Penn State has only played one true quarterback so far this season, albeit a good one in Christian Hackenberg. The sophomore leads the Big Ten in passing yardage (360.7 per game) after guiding the Nittany Lions to a 3-0 start.
If first-year coach James Franklin has his way, Hackenberg will be carrying virtually the entire load the rest of the way in 2014. After practice Wednesday, Franklin said the staff is still hoping to redshirt second-teamer Trace McSorley, a true freshman.
The third-teamer is Michael O'Connor, another true frosh. He appears to be ticketed for a redshirt, too.
The fourth-teamer is walk-on redshirt freshman D.J. Crook.
If we have to play a second quarterback to win the game, at this point it will be Trace McSorley, Franklin said. If it is the end of the game to clean up and finish the game, then that will be D.J. Crook.
Franklin also said, We will not play Trace if it's mop-up duty. Crook would go in in that situation.
Franklin was asked directly if the idea is to redshirt McSorley.
Correct, he answered.
This could be a tricky balancing act for Franklin and company. With a rebuilt offensive line, opponents have quickly discovered that pressuring the talented Hackenberg is a key to controlling the PSU offense. The starter was sacked five times and hit many others as the Lions eked out a 13-10 win at Rutgers last Saturday.
If Franklin sticks to this plan, and plays neither McSorley nor O'Connor provided Hackenberg stays healthy, neither will have taken a collegiate snap if called upon should Hackenberg go down.
O'Connor enrolled at Penn State in January and had the benefit of a spring practice. McSorley enrolled in late June, and made a rapid move up the depth chart in part because he grasped the playbook quickly and in part because he brings more mobility to the position than any of the other reserves.
Crook has manned the foreign team the last two seasons. In the Blue-White Game last spring, he completed 10 of 17 passes for 68 yards.