Spring Practice Central
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions practiced for the 13th time during spring drills on Wednesday afternoon. Throughout spring practice, GoPSUsports.com has provided a break down each position on the depth chart. Today, we wrap up with the quarterbacks.
Players Returning-Newcomers/Lost: 4/2
Who's Back: Billy Fessler (Jr./So.), Trace McSorley (Jr./So.), Tommy Stevens (So./Fr.), Jake Zembiec (Fr./Fr.)
No unit on the depth chart faced a bigger learning curve during spring practice than the quarterbacks. Under the direction of new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Joe Moorhead, the Nittany Lions worked diligently to install a new offensive scheme that will debut in the fall.
Meetings and efforts to go about the installation process began in the winter, but the unit did not get to take things onto the field until March 18 when spring practice began. Largely, it has been a spring marked by great progress for the Nittany Lion quarterbacks. The unit has adapted to the quick pace and new scheme with great focus and work ethic.
In addition to learning the intricacies of a new offense, the quarterbacks entered the spring period replacing the shoes of the program's all-time leading passer. Christian Hackenberg will be part of the NFL Draft at the end of the month, and the quarterback position will have a new starter for the first time since the start of 2013.
Sophomore Trace McSorley returns as the most experienced player at quarterback. The Virginia native redshirted as a true freshman in 2014. The 6-foot, 199-pound signal caller appeared in seven games as a redshirt freshman in 2015. That list of games included significant time at the TaxSlayer Bowl. McSorley completed 14-of-27 passes for 142 yards and tossed two touchdown passes.
He made very good progress during the 2015 season and during winter conditioning drills. McSorley can hurt a defense with his elusive abilities with the ball in his hands. He helped lead Briar Woods High School to four state championship games, winning three titles.
Redshirt freshman Tommy Stevens has split reps with McSorley during spring practice. The Indianapolis product was instrumental on the scout team offense during the 2015 season. Now, Stevens is firmly in the mix to contend for the starting assignment following a strong offseason.
The 6-foot-4, 219-pound athlete added eight pounds of muscle to his frame during the winter conditioning period. Stevens enrolled early during the winter of 2015 and is participating in spring practice for the second time in his career. Like McSorley, Stevens has adapted to learning the new offense very well and has put together a strong spring practice period.
Billy Fessler returns for his third season in the program. A redshirt sophomore, Fessler redshirted in 2014 and did not see any game action during the 2015 campaign. The Erie, Pa., native has been instrumental in helping the Nittany Lions prepare each week and plays a critical role as a sideline signal caller for the new no huddle offense.
New to the quarterback group is early enrollee Jake Zembiec. The Rochester, N.Y., product graduated from Aquinas Institute in December and started classes at Penn State in January. After going through winter conditioning, Zembiec's experience in learning the new offense has been invaluable for his development and adjustment to the college game.
All four quarterbacks are relishing in the opportunity to steer the new no huddle attack. The tempo of the offense rests on the shoulders of the quarterbacks, and the Lions have done a superb job growing with each passing day of spring practice.
Quoting Coach Moorhead:
"I think they have been very diligent in their approach to learning the offense and applying it on the field. I think they all have a great work ethic. I think at times during spring ball they have shown flashes of what we need from the position to be successful in the fall. So, I'm very excited about the potential. I think they've made the biggest strides mentally. Going form zero understanding of the offense to getting it entirely installed in about six days, they've done a great job really understanding the material and understanding the things it takes to be successful from a mental standpoint."