Trace McSorley was one of the most successful and productive quarterbacks in Virginia high school history, but that did not make him a blue-chip recruit.
McSorley was rated the No. 41 quarterback in the nation in the Class of 2014, per the 247Sports composite rankings. His best offer to play quarterback for much of the recruiting process was Vanderbilt, but others like Penn State, N.C. State and Wake Forest came in late and he chose to follow ex-Vanderbilt coach James Franklin to Happy Valley.
After waiting for two years, McSorley is now the starter for Penn State. After some early struggles this past Saturday against Pitt, McSorley had an excellent second half and nearly helped the Nittany Lions to a dramatic comeback victory.
He completed 24 of 35 passes for 332 yards, one touchdown and one costly interception in the end zone on a potential game-winning drive. After two games, McSorley has shown promise but also some inconsistency. His fumbling problems are in part because of poor pass protection, but he will need to get better at anticipating and avoiding oncoming pass rushers.
Through two games, McSorley is 40 of 66 passing (60.6 percent) for 541 yards, with three TD passes and one interception. He has a 141.43 passer rating and he’s run the ball for 30 yards on 20 carries.
So what are those 40 quarterbacks who were ranked ahead of McSorley up to? For many of them, the answer is not much.
Here’s a look at the top 40 quarterbacks from the Class of 2014:
1. Kyle Allen, Texas A&M
2016: Transfer year
Skinny: Allen began 2015 as the starter for the Aggies after Kenny Hill transferred to TCU, but lost the job to freshman Kyler Murray. Both Allen (Houston) and Murray (Oklahoma) ended up transferring as well.
2. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
2016 numbers: 46-for-87 (52.9%), 540 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INT, 113.28 rating; 21 carries, 76 yards
Skinny: Watson was a Heisman Trophy finalist as a sophomore in 2015, and is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He, and the rest of the Tigers offense, struggled against Auburn and then more surprisingly against Troy.
3. Will Grier, Florida
2016: Transfer year/suspended
Skinny: Grier looked like a burgeoning star for the Gators after leading them to a 6-0 start last season, but he was suspended for a year because of performance-enhancing drugs. He transferred to West Virginia, and hopes to have his suspension reduced so he can play at the start of the 2017 season. If it’s not, he’ll miss the first six games.
4. Keller Chryst, Stanford
2016 numbers: 1-for-1, 11 yards
Skinny: Chryst was expected to win the starting job this season after Kevin Hogan graduated, but senior Ryan Burns — who played a few miles from McSorley in high school — beat him out. Chryst has thrown 10 passes in his college career.
5. Jerrod Heard, Texas
2016 numbers: 8 catches, 119 yards, 2 TDs as a receiver
Skinny: Heard split time at quarterback with Tyrone Swoopes in 2015. Both struggled, though Heard slightly less so than Swoopes. Heard moved to wide receiver this season, and freshman Shane Buechele appears to be the present and future at the position for the Longhorns.
6. Brandon Harris, LSU
2016 numbers: 13-for-25 (52 percent), 139 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 95.9 rating; 4 carries, negative-15 yards
Skinny: Harris was OK for much of last season, and then flopped near the end of the year in losses to Alabama, Ole Miss and Arkansas. One of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks, he’s an odd fit in LSU’s offense and though the Tigers said there would be tactical changes in 2016, it looked like more of the same in a loss to Wisconsin. He was benched during the team’s second game. replaced by Purdue graduate transfer Danny Etling.
7. David Cornwell, Alabama
2016 numbers: None
Skinny: Cornwell has yet to throw a pass in college. Three quarterbacks have played for Alabama so far this year, but he hasn’t. The Crimson Tide have a true freshman playing and two 4-star commits in the Class of 2017. Cornwell is going to have to transfer if he wants to play.
8. Jacob Park, Georgia
2016 numbers: 6-for-15 (40%), 79 yards; 3 carries, 19 yards
Skinny: Park never played at Georgia, and spent the 2015 season not playing football at Trident Technical College. He was going to spend 2016 at a junior college, but ended up at Iowa State instead. He’s currently No. 2 on the depth chart for the Cyclones.
