Quarterback Conundrums: Penn State

July, 11, 2008
7/11/08
1:38
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The second installment of Quarterback Conundrums takes us to Happy Valley, where Penn State is looking for a new offensive leader after two years with Anthony Morelli. Two very different candidates headline what should be one of the league's most intriguing position competition this summer.

The candidates

Daryll Clark (6-2, 231, Jr.): Served as Morelli's backup last season and finished with a flourish, helping Penn State rally from a 14-0 deficit to win the Alamo Bowl. Top-shelf athlete has good size and plenty of charisma, but must rid the run-first quarterback label. Is often compared to former Nittany Lions quarterback Michael Robinson, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2005. Didn't win the job this spring, but has the experience edge over Pat Devlin. Penn State is leaning more toward a spread offense, which could maximize Clark's talents.

Pat Devlin (6-4, 222, So.): Standout prep quarterback from Philly suburbs is best known for backing out of a commitment to Miami for the chance to start at his home-state school. Strong-armed and considered the better pure passer of the two. Has great size but only one collegiate pass attempt to his credit. Known as a passer but has the ability to scramble. "I can run the ball a little bit," he said this spring. "I've never said I'm a track star or anything."

Who they're replacing

Anthony Morelli: He was enigmatic, to say the least, in two seasons at the helm of the Nittany Lions' offense. Few doubted Morelli's arm strength and he set several school passing records, but his decision-making and leadership skills often came into question. Last season he passed for 2,651 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, completing 58.2 percent of his passes.

Spring skinny

Neither candidate claimed the starting job this spring, though Clark took most of the snaps with the first-team offense. Devlin, however, had the slightly stronger performance in the Blue-White game, completing 12 of 18 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.

Summer storylines

  • In addition to having more experience than Devlin, Clark is a confident and vocal leader who should be able to command respect in the huddle. "I've been the most vocal than I've ever been before," he said in April. "I just feel confident. When everyone's looking at me, I have a great feeling with everyone in the huddle. The leadership step that I took was pretty big this spring."
  • It seems like Penn State's current crop of receivers has been there as long as JoePa. Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood are familiar names around the Big Ten, but as a group, they have underachieved at times. As seniors, they should be poised for a stellar season, but building chemistry with the new quarterback is vital. Whoever establishes a good rhythm with the wideouts will have the inside track to the starting job.
  • Devlin gave up Miami to play in Happy Valley, and sitting on the bench wasn't what he had in mind. If Clark wins the job, it'll be interesting to see what happens with Devlin, who could transfer or stick it out. He's only a sophomore, but Clark is just a year older.

Prediction

Joe Paterno usually goes with experience at quarterback, and Clark's strong performance in the Alamo Bowl showed he's up to the task. Clark still must prove he can be a reliable passer and utilize a senior-laden receiving corps. The Lions boast a good rushing attack with Evan Royster and warp-speed freshman Stephfon Green, but they will need to throw it more than, say, Wisconsin. It would be surprising if Clark doesn't start the opener against Coastal Carolina, but Devlin also should see the field this fall.

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