, he offered up a fantastic answer.
“That’s ridiculous at best and asinine at worst.”
Moorhead’s words proved to be true. All McSorley did was complete 65 percent of his passes for 3,228 yards and 26 touchdowns. In one less game, he nearly repeated his passing numbers from his breakout 2016 campaign, all while leading Penn State to a Fiesta Bowl victory and another 11-win season.
So now, there’s a different preseason question circling about McSorley’s outlook for the upcoming year.
Is he the best returning quarterback in America?
Some have supported that notion while others have protested it, perhaps still under the assumption that a guy with over 7,000 passing yards the last two years has just been getting lucky. Maybe the skeptics even offer up an alternative candidate to own the title of “best returning quarterback in America.”
But to suggest that would be ridiculous at best and asinine at worst.
Before I state McSorley’s case, I feel like we should knock down a couple walls preventing some from allowing McSorley to walk among college football’s elite.
The question is not “who’s the best NFL prospect” among the returning quarterbacks in college football. Nobody is saying that McSorley has Drew Lock’s arm or Justin Herbert’s size. And the experts will say McSorley’s lack of size and game-changing athleticism don’t project well, but let’s save the NFL discussion for another time.
This isn’t about who best projects at the next level or about who has the highest ceiling (maybe Tua Tagovailoa). This is about who would be the best person to go win a college game played against anyone tomorrow.
That’s McSorley. Easily.
One of the reasons it feels like this is a “down” group of returning quarterbacks is because they all seem to fit into one of these categories:
- A) Put up huge numbers for team that didn’t win very much in 2017
- B) Didn’t put up huge numbers for team that won a lot in 2017
- C) Second-year player who flashed potential in limited sample size in 2017
Drew Lock, Will Grier, Shea Patterson and Justin Herbert — all of whom are considered first-round NFL prospects — are in Group ‘A,’ as is Arizona’s Khalil Tate. Jalen Hurts, Jarrett Stidham and Jake Browning are all in Group ‘B’ (maybe you’d throw Jake Fromm in there, too). Group ‘C’ is guys like Tagovailoa and Dwayne Haskins.
The point of those groups is that while there are some promising returning quarterbacks, each of them has an obvious hole in their college résumé.
What’s the hole in McSorley’s résumé? I mean, he’s 22-5 as Penn State’s starter (15-3 in B1G play) with a conference championship and consecutive New Year’s Six berths, the last of which he racked up over 400 yards in leading the Lions to a Fiesta Bowl win (over Browning, too).
Not big on evaluating quarterbacks based on the “is he a winner?” metric? Fine. Let’s talk individual numbers.
Since taking over as Penn State’s starter in 2016, McSorley completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 8.8 yards per attempt with only an interception every 45 attempts. His 7,184 passing yards and 57 passing touchdowns aren’t too shabby, and neither are his 856 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.
In fact, in that 2-year stretch, none of those aforementioned quarterbacks had as many total touchdowns (75) or yards from scrimmage (8,040) as McSorley. On top of that, only Hurts won more games than McSorley, though I think we can agree his record would’ve looked a little better with the nation’s top defense. Oh, I almost left out the best part.
MCSORLEY HAS THE BEST CELEBRATION IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL.
I mean, what else do you need?
I understand that McSorley still has to prove that he’s still the same player without Moorhead, and that he can function as the focal point of the offense without Saquon Barkley. Playing without possession pass-catchers like DaeSean Hamilton and Mike Gesicki will be a new challenge, too.
Really, though. What else does McSorley have to do to prove that he’s worthy of the title “best returning quarterback in college football?” Win a national championship? Grow a few more inches? Something tells me that if McSorley was built like Christian Hackenberg and not like the guy who most schools recruited as a safety, this wouldn’t even be a discussion.
Instead, it’ll be a popular offseason debate. In my opinion, no returning signal-caller really comes close to McSorley’s résumé or consistency. Even if he’s not in mock drafts, he deserves to be on every preseason awards list/All-America team.
If you still can’t get behind the idea of McSorley as the nation’s best returning quarterback, I’ve got nothing left for you. You’ll see what McSorley does in 2018 and come to a realization by season’s end.
Your take was ridiculous at best and asinine at worst.