In the wake of the Chad Henne spurning of Penn State in favor of Michigan, I thought it might make sense to look at some facts, and myths, regarding Penn State and the QB position.
Here is a sampling of some of the things I see posted on the internet these
"Penn State will never be able to recruit a bigtime QB." "Penn State
can't develop QB's for the NFL." "Penn State is finished this year
with QB recruiting, they'll never get anyone any good now."
I could go on, but you get the picture. Their is a sizable contingent
of fans that are dissatisfied with our QB recruiting and development, and
they are speaking out in not so kind fashion. But do the facts support
Maybe in some ways they do, but in other ways they do not. Let's take
a look at some history.
In 2000 and 2001 Penn State suffered two losing seasons. Except for
the 1988 season, the 2000 and 2001 years are the only losing years at Penn
State since the 1930's era when we did not offer scholarships.
Thinks about that for a second. From 1938 to 1999 Penn State fielded
62 football teams and every single one of them except that 1988 played winning
During the Paterno era, the 1988 football squad was his only losing squad
thru the 1999 season, a span of 35 seasons. Not only that, all but
three of those teams since 1967 won at least twice as many games as they
lost. Let me state that again - in that 33 year time span between 1967
and 1999, 30 teams won twice the number of games, or more, than they lost
and only one team had a losing record.
How do you do this without good play from the QB spot? You can't.
Since 1967 Penn State has had 5 unbeaten teams. Since 1967 Penn State
has had 10 teams that lost once or less, 18 times we lost two or fewer times,
and 26 times over 33 years we lost three or fewer times.
I'll say this again, how do you do this without good QB play? I don't
think you can. You don't need Joe Montana to win football games at
this level and you never did. Sure, it helps to have a bigtime gunslinger,
but you are not destined to failure without one.
In looking at the past 37 years of the Joe Paterno era, I wanted to see how
many times I could pinpoint the QB spot as being a big part of the reason
we had a bad year. To do that, I had to think of how many bad years
we have had, and there haven't been many.
In 1976 we went 7-5, in 1984 we went 6-5, in 1988 we went 5-6, in 1992 it
was a 7-5 record, and then we have 2000 and 2001. So how many times
can you look at Penn State and say the QB spot had to bear a big part in
our poor year?
In 1976 we had a young Chuck Fusina at QB. He'd finish two years later
as a runner up for the Heisman Trophy and winner of the Maxwell Award as
the nations premier player before going on to play several years as a star
of the now defunct World League. In hindsight, it seems like a pretty
good idea to have played in 1976.
In 1988 we entered the year with back up QB's Doug Sieg and Lance Lonergan
already injured, and then when starter Tom Bill went down in game three against
Rutgers things got desperate. For the first time in the Paterno era
he had to go to a true freshman, Tony Sacca. But keep in mind, it took
three injuries for that to happen, and you can't blame that on the coaches.
In 1992 we had John Sacca, Kerry Collins and Matt Nardolillo. Collins
was the least highly rated of the three coming out of high school. No,
our problems in 1992 had nothing to do with the QB spot. That was a
team chemistry issue that has been chronicled many times over.
That brings us to 2000 and to Rashard Casey, but he was SuperPrep's #3 rated
QB in the country coming out of high school. Casey came in very highly rated,
so it couldn't be that year.
Then you have 2001 and Matt Seneca and Zack Mills. The fans basically
railed Seneca out of town, and yes he struggled during his tenure at Penn
State, but Penn State had plenty of other troubles in 2001 like continued
injury and chemistry along the offensive line.
And didn't we do exactly as the fans wanted when we went after a star high
school QB in Chris Simms, the kid who was supposed to be our starter that
year? You bet. He did the same thing Chad Henne did, he led the staff to
think he would commit to Penn State only to choose another school.
This just goes to show you that, one, Penn State has a lot of success over
the years, and two, blaming the QB spot for any lack of wins seems short
It's true that Penn State has historically been much more of running team
than a passing team. That's not news. But what some fans tend
to forget in their angst over losing yet another prized QB recruit is that
we have played a very good brand of football for 70 years.
Has Penn State sent QB's to the next level when they had the talent?
Sure. Chuck Fusina, Todd Blackledge, Tony Sacca, and Kerry Collins
and Wally Richardson were all drafted in the NFL draft. Let me say
that again - Chuck Fusina, Todd Blackledge, Tony Sacca, and Kerry Collins
and Wally Richardson were all drafted in the NFL draft.
Mike McQueary got a short term free agent try out as did Rashard Casey. Chris
Simms was also drafted, just not out of the Penn State school he spurned.
Will Zack Mills get drafted someday? If he's healthy, he's a lock to
get drafted. Michael Robinson will also probably get drafted, even
if not to play QB.
Are we going to be completely locked out from getting a QB this year? I
can't answer that question, but if you look to the quotes that Steve Curry
just took from Greg Morelli, the father of current QB recruit Anthony Morelli,
you can see that high end recruits are aware of the fact that a golden situation
exists at Penn State right now.
Add to Mr. Morelli's comments the fact that Feb. 2005 prospect/recruit Gene
DelleDonne likes Penn State very much and you have to figure that sooner
or later he or someone else is eventually going to jump on it.
And what about those bigtime QB's that have spurned Penn State?
Danny Kendra committed to Penn State in January of 1995 only to back out
of that commitment two weeks later to go to Florida State. Florida
State subsequently turned Kendra, the top high school QB in the country in
the fall of 1994, into a back up QB who would eventually be exposed to full
contact in practice where he blew his knee out in their spring game in 1998.
Dan Kendra would eventually be switched to fullback before leaving FSU having
never taken a meaningful snap at QB.
Chris Simms reneged on his promise to come to Penn State too. He would
then commit to Tennessee before bailing out on them too before ultimately
picking Texas. Simms was thought to be the top QB in high school coming out
years ago. Mack Brown took him and turned him into the last pick in
the 3rd round of the most recent NFL draft. Not exactly the big money signing
bonus type was he? He was drafted into the league, but I have a hard
time believing he could have done worse for himself at Penn State.
Then there is Jeff Smoker. Penn State fans howled when the staff offered
three kids his year and two of them actually committed to Penn State before
he did. What happened to him?
Nick Saban, the guy who convinced Jeff to come to East Lansing subsequently
bailed out on Smoker before he ever showed up at Michigan State. He
told Smoker he was going to be his coach at MSU and then turned right around
and took the head job at LSU. Smoker, despite having the best WR in
all of college football the past three years, has a losing record as the
starting QB at Michigan State. He's suffered thru a substance abuse
problem and is hoping to somehow resurrect his career in what amounts to
a last chance opportunity. You think he couldn't have benefited from
Coach Paterno's guidance these past 4 years?
Penn State lost Jeff Smoker but somehow managed to do OK in the QB department.
Zack Mills broke the freshman passing record here at Penn State while
starting only half the games in 2000, then, despite a shoulder injury last
year, broke the sophomore season passing record here at Penn State as well.
He's been pretty impressive I'd say.
So Penn State plays winning football, they do send QB's who are good enough
to the next level, and recruits do know that we have a good situation for
them here right now.
Top this all off with the knowledge that we have many very good football
players here right now and it should give even the most pessimistic fan something
to feel good about as we enter the beginning of this football season and
the stretch run of our current recruiting efforts.