Blue White Illustrated

September 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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6 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 3 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M P enn State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich probably isn't get- ting much sleep this August. The third-year Nittany Lions assistant is riding a fine line, working to replace four years of starting experience with the excitement of young talent in his quarterbacks room. Sophomore Drew Allar and redshirt freshman Beau Prib- ula may not be seasoned at the college level just yet, but the promise they've shown Yurcich so far in their brief ca- reers has him enthusiastic about the future. "All the quarterbacks in our room right now are very young, so the up- side to these guys is what really excites you," Yurcich said at Penn State's football media day in early August. "How much can they grow? It's fun. A big responsibility that we have is to make sure that we're developing them the right way and we're bringing them along." Although the outcome, based on feedback and general logic, points to Allar eventually being the guy, there's been no rush to officially name a starter. Both Allar and Pribula have gotten time with the first-team of- fense, though James Franklin admitted in Week 2 of preseason camp that the first-team reps were skewed in Allar's direction. The Nittany Lions will spend the coming weeks testing each member of the quarterbacks room. Even true freshman Jaxon Smolik has turned heads early on in camp, earning praise from Franklin as one of the surprises of the first week. The group will go up against what is expected to be one of the nation's top defenses all month long. The talent isn't what's in question. It's not about what the staff can simu- late, either. It's about what the coach- ing staff won't be able to find out about its quarterbacks until there's another defense on the other side of the ball. "I don't know if I've ever really tried to quantify that. It's a hard thing to put your finger on," Yurcich said. "You never get the feeling in practice of being down by 14 points and having to make a comeback. We've never had that feeling in practice of going into the locker room and we're up by 20, either. Now you've got to keep the pedal on the metal. "The ups and downs of the game, the ebbs and flows of the actual football game, are probably the hardest things to simulate. Every season is different, every quarterback is different, and time will tell. I don't think you get into a crystal ball situation; you just play the game and you let the kids perform. The fun part about it is watching them compete. At the end of the day, it's about getting the ring." Replacing four-year starter Sean Clifford won't be an overnight process. Sure, Allar has the raw talent to make throws that Clifford could not, but the flip side — perhaps the more impor- tant mental side — is something that the Nittany Lions will need to find out about at the game's most important position. Lack of preparation won't be the rea- son if things go south. Penn State's two quarterback contenders "live the posi- tion," Franklin said. "They're in the facility all hours of the day, studying it, asking a ton of questions, taking great notes. I do think the experience that Drew got last year [is valuable]. He played in almost every game on the road [including the one] to open the season at Purdue in a tough environment. He played in a ton of games last year, and I think that will help him. "As you know, it's different doing it full-time. But he's just doing all the things necessary to give him the best chance to be successful. So, I feel good about it. But now we've got to go out and do it." Both Allar and Pribula were well- decorated and productive high school quarterbacks. None of that matters now, though. Yurcich believes in the concept of a gamer, or a player who will turn up his game when the Beaver Sta- dium floodlights come on. Until Sept. 2, however, he'll be in the same wait-and-see mode that Penn State fans find themselves in currently. "It's hard to say you see it in any- body [right now] because of the lack of experience for both of those guys," Yurcich said. "I do believe that gamers exist, and if those guys are gamers we're gonna find out shortly." ■ Sophomore Drew Allar received the majority of the first-team reps at quarterback during the early portion of Penn State's preseason camp. PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL At Quarterback, PSU Faces A Journey Into The Unknown JUDGMENT CALL O P I N I O N SEAN FITZ SEAN.FITZ@ON3.COM

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