ESPN college football analyst Jesse Palmer is like seemingly everybody else: He’s big on Penn State QB Drew Allar.
Coach James Franklin hasn’t made it official yet. But it would be beyond shocking if anybody but Allar starts for Penn State in its season opener against West Virginia Saturday, Sept. 2, under the Beaver Stadium lights.
During a Zoom call with college football media from across the country, I asked Palmer– who himself was a quarterback, playing at Florida from 1997-2000 and then having a five-year NFL career– his thoughts on Allar.
His answer lines up with what practically the whole wide world has been saying about the former five-star from Medina, Ohio.
“Drew has things you can’t coach,” Palmer said. “He has thighs. He has arm talent that’s just absolutely off the charts. And the flashes that we got to see him last season, it’s very impressive. You can certainly see why so many people are so high on him and so excited about him.”
Allar backed up Sean Clifford in 2022. He played in 10 of Penn State’s 13 games. Allar went 35-60 on the year with 344 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, playing primarily in mop-up duty.
His most significant college football reps so far were his first.
Allar made an unplanned college football debut in Penn State’s season opener at Purdue. He went 2-for-4 for 26 yards in a brief drive in relief of Clifford.
This year, he’ll be leading a team that’s ranked No. 7 in the preseason AP Poll. Penn State’s expected by many to compete for the Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff– the latter of which Penn State’s never been.
Palmer is high on the team that surrounds Allar as well.
“I think this is a very special group of players,” he said, “and there’s so much talent in that locker room. It’s arguably the best running-back tandem in the entire country. He’s playing behind arguably the best offensive line in the entire country. They’re going to be excellent on defense again this year, so all the pieces are there.”
“So the question is, can Drew Allar step up and deliver in the passing game and explosive plays and really make this a balanced offense all season long, and can he do it in the big games? Against Michigan, against Ohio State, throughout the course of the season.
Palmer knows how many pieces Allar has around him, but also doesn’t expect Penn State to get by on just handing the ball off to Nick Singleton (1,061 yards, 12 touchdowns, 156 carries in 2022) and Kaytron Allen (867 yards, 10 touchdowns, 167 carries).
“He’s going to have to play well, there’s no doubt,” Palmer said. “This isn’t just ‘turn around and hand it off to Singleton or (Allen). He’s going to need to make throws to a receiving group that has some question marks. That’s lost a lot of playmakers at that position in recent years.”
Allar has a lot of work to do to be one of college football’s best QBs. But a lot of people are excited. Palmer feels Allar’s a reason why people feel anything is possible for this Penn State team.
“From the small sample we’ve gotten from Drew, the ceiling is so high for him,” he said. I think because of that, that’s a big reason why a lot of people think, ‘maybe Penn State’s the team that could crash the party and get into the national championship and college football playoff picture.'”