When you’re playing on January 2, you’re not playing in a game that holds very much meaning except a heightened sense of pride if you come out on top. For Penn State, they should feel good about how the game played out late despite the fact that they lost. If Christian Hackenberg would have played and Penn State would’ve won the game, it would’ve been great because that’s exactly how a player who’s meant so much to a program should go out. He deserves every bit of respect that he’s been given and then some. But for the future of Penn State, I think Trace McSorley taking the field and making big plays late in the game is more of a positive.
As for next season, McSorley won’t be guaranteed the starting job. He’ll be competing with Tommy Stevens, who will also be a sophomore, and incoming freshman Jake Zembiec. They’ll also be working with a brand new offensive coordinator after the semi-expected firing of John Donovan last month. Head coach James Franklin and the team’s new offensive coordinator, Joe Moorhead, will have a decision in front of them that the Nittany Lions haven’t really had to deal with since the Joe Paterno era. Matt McGloin was the clear returning starter in 2012 following the transfer of Rob Bolden to effectively end that drawn-out controversy. McGloin went on to break the school’s passing record which was again broken by Hackenberg this season.
It’s also worth mentioning that defensive coordinator Bob Shoop recently accepted a job with the University of Tennessee, ending his tenure with the Nittany Lions. The program promoted from within this time with linebackers coach Brent Pry stepping into the position. There will be much concern on that side of the ball considering the team will be losing a few of the nation’s top defensive linemen. Defensive end Carl Nassib and tackles Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson will be entering the NFL Draft. That could be a huge blow, though the team seems to have depth on the defensive front. Only time will tell how much of a step back that group as well as the entire defensive unit takes in 2016.
If I were to speculate about the starting quarterback today, I would tell you that McSorley is the likeliest candidate to replace Hackenberg next season. He fits well into the offense that Franklin and Moorhead are likely to run, and we’ve already seen flashes of brilliance. One thing is for sure: This year’s Blue-White scrimmage will be an interesting game for the fans, as they’ll get an early look at the brewing competition that should keep this offseason very interesting.