STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Trace McSorley holds the edge in Penn State's quarterback race, but head coach James Franklin cautioned Wednesday night that there was still a lot of competition left.
"He's still a little bit ahead," Franklin said. "But it doesn't matter who's ahead right now in practice No. 7 of spring ball. It really matters where they are maybe halfway into [training] camp, if it takes that long to decide."
Ideally, Franklin would like to name a starter as early as possible because he wants his quarterback to take a hold of the offense over the summer and lead. Understandably, he's not willing to make that move until there's a clear No. 1.
And even though a more experienced McSorley boasts the early edge over Tommy Stevens -- there's not.
"Both of them have been doing a great job; I think this offense suits both of these guys very well," right tackle Andrew Nelson said. "They're both ballers, they're both athletes, they can do a lot with their feet and their arm. So, no matter who's under center, I think we'll be all right."
In the 15 minutes of practice open to the media, the quarterbacks alternated with the offense in red-zone situations. McSorley took off running several times, and Stevens threw an impressive 20-yard pass to Greg Garrity in the corner of the end zone. (It fell incomplete, but Garrity tried to catch the on-target ball with one hand.) The defense held them off in the end -- the session ended with a sack of McSorley -- but players said there have been plenty of highlights this spring.
In fact, during the first day wearing pads, McSorley eluded defenders and scrambled for a 65-yard touchdown. Neither quarterback has hesitated in taking off to run this spring, and Franklin said that's caused "some headaches" for defensive players such as linebacker Jason Cabinda.
"They both have similar styles of play," Cabinda said. "Both of them are very dynamic, both can make plays on their feet, both can really hit it and go for the home run. They have that kind of speed; their play really fits this offense."
McSorley, the faster of the two, doesn't hold the advantage over Stevens because of his feet, however. McSorley was the backup quarterback last season and impressed in limited time. During the TaxSlayer Bowl, when he came on for an injured Christian Hackenberg, he finished 14-of-27 for 142 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against Georgia's No. 1-rated pass defense. Stevens is coming off a redshirt season on the scout team.
So naturally, McSorley is ahead right now. But the quarterbacks' completion percentage and touchdown-to-interception ratio has been competitive this spring, and teammates seem confident in both players.
"No matter who we have under center this year, I guarantee they're going to get the job done in this offense," Nelson said.