Penn State fans hope Drew Allar will become one of, if not the greatest, quarterback in school history.
Of course, fans hope that for any of their team’s quarterbacks. But in Allar’s case, that level of excellence is an expectation for many.
Five-star prospects, which Allar was at Ohio’s Medina High School, don’t come around often. It’s been more than half a decade since one last started a game for Penn State.
Although Allar isn’t officially Penn State’s starting quarterback yet, fans expect coach James Franklin to anoint him this month. So assuming Allar is the guy starting Penn State’s home opener against West Virginia under the Beaver Stadium lights Sept. 2, what will he experience?
Nobody knows the answers yet. But two of the best QBs in Penn State history might have at least an idea.
“Obviously, there will be butterflies,” Todd Backledge, who was the first Penn State QB to win a national championship and is now a color man for NBC, told NSN on Day 1 of Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis Wednesday, July 26.
Blackledge, who will be in the booth for that West Virginia game, noted how different it is being QB1 compared to a backup.
“Even though he played in, I think, 10 games (last season) and got some meaningful snaps, it’s still different when you’re the guy,” he said. When you run out there under the bright lights as the starting quarterback at any place like Penn State, so part of it will just be kind of getting his feet under the ground and hitting a couple of easy passes early and just kind of getting a feel for the game.”
If everything goes according to plan for Allar, last season will be the only one he spends as Penn State’s backup quarterback.
Michael Robinson was in that role for three of his four seasons. He backed up Zach Mills while playing other positions in Penn State’s offense.
Penn State had losing seasons in two of those years. Mills took a good bit of the blame, and fans wanted to see Robinson.
Penn State didn’t come close to having a losing season last year. Instead, it went 11-2, winning the Rose Bowl and finishing No. 7 in the country. But there were still fans who wanted to see Allar start over veteran Sean Clifford.
“The backup quarterback is always the most popular one,” Robinson told reporters in Indy. “I’ve told Drew that, though, man. So he understands exactly what he’s getting into. To be quarterback at Penn State is special.”
When Robinson got his chance to be Penn State’s full-time starter, he cashed in. No. 12 led Penn State to an 11-1 season capped off by a legendary win over Florida State in the Orange Bowl and a final No. 3 ranking.
Robinson was the one who officially announced Allar’s signing on NSD 2021. The two met after Allar had arrived on campus.
Robinson said that Allar recognized him immediately.
After that, the conversation turned to football.
“We started just talking ball. You know what I’m saying?” Robinson, who described Allar as a ‘sponge,’ said. “And the fact that he was using some of the great terminology, throwing the football over the linebackers and stuff like that. It just… the kid showed that he wants to get better, he showed that he can be that personality to lead the team, and that’s what you want in your quarterback.”
So what do the two Penn State legends see from Allar’s quarterbacking ability?
He’s big (6-foot-5, 243 pounds), and he has a big arm,” Blackledge said. “He has an NFL-caliber arm. Can make every throw that you would want a guy to make. So, right away, just that makes him different than the last couple of guys that have played quarterback there, right? Different styles.
Neither Clifford nor his predecessor, Trace McSorley, was known for his arm strength. But both were mobile, and both Blackledge and Robinson feel that Allar is mobile enough to get the job done.
“So it will be interesting to see how he plays in that system, and I think he’s athletic, too,” Blackledge said. “He’s more athletic than maybe people give him credit for. (He can) extend plays, make plays with his legs. But the first thing that stands out, he’s a big, solid dude with a big-time arm.”
“I know he’s not a runner,” Robinson said, “but I think I saw enough movement ability out of him where he can get himself out of trouble. What I love about him is he stays a passer when he does move. So Drew is not going to run 80 yards for a touchdown, ok? I think he wants to, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. But he stays a passer, and he has the big, strong arm to hit anywhere on the football field.”
Robinson said he’s “expecting a big year out of Drew” and feels Penn State has the tools around him to build on last year’s success.
“The offensive line is solid, defense is returning a lot of starters who are solid, and they have a run game,” Robinson said. “So I don’t think they’re going to be asking him to win the games with his arm, which is a good thing to say when you’re at the quarterback position. So, yeah, I’m expecting a big year from him. As long as he can not turn the football over, I think he’ll be fine.”
Blackledge feels Allar has what he needs to be a success, and he just has to get it done when the time comes.
“He has all the intangibles, all the skillset, but now it’s just a matter of stepping up and being the guy,” Blackledge said.