9. Drew Barker, Kentucky
2016 numbers: 17-for-34 (50%), 333 yards, 4 TDs, 4 INT, 147.56 rating; 13 carries, negative-24 yards
Skinny: Barker completed two passes to Kentucky players this past weekend and three passes to Florida players in a 45-7 rout, and has thrown for 46 yards in the past six quarters. The Wildcats have been outscored 72-7 in that span.
10. Brad Kaaya, Miami
2016 numbers: 29-for-49 (59.2%), 326 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INT, 133.85 rating; 3 carries, negative-5 yards
Skinny: Think the NCAA quarterback rating is a flawed statistic? Look at the lines for Barker and Kaaya and try to make sense of that. Kaaya is a three-year starter with 46 career touchdown passes. He’s definitely a potential first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
11. Sean White, Auburn
2016 numbers: 27-for-44 (61.4%), 384 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 152.62 rating; 14 carries, 58 yards
Skinny: After so much was made about the quarterback competition — and Gus Malzahn’s bizarre rotation in the opener against Clemson — White has thrown 44 of Auburn’s 53 passes through two games and appears, for now, to be the starter. We’ll see if he can keep the job.
12. Justice Hansen, Oklahoma
2016 numbers: 4-for-10 (40%), 45 yards; 1 carry, negative-6 yards
Skinny: Hansen left Oklahoma after his redshirt freshman season and spent last year at a junior college. He transferred to Arkansas State, and is now No. 2 on the depth chart behind Chad Voytik, who is a graduate transfer from Pitt and showed up this summer after originally saying he was going to Eastern Kentucky. Follow all of that?
13. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
2016 numbers: 32-for-63 (50.8%), 387 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 107.63 rating; 17 carries, 22 yards
Skinny: Thorson was 105th in passing yards last season and threw more interceptions (9) than touchdowns (7). He also went 10-3 as the starting quarterback. Of course, he threw for less than 100 yards in four of those wins, which is incredible for a team that does not run the triple option. He’s off to a pretty rough start in 2016, and his team has lost to a MAC school and an FCS school.
14. Caleb Henderson, North Carolina
2016: Transfer year
Skinny: Henderson played at a Northern Virginia high school and was the No. 1-rated quarterback in the state. He threw one pass as a redshirt freshman in 2015, and is transferring to Maryland. He’ll battle with current freshman Tyrell Pigrome and potentially 2017 commit Kasim Hill, who is a 4-star prospect, for the starting job with the Terps next year.
15. K.J. Carta-Samuels, Washington
2016 numbers: 6-for-7 (85.7%), 64 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT
Skinny: Carta-Samuels was also committed to Vanderbilt when James Franklin was the coach, but also de-committed and went elsewhere at about the same time as McSorley. True freshman Jake Browning beat him out for the starting job last season, and he’s No. 2 on the depth chart again in 2016.
16. Morgan Mahalak, Oregon
2016 numbers: 20-for-41 (48.8%), 223 yards, 0 TD, 1INT; 12 carries, 18 yards
Skinny: Mahalak never played in two seasons for the Ducks, and left the program in February. He ended up at Towson, which is an FCS school. His first start was against South Florida, and backup Ellis Knudson got the majority of the playing time in Week 2 against St. Francis (Pa.).
17. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
2016: 30-for-42 (71.4%), 371 yards, 7 TDs, 1 INT; 23 carries, 112 yards, 2 TDs
Skinny: Kizer did not start the opener against Texas, but the job is his now. He’s the third guy on this list who looks like a future NFL first-round pick. It’s worth noting that Notre Dame’s No. 3 quarterback is Brandon Wimbush, who was once committed to Penn State but flipped to the Fighting Irish. If Kizer leaves for the NFL and Malik Zaire decides to go the graduate transfer route, it could be Wimbush’s turn in 2017.
18. J.J. Cosentino, Florida State
2016 numbers: 1-for-3, 7 yards
Skinny: Currently No. 2 on the depth chart, but likely to be No. 3 when veteran Sean Maguire returns from an injury. There’s also true freshman Malik Henry, and 2017 commit Bailey Hockman, a 4-star prospect. Put Cosentino on the list of potential transfers as well.
