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Wednesday With James: Update on QB Situation, More from Penn State HC James Franklin’s Presser

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin November 12, 2022 David Hague/NSN

Penn State coach James Franklin met with media after Wednesday’s practice 10 nights out from Penn State’s season opener.

Here’s are some key points.


Penn State fans and reporters speculated that Wednesday may have been the night Franklin made what seems to be the inevitable a reality.

The program named Sean Clifford its starting QB four years ago to the date, so there was reason to believe that Franklin might name Clifford’s successor at the media availability that fell on the anniversary.

Rich Scarcella of the Reading Eagle asked Franklin about it right off the bat, and Franklin said that he and the coaching staff have yet to name a QB.

It’s almost certain that Drew Allar will be the guy. He was a five-star signee for a reason. But, with less than 10 days left until the season opener against West Virginia Saturday, Sept. 2 under the Beaver Stadium lights, it’s still not official.


If for some reason Allar isn’t named the starter, his classmate, Beau Pribula, will likely be the guy instead.

So, in any case, true freshman Jaxon Smolik is likely to be the third-string, thus meaning he’ll go unnoticed for the bulk of Penn State’s season.

But Smolik hasn’t gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.

At Penn State’s Media Day Aug. 6, Franklin told reporters that Smolik was “maybe the surprise of camp.” I asked Franklin to give an update on Smolik, and the kid is still impressing his new coaching staff.

“He may throw the best deep ball,” Franklin said. “He has a really good understanding of the touch and velocity, an angle that is necessary.”

Franklin went on to say that Smolik is “still learning.”

“In terms of in the meeting rooms and out on the field, all the different things that we ask in the run game and in the pass game and with protection. So he’s still learning, but he really has the ability to find receivers and be reactive as a passer.”

The coach said Smolik “continues to do well and really is part of an ongoing conversation at that position.”


Franklin told reporters earlier this month that returning starting left guard Landon Tengwall has been dealing with “bumps and bruises.”

If Tengwall ends up missing any games, there’s a solid chance Pittsburgh area native JB Nelson (6-foot-5, 332 pounds) is Penn State’s starting left guard.

“We went into this year feeling like JB was going to factor in either as a starter or having starter-like reps,” Franklin said. “That’s how I would have viewed him coming into the season, and he’s built on that. His habits are a lot better in terms of how he practices and approaches meetings and everything else.”

Franklin went on to say that Nelson is possibly Penn State’s most physical offensive lineman.

“I know talking to our defensive linemen, they’ve got a lot of respect for him,” Franklin said. “So we expected him to play a significant role this year.”

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