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Our latest Penn State Nittany Lions Recruiting Question of the Day comes from Ronny Walters on Facebook.
It seems like an opportune time to put this question into focus. I spent Sunday at New York Jets practice facilities, observing Penn State quarterback commit Taquan Roberson and dozens of other future Power 5 players at The Opening’s Northeast regional camp.
Roberson, a 6-foot, 194-pound prospect, verbally pledged to the Nittany Lions on Oct. 26, only a few days after he attended Penn State’s victory over Michigan. The DePaul Catholic (Wayne, N.J.) High School junior remains the most recent commitment in a 2019 Nittany Lions recruiting class that also includes local State College cornerback Keaton Ellis.
Roberson went on to lead DePaul to a state championship, capping off his first full season as a varsity starter in grand fashion.
Ronny’s question — asked during our weekly Penn State football recruiting show on Facebook Live (8 p.m. Wednesdays here) — is two-part proposal. Allow me to address the 5-star inquiry first.
The 2019 quarterback class doesn’t currently feature a 5-star prospect in 247Sports composite rankings. Oklahoma commit Spencer Rattler is listed 34th overall, leading all players at the position but still trailing four other 4-star recruits.
Only four quarterbacks are ranked among the top 100 overall prospects in this cycle, which strongly indicates this is a “down year” in terms of elite talent. Trevor Lawrence (Clemson signee) and Justin Fields (Georgia signee) were listed No. 1 and No. 2 overall, respectively, in the 2018 class.
Fields was the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback. The No. 1 recruit in that category for 2019, according to composite rankings, is Auburn pledge Bo Nix (No. 78).
Roberson lands at No. 11 among dual-threat prospects, though a rise could await this offseason. He expressed confidence in his progression Sunday after the camp session, especially when asked to assess his development since receiving a Penn State offer last July.
“I’m definitely better,” Roberson said. “As I’ve gained more experience, the game has slowed down and my ability to read defenses has improved.”
Roberson consistently led the line in drills, alongside Penn State target Taisun Phommachanh (Avon, Conn.). He was among the event’s most accurate passers and maintained a quality level of velocity during a lengthy camp. The Opening staff ultimately awarded positional MVP honors to Maasai Maynor of St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, N.J.).
Quarterbacks of Roberson’s physical stature rarely reach 5-star status, largely because evaluators who determine these ratings routinely evaluate recruits based on NFL criteria. Look around the league, season after season, and you’ll have a difficult time identifying passers who stand 6-foot or shorter.
It remains to be seen if Roberson has another growth spurt, but those searching for an example of “undersized” quarterbacks making a major impact don’t need to look beyond Happy Valley.
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, who will enter his senior season as the owner of nearly every meaningful program passing record, is listed at 6-foot, 198 pounds. That’s practically identical to Roberson’s present build, and McSorley was nearly 20 pounds lighter as a high school prospect.
That’s not where the parallels end between these two, as I noted last season in a post-commitment evaluation of Roberson:
Roberson, now in full command as DePaul’s starter, is competing with a lot of confidence this season. He reads and reacts with fluidity, displaying an assertive mentality that too often evades prep quarterbacks. Pair Roberson in the backfield with another elusive rusher, such as elite 2018 Nittany Lions running back commit Ricky Slade, and defensive strategists will have a difficult time preparing for those possibilities.
Ultimately, I see significant and legitimate similarities to McSorley, far more so than when reviewing the high school film of [2018 signee Will] Levis or Penn State freshman Sean Clifford. Roberson is probably the more dynamic rusher, though McSorley has showcased an impressive set of wheels during key moments of his college career.
Roberson, who visited Happy Valley last Monday, will return to campus April 21 for the Blue-White Game. He completed 67 percent of pass attempts in 2017, totaling 3,039 yards, 34 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions during a state title run.
Expect more content on Roberson, including insight from the Elite 11 coaching staff, on Land of 10 in the near future.
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