Tommy Stevens spent his previous three years in Penn State’s football program as the backup quarterback to Trace McSorley. But with McSorley moving on to catch on with an NFL team, the question is whether Stevens is healthy enough to take the reins.
The Nittany Lions began spring football practice on Wednesday. At a Beaver Stadium news conference, James Franklin said Stevens will be limited at the start because of “a fairly significant injury,” which the head coach declined to be specific about, that affected the quarterback last season.
“He will be able to participate; I don’t know if it’s going to be full go,” said Franklin, who mentioned before the Jan. 1 Citrus Bowl that Stevens had had “recent surgery.”
“He had the surgery off campus, so we are communicating with his doctor, as well as trying to get everybody on the same page. At this point, he’ll be limited from the beginning of spring, and, depending how spring goes, it could be full go by the end of spring. But I’m not sure of that yet.”
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Stevens, a redshirt senior, played in just seven games last season. In his career, playing running back, wide receiver, and tight end as well as quarterback, he has accounted for 14 touchdowns -- eight rushing, two receiving, and four passing.
When Stevens was out last year, the backup was Sean Clifford, who is entering his redshirt sophomore season.
“Sean was able to gain some experience and did some really good things for us,” Franklin said. “I think Tommy understands, ‘Hey, I’ve got to step into this role right now. I have a responsibility not only to run the offense and to lead the offense and understand that Trace had instant credibility with our team from what he had done the previous years.' ”
Franklin said other areas of concern in the spring are defensive tackle, safety, and wide receiver. Tackle Kevin Givens left early for the NFL, and wide receivers Juwan Johnson and Brandon Polk transferred, while another wideout, DeAndre Thompkins, graduated.
“We have to speed up the maturation with a lot of those guys at those positions,” Franklin said. “We have to continue to develop them all, there’s no doubt about it. But, I would say those are the areas of emphasis for us as a program. We need to figure those things out sooner rather than later.”
Wednesday marked the first of 15 practices for the Nittany Lions. Spring ball ends on April 13 with the Blue-White Game at Beaver Stadium.