Early 2023 Depth Chart: Star-Studded Sophomore Trio Leading The Way At QB, RB
When Penn State signed its No. 6-ranked 2022 recruiting class, much of the hype was around the quarterbacks and running backs. Now just one year removed from signing day, the Nittany Lions are already going to lean heavily on the star-studded group next season.
Drew Allar (SO) — Beau Pribula (RS FR) — Jaxon Smolik (FR)
Yes, there will be a “quarterback competition” this fall and into the summer. And let me just say: I love Beau Pribula like he’s my little baby. I want to protect and pamper him and am really looking forward to “HE’S TRACK!!!!!” to shout when he does something cute on the field. I personally think he’s the second most talented quarterback Penn State has landed during Franklin’s tenure, and I really hope he ends up starting here in Happy Valley. But we all know what will happen in 2023: Drew Allar will be Penn State’s starting quarterback. Finally, the Allar era will be in full swing.
It was a positive season for our baby Allar, who battled through what appeared to be a rough spring to surprise the backup quarterback job at Christian Veilleux by the end of summer camp. Allar looked as advertised in his limited action, finishing the season with 344 yards and 4 touchdowns on 60 passing attempts with no interceptions.
Of course, there are those of us who wished Allar could have gotten a little more playing time against the likes of Maryland and Central Michigan, but for the most part, Penn State did a decent job of getting Allar’s feet wet as a true freshman. While the strong arm and pocket awareness are what stood out for Allar, I think what impressed me the most was his composure when inserted into a high tension game like Purdue. Yes, the drive ended with the Nittany Lions punting, but Allar looked calm and confident despite the less-than-ideal situation Clifford’s diarrhea put him in. That type of mindset is just as important to a quarterback as arm strength and accuracy.
Looking ahead to next season, Penn State’s offense shouldn’t change a ton, but it goes without saying that there is a difference between Clifford and Allar. Clifford offered you someone who was clearly experienced, basically serving as a quasi-graduate assistant on the field – you saw that with the amount of work Clifford would do pre-snap. With Allar, it’s essentially impossible to expect that level of knowledge with someone who’s only 20 years old, so I think it’s likely (at least initially) you see a little more “check with me” at the line of scrimmage .
I think the big difference in attack will be Allar’s ability to push the ball deep and attack the defense vertically. Over the years, Clifford has been able to hit the deep ball at times, but has been more dependent on having a top-tier wide receiver target to do so — whether it was KJ Hamler or Jahan Dotson. I believe with Allar he will be a more willing deep shot taker and not be as dependent on who exactly is running the route.
Of course, Allar will not be without its flaws. The accuracy needs to improve, and with a strong arm like he has, there are going to be times where he tries to fit a ball where it shouldn’t be. But the upside of the offense is inherently higher with Allar’s potential. It’s just a matter of getting him to the point where he can achieve it.
Nick Singleton (SO) – Kaytron Allen (SO) – Tank Smith (RS SR)
While there were high expectations for what Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen could be in 2022, I think it’s safe to say they both exceeded expectations. Singleton showed off his shotgun speed en route to 1,061 yards and multiple runs of 50+ yards.
Meanwhile, Allen showed special vision and poise en route to 867 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.
If you asked 100 Penn State fans who was the best quarterback, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that it would end up in a 50/50 tie, which highlights three things:
Both are insanely talented. Running back coach Ja’Juan Seider should never leave Happy Valley, please Dr. Kraft writes him a blank check !! They both offer something uniquely different from each other.
It is point #3 that is really the cherry on top of the theoretical blue and white Sundays because these two balance each other so well. Singleton gives you the big plays while Allen gives you a steady, consistent runner, and as we’ve seen this past season, that mix will be necessary depending on the situation.
Moving forward, it’s really just about keeping these guys healthy because each has a different gear to get to. Singleton, of course, with keeping things more North and South – which, to his credit, he did more of as the year wore on. And for Allen, as crazy as it sounds, given his ability to run through tackles, he’ll likely play with a solid 5-10 pounds of bulk next season. Fortunately, as a duo they spare themselves the wear and tear other runners see. Neither saw more than 21 carries in a game in 2022, and I think that will be the plan in 2023 as well.
Their health is doubly important because of what’s behind them – which isn’t much now. Keyvone Lee has opted to enter the transfer portal, and unless he chooses to return, it will be walk-ons like Tank Smith and Tyler Holzworth or true freshmen like Cameron Wallace and London Montgomery battling for the third-string spot. Normally, a true freshman competing for the third-team spot wouldn’t be a cause for concern, but Wallace enters Penn State at around 175 pounds while Montgomery is coming off a torn ACL, so either project isn’t necessarily ideal first-year contributors do not.
Early 2023 Depth Chart: Defensive Line Early 2023 Depth Chart: Linebacker Early 2023 Depth Chart: Secondary