Franklin: McSorley is best college QB

UNIVERSITY PARK — There hasn’t been a shortage of nice things Penn State coach James Franklin has said about the team’s quarterback, Trace McSorley, this season.

And why should there be for a man who has taken possession of a large number of Penn State’s records?

The graduate student quarterback may not be considered the most talented in the nation or even top-notch NFL material, but the only approval he needs is that of his teammates, coaches and fans. He got a lot of that after Saturday’s game when Franklin said on national TV “he’s the best quarterback in college football.”

Franklin backed that up during his weekly press conference Tuesday.

“I just think it’s the collection of work. You know, it’s all of it. It’s not just the stats. It’s not just the wins and losses. It’s all of it. You think about what that guy has been able to do in his career, the number of wins,” he said. “I mean, we played good football here at Penn State for a long time, and he’s got a chance to be the winningest quarterback in program history. Probably the most important stat that you can get.”

If there was ever a moment that showed how much McSorley has meant to the program, that time came in the second quarter of last Saturday’s contest against Iowa.

McSorley was hit by three Hawkeye defenders as he moved up in the pocket, looking to make a pass on a third-down play. Not many things can silence the crowd at Beaver Stadium, but the sight of the veteran quarterback staying down and grabbing his right knee did just that.

McSorley returned to the game in the second half and immediately made an impact for the Nittany Lions with the biggest moment of the game — both for him and the team — being his 51-yard touchdown scamper early in the third quarter to show his knee was fine and give the team a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

There shouldn’t be any lingering issues with the knee in Ann Arbor Saturday, but the team is not taking any chances either before facing a stingy Wolverine defense.

“It feels good. (I’m) just going through treatment, that sort of thing. I’m kind of going to leave it at that,” McSorley said. “I’m just going to continue to keep getting treatment and keep practicing and going through different things. I mean, day by day, it just keeps going on and getting better.

“Michigan has a really tough defense. … Over the last couple of years, the one thing that’s shown up in the pattern to possibly hurt them has been an athletic quarterback — someone who can take advantage of running lanes because they do play so much man and are so aggressive. That’s definitely something that I’m going to have to do and like I said, we’re just going day by day seeing what’s the best for me this week.”

Much of what has the Wolverines knocking at the door of the College Football Playoff has been their defense. Michigan returned nine starters from a season ago and the experience has been as crucial as ever, ranking first in the Big Ten in both total defense and passing defense while ranking third in rushing defense.

McSorley knows this is a much more improved unit than the one he saw let up 506 total yards of offense to the Nittany Lions in Beaver Stadium last November.

“I think last year, they were a little bit young and they had to kind of work through some things. But this year, they’re extremely confident in their defense and they’ve all been there. They’re playing with a lot of attitude on defense, a lot of swagger, physicality,” McSorley said. “Everyone flies to the ball 100 miles an hour. From snap to the echo of the whistle, they’re playing hard. They’re playing aggressive and they kind of come out with the mentality that they’re going to be the hammer.”

Notes: McSorley was named one of 13 finalists for the Campbell Trophy Wednesday. The award is nicknamed the “Academic Heisman” for its recognition as the best football scholar-athlete in all levels of college football. “It’s a big honor given the pedigree of those who have been nominated before me and being a finalist to be in their league and what they’ve accomplished in their careers — athletically and also post-football,” McSorley said. … The quarterback is also a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award and one of 15 remaining candidates for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.