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Carolina Panthers could be eying former Penn State quarterback with top draft pick

A former Nittany Lion could go No. 1 in this year’s NFL Draft.

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Former Penn State quarterback
Nov 7, 2020; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Will Levis (7) warms up during a time-out Maryland Terrapins during the second quarter at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, a massive NFL Draft trade took place. The Chicago Bears — who previously boasted the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft — sent the top 2023 draft pick to the quarterback-hungry Carolina Panthers. The Panthers are in need of a new franchise QB heading into the 2023 season and could be eying a former Penn State quarterback.

Panthers could be targeting former Penn State quarterback

When it comes to former Penn State quarterback Will Levis, the punchline around State College remains the same: why would an NFL team want a guy that was beaten by Sean Clifford for the starting job twice? Well, it’s not as simple as who James Franklin would have picked.

What head coach James Franklin saw in former Penn State quarterback Will Levis was the mediocre QB that led the Kentucky Wildcats to a 7-6 season while throwing for 2,406 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions in 2022. On the contrary, what NFL scouts see with Will Levis is his massive 6-3, 232-pound frame and incredible arm strength/talent. Any solid scout will look at Levis and see potential, not the college product.

Since the Panthers need a QB — and Will Levis is a current betting favorite to go No. 1 this year — we could see the former Penn State quarterback end up with Carolina on day one of this year’s draft.

James Franklin still made the right call with Levis

Even if former Penn State quarterback Will Levis goes No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin still made the right call with Clifford and Levis. Why? Simple: Clifford was the better quarterback in college.

Levis had a robust frame and solid arm, but as we saw a season ago, that arm was inconsistent, and his decision-making was not up to par. The Clifford vs. Levis debate was settled a year ago — The Kentucky Wildcats fell to 7-6 behind a subpar Will Levis; meanwhile, the Penn State Nittany Lions were lifted to an 11-2 finish with a Rose Bowl win all said and done. Levis will likely have a better professional career than Clifford, but Sean Clifford was the better college quarterback.



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FOOTBALL

BREAKING: Trace McSorley gets last-minute call from NFL team, will miss White Out festivities

Trace McSorley was expected to be an honorary captain for tomorrow night’s White Out game against Iowa, but it appears that the former Penn State QB had a last-minute change of plans.

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Sep 29, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley (9) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Across Happy Valley, Penn State football fans are gearing up for the White Out tomorrow night against Iowa. The White Out always attracts famous Nittany Lions from the past, and this weekend will be no different. Saturday night’s primetime matchup against the No. 24 Hawkeyes was expected to feature two Penn State legends, as former Nittany Lions Grant Haley and Trace McSorley were set to be the team’s honorary captains. However, it appears that the program may have just received a late cancelation, as McSorley has apparently received a last-second call from an NFL team.

Former Penn State QB Trace McSorley gets last-second NFL callup, expected to miss White Out festivities

Earlier this week, Nittany Nation was excited to learn that two Penn State football legends, Trace McSorley and Grant Haley, were set to serve as honorary captains for tomorrow night’s matchup against the No. 24 Iowa Hawkeyes. During his Tuesday press conference, head coach James Franklin noted that McSorley and Haley were already on campus, mingling with members of the current program in the weight room.

“They’re beloved in Penn State history, in my opinion. I know they are in our building,” Franklin said. 

However, it appears that there has been a last-minute change of plans. Friday afternoon, The Family Clothesline posted a message on Instagram noting that McSorley would not be making his scheduled appearance at the store tomorrow. According to the message, McSorley had received a last-minute call to meet with an NFL team.

“We wanted to update you on the autograph session scheduled for tomorrow, September 23,” the message reads. “Trace McSorley received a last-minute call to meet with an NFL team. While we are disappointed he won’t be in Happy Valley for White Out Weekend, we are wishing him the best of luck! It’s unfortunate that we will not be able to have Trace meet you all, but this is a great opportunity for him, so we are showing our best support.”

At this time, it’s unknown which NFL squad has contacted Trace McSorley. McSorley played two seasons for the Baltimore Ravens and Arizona Cardinals, respectively, before being cut by the New England Patriots last month.



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FOOTBALL

WATCH: Saquon Barkley helped off field with lower body injury

Things don’t look good for former Penn State RB Saquon Barkley

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Sep 17, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) is helped off the field against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

As Penn State football comes off a Week 3 win at Illinois, Penn State fans wrapped up the weekend by watching former Nittany Lions hit the field in the NFL. The late afternoon window this Sunday was particularly enjoyable for Penn State fans, with both Micah Parson and Saquon Barkley leading their respective teams in action. However, the mood turned sour near the end of the New York Giants game against the Arizona Cardinals, as Barkley was helped off the field with an apparent lower-body injury.

