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‘We’d Like to Keep it as Even as Possible’: Penn State HC James Franklin Talks QBs Ahead of Spring Practice

Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) November 12, 2022 David Hague/NSN

Barring something unusual, Drew Allar will be the starting QB for Penn State in 2023. 

Everybody knows it, and that “everybody” probably includes Penn State coach James Franklin. 

But Franklin wasn’t ready to publicly crown the former five-star from Medina, Ohio, as QB1 just yet during his pre-spring practice presser Tuesday afternoon in Beaver Stadium’s media room. 

Instead, he referred to Penn State’s quarterback situation as “a true competition.”

Some might be confused by this answer, but it’s simple. Allar has yet to start a game for Penn State, so it wouldn’t make sense for Franklin to declare him the starter before spring practice. 

Nonetheless, everybody expects Allar to be the man. If, for whatever reason, Allar isn’t the man come Saturday, Sept. 3, against West Virginia at Beaver Stadium, then his classmate, Beau Pribula, is your likely QB1.

But does Allar have to be out of the picture for Pribula to be in?

Maybe not. 

Going back to when future Kentucky QB and probable first-round draft pick Will Levis was at Penn State, Franklin and a pair of offensive coordinators, Ricky Rahne (2019) and Kirk Ciarocca (2020), worked Levis into the rotation despite Sean Clifford being the starter. Mainly, Penn State would use Levis on running plays, and he ended his time in Happy Valley with more rushing attempts than passes.

In 2021, Levis was gone, and neither of his backups, Ta’Quan Roberson and, eventually, Christian Veilleux, got much playing time. 

The following season, Allar was Clifford’s backup as a true freshman but got almost all of his action in garbage time. 

So will Beau Pribula be used in 2023 similar to the way Levis was in 2019 and ’20? Well, people didn’t expect Franklin to give a direct answer to that during his first spring practice press conference, and he didn’t.

But he did acknowledge that the stylistic differences between Pribula and Allar are more drastic than the ones between Clifford and Allar. 

“I would say Sean and Drew’s skill sets were probably more similar. They were different, but they were probably more similar, where I think maybe the differences between Drew and Beau may be a little bit more dramatic in terms of their skill sets.”

Allar will get by far the most attention amongst Penn State fans, with Pribula a distant second. 

But Jaxon Smolik is there, too. 

Franklin told reporters that, at the beginning of spring practice, the plan is to divide the reps evenly amongst the three QBs. 

“We’d like to keep it as even as possible,” Franklin said. “We kind of have it structured that way at practice, specifically with Beau and Drew. We try to keep it as even from a rep standpoint as possible. But right now, we really have it structured in a way, based on our depth right now, that all three of them will get the same number of reps. I think that’s really important in spring ball, that not just at the quarterback position, but at all the positions, that everybody’s getting an opportunity to compete and develop just like we try to do at the beginning of training camp. And then, obviously, at some point, we got to transition and get ready for the first game. So the plan is to split the reps evenly.”

It’s always fun to talk about quarterbacks, and it’s fair to wonder how Penn State plans on using Pribula. 

But Week 1 is 173 days away, so we won’t know for a while. 

“Before practice has even started, it’s hard to say that,” Franklin said. “So we’ll see how it plays out.

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