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Spring game star Tommy Stevens: Watch closely, QB recruits
While searching the Penn State roster for compelling position battles, focus shifts away from quarterback. Redshirt junior and returning starter Trace McSorley accounted for 3,979 offensive yards and 36 total touchdowns in 2016, capping off a breakout campaign with 5 scores in the Rose Bowl.
Yet, regardless of elevated expectations for McSorley, every football team is always one injury away from turning to its No. 2 option. In the Nittany Lions’ case, redshirt sophomore Tommy Stevens solidified himself as the backup with a strong spring camp and seized a larger spotlight Saturday.
Stevens collected 216 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air in the spring game, earning offensive MVP honors and a swarm of reporters around his chair in the postgame media room.
— James Franklin (@coachjfranklin) April 26, 2017
After fielding several questions about his impressive effort and overall offensive growth, Stevens shifted gears with Land of 10. He took a moment to consider what a young passer could learn from witnessing his experience thus far.
Penn State hosted its 2017 signees and 2018 commitments on campus Saturday, enabling two aspiring collegiate quarterbacks a chance to observe. Sean Clifford, a 4-star senior at St. Xavier (Cincinnati) High School, will enroll this summer. Justin Fields, a 247Sports 5-star recruit from Harrison (Georgia) High School, is the top-ranked commit in head coach James Franklin’s 2018 class.
Both players will complete their prep careers as Elite 11 finalists. Considering the quarterback depth chart is murky behind Stevens — something Franklin alluded to during Saturday’s postgame news conference — fairly early opportunities may await in Happy Valley.
Stevens pointed to team structure as a core aspect of each quarterback’s transition from high school to college.
“I think it would be important for them just to see how things are [run] for the system and see how we do things,” he said. “Not just from an X’s and O’s standpoint but just from cheering each other on and helping each other get better.”
Clifford is in line to compete for the No. 3 job at best as a true freshman. Fields — despite his status as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback prospect in 247Sports’ composite rankings — may encounter a situation that still features McSorley and Stevens sitting atop Penn State’s pecking order.
Stevens surely understands the necessity for patience while waiting to shine. In the meantime, he maintains there are things a quarterback can do to make sure they are fully prepared when an opportunity presents itself.
“If I could give them any kind of advice, I’d say take some of the things that we do well — take that back to your high school team — and ultimately help [your team] out,” Stevens said. “Then when you get here, be ready to work.”
4-star WR, spring game visitor Shaquon Anderson-Butts receives offer from ‘childhood favorite’
The Nittany Lions currently carry three blue-chip pass catchers in the 2018 recruiting class, though two of them are tight ends. Thus, receiver will remain a priority as Penn State fills its available scholarship slots this cycle.
Possibilities include out-of-state prospects such as Jahan Dotson (N.J.), Daniel George (Md.) and Nittany Lions legacy Solomon Enis (Ariz.). Another option can be found on home turf in the form of Harrisburg High School standout Shaquon Anderson-Butts.
Considered a 4-star talent and top-10 Pennsylvania prospect in the composite rankings, the 6-foot, 193-pound playmaker attended Penn State’s spring game. He took in the atmosphere alongside Harrisburg teammate Micah Parsons, a 5-star defensive end who de-committed from the Nittany Lions on Sunday night.
Given this wrinkle in his recruitment, Anderson-Butts warrants extra attention.
He is projected to become a Penn State pledge by 100 percent of experts’ predictions in the 247Sports Crystal Ball. However, his latest scholarship offer could shake up that decision-making process.
Anderson-Butts shared Tuesday evening he received an opportunity to play at the University of Florida. He referred to the Gators as his “childhood favorite” and confirmed that sentiment with Land of 10.
— quon (@anderson_quon) April 25, 2017
This continues a climb toward 30 offers. Baylor, Louisville, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Oregon are among newcomers to Anderson-Butts’ list since January.
Penn State stays persistent in hunt for 2019 talent
Yes, we’re still more than nine months shy of National Signing Day 2018. But those who regularly follow recruiting understand a school’s coaching staff doesn’t take things one class at a time.
Earlier Wednesday we profiled recent 2019 Nittany Lions offer Brandon Smith, compared to No. 1 overall 2016 linebacker recruit Ben Davis by Michael Fletcher, linebackers coach at The Opening DC Regional. This Virginia native shares growing company as a sophomore pursued by Penn State.
Franklin and his staff issued two noteworthy offers Tuesday to high school underclassmen, entering the chase for North Carolina DE Savion Jackson and Dallas S Brian Williams.
Jackson, a 6-2, 245-pound lineman at Clayton High School, is rated No. 1 among 2019 North Carolina recruits and No. 15 overall in 247Sports’ early 2019 rankings. He tallied 51 tackles — 19 for loss — and 11 sacks in 11 games last season, according to MaxPreps.
— Savion (@savionjac11) April 25, 2017
Williams continues a trend of Nittany Lions exploration in the Lone Star State. Franklin already claims commitments from two Texas defensive backs in the 2018 recruiting cycle, and his latest target is among the region’s crown jewels.
Likely to land in 5-star territory as composite rankings evolve for players in his age group, Williams is the initial No. 1 safety prospect in 247Sports’ rankings. He holds more than 20 scholarship options, including other April offers from Alabama, Georgia and Stanford.
The cupboard remains empty for Penn State’s 2019 recruiting class but potential for pledge No. 1 increases with each offer.