Penn State names Drew Allar backup quarterback, but competition remains ongoing
James Franklin addressed the media on Monday morning before Penn State takes on Purdue Thursday night.
During the media availability, he discussed the depth chart of several positions naming starters at punter, kicker and middle linebacker.
However, the announcement of a second-string player sent shockwaves through the media room and created a huge buzz on social media.
“I know everyone will start texting right away and stop listening to me,” Franklin said. “Drew Allar will be our backup quarterback Week 1.”
Entering the season, fans presumed redshirt freshman Christian Veilleux had the backup quarterback position locked up, but it's the true freshman and five-star recruit backing up sixth-year senior Sean Clifford.
Since his commitment to the blue and white in early March of 2021, Allar has generated serious hype and is the program's highest-rated quarterback since Christian Hackenberg in 2013.
The Medina, Ohio, native finished as the fourth-best signal caller in the nation and the No. 32 player while being the Nittany Lions' 13th highest-rated commit in team history.
Although Veilleux appeared to be the backup after he beat out Ta’Quan Roberson last year, Franklin mentioned Allar’s spot isn’t “set in stone” and will be a competition throughout the year.
“We all remember last year,” Franklin said. “Veilleux used to be the third-string quarterback last year and ended up being the second-team quarterback and came in and did a great job for us.”
Veilleux appeared in two contests during his true-freshman season and became the first true freshman to throw a touchdown since Christian Hackenberg in 2013.
Veilleux came in for the injured Clifford during the blue and white’s 28-0 victory over Rutgers, and he dominated, throwing for 235 yards and three touchdowns while only completing one three-yard pass in the bowl game.
Naming Allar the backup wasn’t an easy decision for Franklin and his staff to make, and Franklin noted he sat down with each quarterback to let them know the decision the staff had made.
“When we take all of the information, coaches' opinion, based on their gut and experience,” Franklin said, “data from everything we keep track of, we feel like Drew has earned that opportunity in Week 1. Taking everything into consideration, the coaching staff felt like this was the right decision.”
Allar was one of several freshmen in his recruiting class to enroll early to learn the system and gain valuable practice reps.
He made his beaver stadium debut in the annual Blue-White game in the spring, and it didn’t go as many expected, throwing an interception and not having chemistry with his receivers.
Over the summer, the 6-foot-5 gun-slinger worked on learning the offense, and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said he grew “leaps and bounds” at the start of August.
Yurcich wasn’t the only one who noticed the development in Allar’s game as safety Ji'Ayir Brown noted Allar played more like a high school quarterback during the spring but has taken the next step in his development in the summer months.
“Now Drew is dialed in,” Brown said. “He is looking like a professional quarterback. He's thrown the ball extremely well. He reads coverages extremely well. So hats off to Drew. He made a big step from the spring.”
Luckily for Allar, he has an experienced veteran in Clifford ahead of him, who can teach him the ins and outs of playing quarterback in the Big Ten.
During this game week, Clifford has been showing Allar the ropes of what he typically does before a contest, which is something the freshman has yet to experience.
“They've done just a fantastic job of opening their ears and listening, asking a bunch of questions whenever they have one and not being afraid to ask,” Clifford said. “Just being really receptive to both praise and criticism,”
Brown said he’s been super impressed with Allar’s ability to throw the deep pass, saying he can launch balls 60-80 yards if he wanted to.
Standing at 6-foot-5, 242 pounds, the Medina, Ohio, native was widely known for his deep-ball ability drawing comparisons to Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills.
Although it takes more than a cannon of an arm to play quarterback, gaining the experience of taking first-team reps in practice only benefits his development.
Penn State holds Clifford back in practice every once in a while to allow each quarterback on the roster to take reps.
“Obviously, I think we did a pretty good job, all training camp, getting all four of those guys work,” Franklin said. “It's one thing to do it with the threes and fours, but it's another thing to do it with the ones, so that was helpful.”
Franklin mentioned the chemistry amongst the quarterbacks paired with Allar being able to take first-team snaps has molded him into the backup.
“They need to be prepared for when their number gets called,” Franklin said. “That’s really all of them. You better prepare as if you are the starter.”
Alex Rocco is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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