In Trace We Trust…

In Trace We Trust…

I’d like to preface this piece with the understanding that according to head coach James Franklin, there is still a competition going on as the Nittany Lions head into the official lull of the offseason. Whether that’s just your typical “coach speak” or not remains to be seen. As for me, and this is strictly my opinion, with all due respect to the competition, I have seen enough. After Saturday’s showing in the annual Blue/White scrimmage and on the heels of his ferocious comeback bid against a very good Georgia defense in January’s Taxslayer Bowl, I’m ready to raise the flag and say it. In Trace We Trust.

As in redshirt sophomore Trace McSorley, who led the Blue squad to a 37-0 victory with precision, poise, and moxie. The latter perhaps is what best sums up the undersized QB in the short amount of time we’ve gotten to know him. McSorley’s moxie immediately invokes memories of another former Nittany Lion who lived by it, Matt McGloin; a worthy comparison in its own right. Because of his size, or lack thereof, some football aficionados have gone as far as to bring up the names Drew Brees and Russell Wilson when speaking of McSorley; two undersized quarterbacks who both have Super Bowl rings on their resumes. Again, a worthy comparison although a bit premature. Obviously, he has a long way to go before reaching the level of any three of those gunslingers, but after his 23-27 281yd 4TD and 1 interception performance Saturday afternoon, the kid has shown enough in my eyes to gain the nod as the heir apparent at quarterback. There’s a long time between now and August, but I simply can’t see him regressing enough to lose his grip on the job. This is in no way a slight to Tommy Stevens, I believe this offense would run smoothly with him at the helm as well, but McSorley has bided his time for two years (quickly going on three) and seems ready to lead this team into the future.

As for the rest of the Nittany Lions, the perceived first-team in Blue clearly and expectedly dominated the outmatched and undermanned White squad. Even without the services of rising star Saquon Barkley who sat this one out, much to the chagrin of the 65,000+ that made the annual spring pilgrimage. The Penn State-faithful got their first taste of new OC Joe Moorhead's wide open, no-huddle offense and came away with a new sense of excitement. McSorley spread the ball around to a multitude of receivers as Chris Godwin, Saeed Blacknall, DeAndre Thompkins, and tight end Tom Pancoast each snagged a touchdown on the day. With Barkley out, backup running back Mark Allen gained close to 100 total yards rushing and receiving and redshirt freshman Andre Robinson introduced himself with a 27 yard burst for a touchdown late in the game. The offensive line, a source of major frustration and the weak link over the past two years, opened holes and had zero penalties throughout the game. They certainly weren’t perfect, but at least it’s a start as they begin to add the missing pieces to the puzzle after a couple years of frantic focus on the recruiting trail.


Defensively, a unit that faced some major questions on the defensive line, saw the emergence of Kevin Givens at D-Tackle who finished with 5 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks as he wrapped up and validated a reportedly stellar and eye-opening spring. Evan Schwan, a candidate to replace Carl Nassib at defensive end, recorded a safety and Antoine White made his presence known. In general, the group known as the Wild Dogs, led by veteran Garrett Sickels, went a long way towards setting our minds at ease and reminding us there really is life after Carl Nassib, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson. Senior linebackers Brandon Bell and Nyeem Wartman-White both spent the spring resting and left it up to junior Jason Cabinda to head the ranks of Linebacker U, who performed admirably as always, but the unit heads into the offseason with little depth and the hope that the injury bug stays away. The defensive backfield, led by Marcus Allen, Malik Golden, and a host of young speedy cornerbacks, appears to be a strength in both depth and possibility but had little chance to show off as the front seven spent all day keeping the White offense in check.

For the third straight year, Mother Nature basked in all her springtime glory. Happy Valley was awash in the rays of the sun and a crystal clear blue and white sky. Around town and on the sidelines, the annual reunion took on a new meaning as legends came home again. Names like Bowman, Norwood, Still, and many others returned to where it all began. Mike Robinson and the 2006 Orange Bowl squad was recognized on the field to a standing ovation. Soon-to-be NFL Draft picks Christian Hackenberg and the aforementioned Wild Dogs made the strange looking switch to street clothes after three or four years of leading this program through its darkest hour. Last but not least, cancer survivor and daughter of Devon, Leah Still, had a wish come true as she joined the ranks of the Nittany Lion Cheerleaders in front of the S-Zone. The only thing missing on this fine spring day was our old coach, JoePa, roaming the field with his familiar gait and scowl. Although I suspect, he and his cohorts of long ago were looking down with a smile and a ton of Lion’s pride. Maybe even with a glass of Old Grandad in hand as they took a turn at tailgating for once. For most of us, spring has just begun and in a most beautiful way, but for Penn State football the book on spring has closed once again as they set their sights on the long journey to August camp. It shuts with a breath of fresh air and a quarterback competition still in play. For me, I’ve seen enough. In Trace I Trust as we all head home from a weekend in our little paradise, and I’m sticking to it until proven otherwise.