Penn State Football 2024 Forecast: The Quarterbacks (2024)

With Penn State football turning toward offseason training, it’s time to take inventory of the Nittany Lions roster. Coach James Franklin and his staff have seen some turnover already, and a few emerging names are worth keeping an eye on. This is the Penn State position breakdown series.

The quarterback room does not have a lot of unknown on paper. Drew Allar returns as the bona fide starter, while Beau Pribula will see playing time as the backup and perhaps more. The group didn’t exactly light it up at the Blue-White Game, but multiple factors were at play: a brutally windy State College afternoon and a clear desire to not put any company secrets on tape. Acknowledging that, let's assess Penn State's 2024 quarterback room.

RELATED: How Drew Allar played "loose, free and confident" during spring drills

The Storyline

Can Allar find the same gear he showed toward the end of the 2023 season? The quarterback said after a stellar performance at Maryland that “something” had clicked the week prior against Indiana, a game Penn State narrowly pulled out after Allar followed his first career interception with a 57-yard touchdown pass to KeAndre Lambert-Smith (now at Auburn).

Allar seemed to let loose after the turnover. Franklin consistently has played up Allar’s 25/2 touchdown-to-interception ratio publicly, and for good reason. But the quarterback was timid to begin the season and clearly opened up down the stretch — especially after Franklin fired offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich.

Allar averaged just over 275 yards and nearly three touchdowns per game against Maryland, Michigan State and Ole Miss to end the year. With an unproven receiving corps and first-year offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki, Allar maximizing his big-arm potential will be the biggest key to unlocking Penn State’s offense.

RELATED: For Penn State, questions about wide receiver will linger into the fall

The Alphas

Allar is going to be the starter for a second season barring injury or extreme struggles. His line last year was solid overall with 2,631 passing yards to go with those 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions. And he compiled the No. 4 passer rating (136.89) in the Big Ten. Allar's completion percentage, though, fell to 59.9 percent. He has built his 6-5 frame to 241 pounds, but Allar and Franklin have mentioned that he is moving as well as he has in his career. Perhaps he can add onto the 210 rushing yards and four touchdowns he had a season ago.

Pribula, meanwhile, will see the field. Kotelnicki has been brutally honest with his players, saying the most talented will play. The backup quarterback proved, especially after Yurcich's departure, that he could offer a new element to the Penn State offense. Allar still has plenty to prove in the passing game, but there’s also room for two-quarterback sets in Happy Valley while Allar continues a stronghold of the top spot.

The Player You Don’t Know Yet

Franklin said that freshman Ethan Grunkemeyer, who enrolled early, showed flashes of promise in spring practice, making the head coach excited to see what Grunkemeyer can do this summer after learning more of the offense and watching more of Kotelnicki’s film. At 6-2, 202 pounds and in his first semester on campus, Grunkemeyer has a frame that can easily fill out into a Division-I level, with elite — though raw — arm talent to go with it. He stepped into the spotlight with sophom*ore quarterback Jaxon Smolik sustaining a significant injury in spring that will hold him out for an extended period of time.

RELATED: How Penn State shook up spring practice

The Issues at the Position

Beyond Allar’s need to take a step forward, the biggest question for the quarterback room is Pribula’s role. He appeared in two-quarterback sets in limited action toward the end of last season, offering effective wrinkles in trick packages and pure quarterback draw or read-option plays.

Pribula rushed for 329 yards on 5.9 yards per carry and six touchdowns. He became the offense’s focal point once Allar was injured against Rutgers, and Pribula threw the ball just once — a 9-yard completion — while orchestrating the run-heavy offense to a win. If Kotelnicki can unleash Pribula’s running ability alongside Allar’s arm talent, Penn State could have a dangerous one-two punch at the helm.

Can Penn State win the Big Ten with this position group?

Absolutely. Allar’s pure talent is among the best — if not the best — in the Big Ten. He has shown the ability to make every throw on the field, while demonstrating a surprising proficiency to run at times last year. Pribula, meanwhile, should be one of the best backup options in the conference.

Play-calling, weak receiver play and a lack of confidence kept Allar and the offense from reaching their potential in 2023. With Kotelnicki and an unproven receiving corps in the fold, Penn State’s quarterback play will likely be the X-factor of Penn State’s championship aspirations. Allar will have to win a few games with his arm. While he hasn’t really done it yet, Allar certainly has the potential.

Max Ralph is a Penn State senior studying Broadcast Journalism with minors in sports studies and Japanese. He previously covered Penn State football for two years with The Daily Collegian and has reported with the Associated Press and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Follow him on Twitter (X) @maxralph_ and Instagram @mralph_59.

Penn State Football 2024 Forecast: The Quarterbacks (2024)

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