Heralded quarterback recruit Michael O’Connor will never play a down for Penn State.
Coach James Franklin announced Thursday the freshman from Ontario, Canada, will leave the program with intentions to transfer.
“We thank Michael for his contributions to the program and wish him well in his future academic and athletic endeavors,” Franklin said in a university release.
O’Connor, who enrolled in January of 2014 after his senior high school season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., did not play a down in his true freshman season. He lost the battle with freshman Trace McSorley for the backup spot behind starter Christian Hackenberg when the depth chart was released in August. Franklin redshirted both freshmen quarterbacks this past season.
O’Connor, a 6-foot-4, 226-pound pocket passer, was recruited by former Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, who left the program after two seasons last December for the NFL’s Houston Texans. He was rated a Top 15 qaurterback and a four-star recruit nationally by three of the four major recruiting services. O’Connor participated in the Blue-White game last April, completing 11 of 16 passes for 81 yards.
Coached by former Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, O’Connor threw for 1,804 yards and 18 touchdowns in leading IMG Academy to an 8-2 record.
Penn State’s offense has struggled this past season with Hackenberg — who like O’Connor is a pro-style quarterback — at the helm. Hackenberg was sacked 42 times this past season as the Penn State offense managed just 22 touchdowns.
Franklin is thought to prefer a dual-threat quarterback — one who is dangerous both running and passing the ball — and McSorley fits that description. Franklin used dual-threat quarterbacks to success at Vanderbilt.
Penn State has just two scholarship quarterbacks on its current roster (Hackenberg and McSorley). The Nittany Lions have received oral commitments from quarterbacks Tommy Stevens (Indianapolis) and Jake Zembiec (Rochester, N.Y.) in the 2015 and 2016 classes, respectively. Brandon Wimbush, originally a 2015 verbal, has de-committed and flipped to Notre Dame.
O’Connor has not indicated to where he will transfer.
Penn State (6-6) will face Boston College (7-5) in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium in New York