Former Penn State, New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley helped off field

The New York Giants completed a massive comeback against the Arizona Cardinals this afternoon, rallying from a 20-0 halftime deficit to win 31-28. In the second half, Saquon Barkley was back to doing Saquon Barkley things. The former Penn State running back had 17 rushes for 63 yards and a touchdown. In the passing game, Barkley also added 6 catches for 29 yards and a score to his stat line today.

However, the Giants comeback ended poorly for Barkley. With 1:08 left in the game, Saquon Barkley went down with an injury after a nasty tackle that twisted his right leg.

Barkley ultimately needed assistance getting off the field. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Barkley was getting his ankle tapped on the sideline. However, Schefter noted that the Giants running back was walking with a limp.

On the sidelines, the camera caught Barkley looking visibly upset. Barkley had 12 carries for 51 yards on the season coming into this game. If he is to miss extended time, it would be a major blow to the former Penn State football standout, who is one of the superstars in the NFL today.

The New York Giants return to action against the San Franciso 49ers on Thursday night. Given that it’s a short week, it’ll be interesting to see if Saquon Barkley is able to go for the primetime matchup.

UPDATE: As of 8:45 p.m. on Sunday, NFL insider Jordan Schultz is reporting that the Giants believe Saquon Barkley has suffered a sprained ankle, and that the Giants superstar avoided a major injury.



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FOOTBALL

ICYMI: Former Penn State quarterback cut by NFL team

Recently, former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley received bad news, getting cut by the New England Patriots in the NFL.

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Aug 10, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Trace McSorley (19) drops back to pass during the second half against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback is a buzzworthy position around the Penn State football program currently. While this is true for most college football programs this time of year, it’s especially so in Happy Valley. The competition for the starter’s role encompassing the 2023 offseason appears to be reaching its end. But in the pro ranks, one former Penn State quarterback will not be coming out on top in his position room, as recently Trace McSorley was cut by the New England Patriots.

Penn State quarterbacks have been in the headlines as of late

When you mention Penn State football, quarterback is what comes to everybody’s mind. Ahead of Penn State’s season opener at home against West Virginia, James Franklin has been reluctant to name a starting quarterback. Quarterbacks Drew Allar and Beau Pribula have been battling all camp long to see who will win the starting quarterback position. Both early enrollees of the 2022 class, the duo is in their second year under Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich’s system, which should help their development. With the growth the two have shown, I suspect they will both see playing time this season. 

In addition, James Franklin and Mike Yurcich have praised the development of true freshman Jaxon Smolik. The 6-foot-1-inch quarterback from Iowa has grown immensely from just spring to fall. James Franklin said ahead of WVU that the team has “three quarterbacks that we could all win with.” 

Outside of current Nittany Lion QBs, there has been news professionally. Rookie fifth-round pick Sean Clifford just won the backup role in Green Bay. Clifford’s completion percentage so far in the preseason jumps off the page – 71.9%. 

Additionally, former second-round pick Christian Hackenberg has started dipping his toes into the world of NIL. Hackenberg is now a part of State Media, a Penn State-based NIL media company that will interview players. 

But Penn State’s most famous quarterback received some bad news.

Former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley cut by New England Patriots

An argument could be made about who Penn State’s best quarterback ever is. The argument typically comes down to two – Kerry Collins and Trace McSorley. In his first season in starting for Penn State in 2016, McSorley led the Nittany Lions to their first Big Ten Championship since 2008. McSorley led the Nittany Lions to a Fiesta Bowl win in 2017. 

McSorley was drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2019 NFL Draft. He spent most of his time as a backup to Lamar Jackson but saw select game action for the black and purple. In 2021, the Arizona Cardinals signed McSorley off the Ravens practice squad. McSorley only started one game for the Cardinals. After Kyler Murray and Colt McCoy suffered injuries, McSorley started 2022 week 16 against the Buccaneers. He went 24/45 for 217 yards and an interception. 

After the 2022 season, McSorley signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots, joining former Penn State teammate Mike GesickiMcSorley only threw four passes in the preseason, completing only one. The Patriots have quarterbacks Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, and Malik Cunningham on the roster. The Patriots must have thought McSorley was not good enough to beat out the other three, as they cut him after the preseason ended. 

Time will tell where McSorley ends up next. Hopefully, this is not the end of McSorley’s playing career. 



Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at [email protected] or direct message us on our social media. Also, be sure to check out our new site shop. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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