Junior quarterback Trace McSorley is in the middle of another strong season for Penn State. He leads the Big Ten in passing yards per game (266.6) and has now thrown at least one TD pass in 25 straight outings. His completion percentage (65.0) is up measurably from 2016 (57.9). But those are numbers you can find anywhere. We wanted to take a deeper dive into McSorley’s junior campaign, so we’re putting our new partnership with Pro Football Focus to use. This stuff is not as detailed from a single-game perspective as our Andrew Callahan’s excellent Tale of the Tape features each week. Check out this week's breakdown of the offense and the defense But the PFF College reports allow us to take a look at patterns and trends developed over the course of a season. This is what we discovered, with all numbers courtesy of PFF.
- Of the 360 times McSorley has dropped back this year, he has had no pressure on 257. He has been blitzed on 132 and pressured on 103.
- On the 257 drop-backs where McSorley has not been pressured, he has completed 71.5 percent of his passes for 2,309 yards, 20 touchdowns and four interceptions. He is averaging 9.4 yards per attempt on such plays.
- On the 103 plays that have been considered under pressure, McSorley had completed just 40.3 percent of his passes for 373 yards, one TD and four picks.
- On the 132 plays on which he has been blitzed, he has completed 63 percent of his passes for 895 yards, seven TDs and four picks.
Bottom Line: Like all QBs, McSorley is better when not being pressured than when he is being pressured. But he has been pretty good when teams blitz him — having thrown a third of his TDs on such plays. So the obvious key for opponents is to pressure him without having to blitz, as the extra rusher takes a man away from coverage.
LOOKING FOR DIRECTION
- McSorley’s highest rating (compared to other FBS QBs) per PFF is the intermediate (10-19 yards) zone to the right of the numbers. He has only thrown there 13 times, but has hit on eight of them for 134 yards, four scores and no picks.
- Oddly enough, his two worst positive-yardage zones (again, when compared to other FBS QBs) are deep right (20 yards or more) and short right (zero to nine yards). He only has one TD (but no picks) on passes to those areas.
- McSorley has done the most damage between the numbers, as he’s thrown 14 TDs to those areas. But he’s been hurt there, too, with six picks in the middle of the field. As you can see below, he’s also thrown the most passes — by far — between the numbers.
- Total throws outside the numbers to the left: 43 of 61 (70.5 percent) for 634 yards, two TDs and one pick.
- Total throws between the numbers: 124 of 171 (72.5 percent) for 1,531 yards, 14 TDs and six picks.
- Total throws outside the numbers to the right: 38 of 65 (58.5 percent) for 517 yards, five TDs and no picks.
- McSorley has only thrown the ball away 12 times this year.
- McSorley is averaging 9.1 yards per carry running between the right guard and right tackle (eight attempts, 73 yards).
- PFF grades McSorley as the 20th best QB in FBS, No. 15 in Power 5 conferences, No. 2 in the Big Ten (behind Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett) and No. 10 among QBs eligible for the 2018 NFL Draft.