Justin Fields the key to Penn State’s recruiting class, potential offensive wrinkles, and more
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Mike Gross of LNP Media Group writes about the importance of 5-star quarterback Justin Fields to Penn State’s 2018 recruiting class, which in the wake of the de-commitment of defensive end Micah Parsons has slipped from first in the country to third, behind Miami and LSU.
There’s a long way to go, Gross points out, but at least the Lions have enough offensive guys in this class to keep Fields happy — guys such as running back Ricky Slade, offensive tackle Nana Asiedu, tight ends Pat Freiermuth and Zack Kuntz, and wide receiver Justin Shorter.
The other thing is, the Lions got in early on Fields, a 6-foot-3, 221-pound Georgian who has been compared to Deshaun Watson and Cam Newton. Now other high-profile programs are on the scent, such as Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Oregon, Texas, Auburn, USC and Baylor.
Not without reason, according to what PSU linebacker commit Jesse Luketa told the Land of 10’s Tyler Donohue:
“Even though he’s a 5-star recruit, I’m still not sure people fully understand what Justin brings to the table. He’s one of the most athletic individuals I’ve ever seen.”
Should Fields stick to his commitment — again, we’re nine months from signing day — it sets up a potentially interesting QB scenario in 2019, assuming Trace McSorley plays out his final two years of eligibility.
That fall, Tommy Stevens — McSorley’s backup and a guy who has shown potential in his brief appearances — would have one year left. Sean Clifford, a 2017 recruit who figures to redshirt this season, would have three.
And Fields would likely be coming off a redshirt season.
A transfer or two could alter that picture. So, too, could the development of Jake Zembiec, who redshirted last season. But James Franklin might have to make a tough decision in 2019 — at least as tough as the one Fields will have to make over the next nine months.
Speaking of Stevens, Mike Poorman of Statecollege.com wonders whether Franklin and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead would consider using him in tandem with McSorley this season.
Putting multiple quarterbacks on the field is not unheard of. Princeton offensive coordinator James Perry has been doing it for years, most recently with Chad Kanoff and John Lovett (and occasionally a third QB). As Lovett said in the fall of 2015:
“Coach Perry’s philosophy is that the best 11 players will play. If that happens to be multiple quarterbacks, then there will be personnel packages where multiple quarterbacks will be on the field. If that happens to be multiple running backs, receivers, tight ends — whatever the case may be — he will adjust his personnel packages to the way people are performing at a given time.”
Kanoff threw for 1,741 yards with 6 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 2016. Lovett, the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year, was the Tigers’ third-leading rusher (411 yards, 20 TDs) and fourth-leading receiver (26-235, 1 TD) while completing 66.2 percent of his passes for 582 yards and 10 scores. He was picked off twice.
In that 2015 interview, he had no problem being labeled “Slash-Plus,” a reference to Kordell Stewart, a multi-tasking Pittsburgh Steelers player years ago. And of the role (or roles), he said:
“It’s a blast to go out there and be asked to do multiple things, and to be having success at it currently. Anything I can do to help the team win is always fun.”
It’s a role that would seemingly fit Stevens. He finished as the Lions’ third-leading rusher in 2016, and showed in the Blue-White Game that he can chuck it, too.
There are questions about whether you would want to put both your QBs in harm’s way, but strategically using both makes sense.
Chambers: ‘We just have to break through’
The PSU men’s basketball team last made the NCAA Tournament in 2011, one of just nine appearances in the program’s history.
Mark Brennan of Fight on State asked coach Pat Chambers, who hasn’t even led Penn State to the NIT in his seven seasons on the job, how critical it is for the Lions to reach NCAAs next season. Chambers said:
“I wouldn’t say it’s a huge step. I mean, we finally have consistency. … Now we just have to break through.”
The Lions, 15-18 last season, have a young, promising nucleus headed by point guard Tony Carr and forward Lamar Stevens. Chambers told Brennan and a few other reporters that he is “gonna have so much fun,” and doesn’t feel any outside pressure:
“I put the pressure on myself to be successful. I have a vision for this place. Is it taking a little longer than I was hoping? Yeah, it is. But we have to stick to the plan. And the plan is coming together. I feel like all of the pieces are coming together, as well.”