Trace McSorley through the eyes of Nittany Lions

What makes Trace McSorley elite?

In a word: plenty.

If his senior season comes close to mirroring the success he’s had the last two years, it can be argued that McSorley compiled the most impressive career for any quarterback ever to play at Penn State. He’ll certainly have the numbers to prove it.

Leading up to the season, we asked a handful of coaches and quarterback Sean Clifford for their insight into what makes McSorley one of the best players in the country and a Heisman Trophy contender.

Check out their responses and learn why opposing defenses have so much trouble with the Nittany Lion leader and team captain.

HappyValley.com: Looking at Trace, what separates him from other quarterbacks and makes him not just great, but elite? 

James Franklin (head coach): I think the most important thing at the quarterback position is decision-making, it is accuracy, it is third-down percentage and obviously, it’s wins and losses, and he’s been really successful in all of those areas. I think the only thing that anybody can knock Trace on is he’s not 6-foot-4, but even that has changed. You look at the NFL, and you look at the guy who got drafted first this year (Baker Mayfield), probably is more similar to Trace than he is to Tom Brady. You look at Russell Wilson, I can go on and on with examples of quarterbacks that don’t fit, necessarily, the prototype old-school philosophy and style. He’s just a winner, he’s been a winner his whole life, he was that way in high school and he’s been that way in college. He is universally respected throughout our program, from players and from coaches, and from old players and from young players, offensive players and defensive players, because of the way he works, because of the way he carries himself and how productive he’s been.

HappyValley.com: How much have you enjoyed coaching Trace, and what stands out to you the most about the way he's matured and really grown into an elite quarterback?

Ricky Rahne (offensive coordinator): His competitive nature and his hard work is the thing I enjoy the most. The thing that I think is the most underappreciated about him is his skill level and his talent. Everyone always talks about his intangibles, which are numerous and warranted that people talk about them, but his skill level is extremely high. He has a very accurate arm, he has great arm strength, he’s a very quick runner and all those sorts of things, so I think that that’s something that maybe is underappreciated about him. Quite frankly, the other thing that I value about him is his willingness to tell me that he disagrees with me, and he does it in a respectful way. But he also is willing for me to rip him, and he doesn’t take that as disrespectful, either. Our ability to have interactions that are probably less-than-pleasant for most people… it’s a key part to our relationship. Both of us thrive on that, so that probably helps. He needs to be coached hard, and I need for my player to question things, and so I think we work well together in that way.

HappyValley.com: Watching Trace the past few seasons and also going up against him every day in practice, what do you see in him, and what makes him a leader and an elite quarterback?

Sean Spencer (associate head coach, defensive line coach): He’s a problem for you to defend, because he can throw, he can run and he can extend plays. But, what people don’t see is the competitor in the guy. You might think you see it on the field, but I mean if an offensive or defensive drill doesn’t go right, Trace has no problem attacking the group. Then, same as when there’s success, he has no problem going and running and commending and hugging the guys that had success. This guy is one of the best football players I’ve ever been around.  I coached in the SEC and I coached against Connor Shaw from South Carolina, and I just remember having nightmares of Connor Shaw. You have him dead to rights, and all of a sudden he’s up the field 25 yards. What just happened? Or you think you had the coverage to have him, and all of a sudden Connor Shaw throws a strike for a touchdown. I’m not saying Trace is Connor Shaw, making the comparison, but I’m telling you those types of competitive guys that you play against, Trace is one of the best guys I’ve ever coached against. 

HappyValley.com: How has competing against Trace and Tommy made you a better player?

Sean Clifford (redshirt freshman quarterback): I think [the answer is] right there in your question; competing with Trace and Tommy, they’re two of the best quarterbacks in the country. Whenever you get to compete with them, it’s going to push you to be better, mentally, physically, in the weight room, on the field, in the classroom, you’ve got to be on you’re A-game at all times. That’s one of the reasons I came here, because I knew the competition was going to be so great, and it was going to make me the quarterback that I want to be.

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