Penn State's Franklin On Naming His Starting QB

The Nittany Lions have tabbed Trace McSorley as their first-team quarterback. The head coach goes into detail on the decision.

Have you decided who your starting quarterback is?

Shocker. No wonder there is such a big group (of media) today.

We have decided. I thought it would be interesting if we made this decision and you guys wouldn’t ask this week. Trace McSorley will be our starting quarterback. Now everybody is going to stop listening to me and start tweeting. I get that. Trace will be our starting quarterback. I know a lot of people thought that decision was made during spring ball. It wasn’t. 

I thought Tommy had a really, really good camp. Really improved. It really kind of played out the way we thought it would play out. Give him an opportunity to compete for the starting position. Give him an opportunity to close the gap. And he did that. So we’ve got two quarterbacks that we have a lot of confidence in, but Trace McSorley earned the job. So we’re excited. We’re excited with what he brings to our offense.

 What did he do to set himself apart James?

I think the biggest thing, and Tommy asked the same question, I think the biggest thing is he’s been the backup quarterback for two years. He has game experience in the bowl game. And there’s value in that. There really is. You’ve been able to see it already. You’re not projecting as much. So that’s probably, that and everything else, we kept all of the statistics and the statistics were pretty even, to be honest with you. 

It’s how he went about meetings, it’s how he went about practice. It wasn’t one thing. And Tommy asked the same thing, what one thing. And it’s not one thing. And I understand from his perspective he’d like to know what that one thing is so he can work on that one thing. But it’s really not. It’s a combination of factors. It was spring practice, it was meetings, it was the bowl game, it was about being the backup quarterback for two years. It was everything. … It was the whole picture. But it was legitimately a difficult decision because Tommy did such a good job with it. 

So obviously when we delivered the news Trace was excited and Tommy was disappointed. But like Tommy does with everything else, (he) let it marinate for a day and then came in the next day and met with me. He wanted to know what his role was, and wants to do the best job he can in that role to support the team. We’ve been blessed (with) how both of those guys have handled it all along.

When was this decision made and how did you go about telling them?

We planned on waiting until Saturday and having a scrimmage and doing it after that. I think we ended up doing it maybe yesterday morning. We sat down and talked about it, me and Joe (Moorhead). What I had told the quarterbacks and the staff, like all things, this was going to be Joe’s decision, unless I felt like it was the wrong decision. … The coordinators, I’m gonna let them do their jobs, and I want Joe to make the decision. And I was gonna go along with that decision unless I felt strongly like it wasn’t the right decision. 

So we sat down, me and Joe, and discussed it in detail. Joe did the same thing with the offensive staff. And then we made this decision and communicated with the quarterbacks the next day.

What are examples of the things you have seen out of Trace that lead you to believe he’s ready for this mentally?

All the things we’ve talked about. He’s been the backup quarterback for two years. So we’ve had a lot of opportunities to watch how he prepares and how he handles himself. Talked to the strength staff and the players about how they were in the summer when the coaches weren’t around and how he carried himself and conducted himself. 

It’s everything. It’s not really one thing. And because the statistics were so close, it really ended up being a gut decision. It wasn’t one factor. It was trusting your gut, because everything else was very similar.

Do you plan to play both?

No. You’d always like to have one quarterback, and we don’t want him peeking over his shoulder. No different than … a lot of positions — you’d love to be in a position where you can get (the backup) some valuable experience, which really Trace wasn’t able to get until the bowl game. You’d like for (the backup) to get some experience if the game allows you to do that. We’ll see. But we’re gonna try not to have a two-quarterback system while I’m here. In the future, you never know. There could be a situation where that plays itself out that way. But I think in an ideal world you’d like to have one quarterback.


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