19. Michael O’Connor, Penn State
Skinny: Hey, there’s an old friend. O’Connor left the program after redshirting in 2014. He went home to Canada and helped the University of British Columbia win the Vanier Cup, or the Canadian college national championship. He’s thrown 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in three games for UBC this season.
20. Jalan McClendon, N.C. State
2016 numbers: 6-for-9 (66.7%), 88 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT; 6 carries, 5 yards
Skinny: Had McSorley flipped to N.C. State, he’d be classmates with McClendon, who is the Wolfpack backup to Boise State transfer Ryan Finley.
21. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
2016 numbers: 45-for-68 (66.2%), 477 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 141.58 rating; 13 carries, negative-29 yards
Skinny: Started 10-0 last season, then lost to Baylor, got hurt against Oklahoma and came back for the bowl game but the Cowboys were crushed by Ole Miss. He’s been very productive since taking over as the starter late in his freshman season in 2014. Should be 2-0, but the officials botched the end of Oklahoma State’s game this past Saturday.
22. Manny Wilkins, Arizona State
2016 numbers: 48-for-64 (75%), 531 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 151.87 rating; 24 carries, 144 yards, 1 TD
Skinny: Wilkins saw action in four games last year, but didn’t throw a pass until 2016. He and the rest of the Sun Devils enjoyed an evening shredding Texas Tech’s terrible defense this past week. There’s still plenty to learn about Wilkins and Arizona State this season.
23. D.J. Gillins, Wisconsin
2016: Junior college
Skinny: Played some at wide receiver during his redshirt freshman season in 2015, then decided he wants to still try this whole quarterback thing. Currently the No. 1-rated dual-threat junior college prospect in the Class of 2017, he reportedly doesn’t have any offers from Power 5 schools. Junior college recruiting is quirky though, and that could definitely change when some schools miss out on other targets.
24. Travon McMillian, Virginia Tech
2016 numbers: 27 carries, 166 yards, 1 TD, 1 catch, 9 yards at running back
Skinny: McMillian was also a Northern Virginia quarterback, and the No. 2-rated prospect in the state at the position. He moved to running back, and is now the Hokies’ starter. He’s never thrown a pass in college, but it certainly remains possible depending on what trick plays new coach Justin Fuente wants to deploy.
25. Foster Sawyer, TCU
Skinny: Threw 27 passes as the No. 3 quarterback behind two seniors in 2015, but transfers often end up impacting players at multiple schools. Kenny Hill left Texas A&M for TCU, and Sawyer is still waiting for his chance with the Horned Frogs. The Hill transfer has affected the quarterback situation for at least five schools (Texas A&M, TCU, Houston, Oklahoma, Texas).
26. Quinton Flowers, South Florida
2016 numbers: 29-of-51 (56.9%), 528 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 178.73 rating; 20 carries, 99 yards, 2 TDs
Skinny: A bunch of Power 5 schools would like to have Flowers, who wasn’t exactly hidden in high school at Miami Jackson. Another player who left Penn State, Steven Bench, transferred to South Florida and sat behind Flowers in 2015 after playing some the year before.
27. Chris Durkin, Virginia Tech
Skinny: Durkin is the second quarterback on this list that Virginia Tech, one of McSorley’s home-state schools, took in this class and eventually moved to a new position. He is now a tight end, but has no catches in 2016. He did run the ball four times in mop-up duty as a reserve quarterback last year.
28. Rafe Peavey, Arkansas
2016: Transfer year
Skinny: Peavey was in a crowded quarterback battle to replace Brandon Allen, and when he didn’t win it, he announced a transfer to SMU. He did not attempt a pass at Arkansas. Matt Davis is a senior for the Mustangs, so Peavey has that going for him in 2017.
29. William Crest, West Virginia
2016 numbers: 4 carries, 10 yards
Skinny: Crest played some as a reserve quarterback and wide receiver in 2015. He’s listed on the roster now as a backup quarterback/running back. He’s thrown 29 passes and attempted 29 rushes in his college career, but seems likely to do more running than throwing moving forward, unless he, wait for it, transfers.
30. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
2016: 68-for-96 (70.8%), 1,023 yards, 9 TDs, 2 INT, 187.11 rating; 21 carries, 103 yards, 2 TDs
Skinny: Mahomes leads the nation in passing yards per game. He’s not a “system quarterback,” if that term still exists in the pass-happy world of college football. The guy who is second, California’s Davis Webb, transferred from Texas Tech because of Mahomes. He’s also replacing the guy who went No. 1 in the 2016 NFL Draft, Jared Goff.
31. Reggie Bonnafon, Louisville
2016 numbers: 2 catches 33 yards, 1 TD; 1 carry, negative-8 yards as receiver
Skinny: Played quarterback as a freshman and part of the year as a sophomore, but he’s a wide receiver now with Lamar Jackson posting absurd numbers for the Cardinals. He’s a great athlete and should be a key figure for the Louisville passing game this season.
32. Will Ulmer, Maryland
Skinny: Ulmer left Maryland, went to a junior college and is now at UAB as a wide receiver. The Blazers aren’t playing games this season, but will return in 2017.
33. Zach Darlington, Nebraska
Skinny: Didn’t play in two years as a quarterback for Nebraska, and is now a reserve wide receiver.
34. Wilton Speight, Michigan
2016 numbers: 35-for-50 (70%), 457 yards, 7 TDs, 1 INT, 188.98 rating; 2 carries, negative-12 yards
Skinny: A Richmond kid, Speight was the No. 3 quarterback from the state of Virginia. He saw minimal duty last year behind graduate transfer Jake Rudock, but beat out graduate transfer John O’Korn for the job in 2016. Through two games, he looks great against clearly inferior competition. He’s certainly got a coaching staff, led by Jim Harbaugh, capable of developing him into whatever his ceiling as a prospect is. It looks like he’ll have to deal with competition from one of the top quarterbacks in the 2017 next season if commit Dylan McCaffrey does indeed sign with the Wolverines.
35. Tyler Wiegers, Iowa
Skinny: Threw four passes in 2015 as a reserve behind C.J. Beathard. He’s listed at No. 2 on the depth chart, but freshman Nathan Stanley has thrown the only three passes by someone other than Beathard to this point.
36. Tyler Harris, Central Florida
Skinny: Harris threw 61 passes in six games last season, but isn’t on the two-deep at quarterback for the Knights at the start of 2016 with new coach Scott Frost. The top two guys are seniors, so maybe there is hope for future playing time.
37. Jalen Greene, Southern California
2016 numbers: 1 catch, 15 yards as a receiver
Skinny: Another guy who came to campus as a quarterback but is now playing another position. He caught 10 passes last season. Greene had more than 9,300 total yards and accounted for 98 touchdowns as a dual-threat high school quarterback at Serra High School, a Los Angeles-area powerhouse.
38. Chance Stewart, Western Michigan
2016: Junior college
Skinny: P.J. Fleck has recruited a bunch of players that should have ended up at Big Ten schools based on their recruiting ranking. Stewart was one of them, but he couldn’t get on the field because of Zach Terrell. He was once committed to Wisconsin before flipping to Western Michigan.
39. David Blough, Purdue
2016 numbers: 57-for-100 (57%), 646 yards, 3 TDs, 6 INT, 109.16 rating; 7 carries, 51 yards, 2 TDs
Skinny: He’s about 6 feet and he’s from Texas. The over/under on times he is compared to Drew Brees during a Purdue game should always be set at 2.5 or higher. Will the Boilermakers keep him healthy, and find some players to help him out over the next year or two?
40. Brandon Dawkins, Arizona
2016: 15-for-29 (51.7%), 223 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT; 16 carries, 97 yards, 2 TDs
Skinny: Dawkins was going to spend the season as the No. 2 quarterback behind Anu Solomon, but the incumbent has been dealing with a knee injury so they have split time so far.
Overview of the list of 40
The final count is 11 players who have already transferred — plus several more who could before next season— plus seven ex-quarterbacks trying to contribute at a different position for the school they signed with.
There are 12 — or 13 depending on the LSU situation— starting quarterbacks in this group, and only two have thrown for more yards than McSorley in 2016.