Penn State Football

Who is Penn State’s best-ever QB? Where did Trace McSorley wind up?

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Penn State football: The all-time Top 10 at each position

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The summer series on Penn State’s storied history is rolling on.

To recap: We started off with running backs, followed by defensive tackles, defensive backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers/punters and defensive ends. Now on Day 8, it’s time to determine the top-10 quarterbacks of all-time.

As a reminder, we organized a group of 12 experts — six former players, six media members — to vote on the top-10 all-time players at each position. Each day we’ll release a new position, and if you think we missed something, you can vote in our fan poll, which will be released on July 22.

Here are Penn State’s top-10 quarterbacks based on the opinion of our 12-person panel:

QB Hufnagel
Penn State quarterback John Hufnagel played from 1970 to 1972 and was a first-team All-American.

T-9. John Hufnagel, 1970-1972

Best ranking / worst: No. 5 / unranked

Career stats: 3,545 passing yards, 26 TDs, 55.1 completion percentage

This was a close, close call between Hufnagel and 26-game starter Wally Richardson — the director of the Letterman’s Club, who players loved — but the former had just enough votes to squeeze into the top 10. In 1971 and 1972, the Nittany Lions had a combined record of 21-3 thanks in large part to dynamic running backs; Lydell Mitchell starred in ‘71, while John Cappelletti topped 1,000 yards in ‘72 and took home Penn State’s lone Heisman Trophy in ‘73. But Hufnagel was the constant — and a darn good signal-caller. In 1972, the McKees Rocks product was a first-team All-American, finished sixth in Heisman voting and became Penn State’s first quarterback to throw for 2,000 yards in a season.

QB McGloin 1
Penn State's Matt McGloin, passing against Ohio State, was the first walk-on to start at Penn State since 1949. Abby Drey CDT photo

T-9. Matt McGloin, 2010-2012

Best ranking / worst: No. 5 / unranked

Career stats: 6,390 passing yards, 46 TDs, 57.4 completion percentage

There’s an emotional pull toward voting for McGloin; “Mr. Moxie” was a leader during Penn State’s pivotal 2012 season, the field general for a team immortalized on the Beaver Stadium facade. But McGloin had the stats to back up his candidacy. The first walk-on to start at Penn State since 1949, the Scranton native closed his career with 46 touchdown passes and 6,390 yards — third and fourth all-time, respectively. McGloin’s senior season is one of the best quarterback campaigns the program has ever seen; he thrived under Bill O’Brien, throwing for 3,271 yards with 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

8. Glenn Killinger, 1918, 1920-1921

Best ranking / worst: No. 3 / unranked

Career stats: No stats available

Killinger was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971 — a year before Kerry Collins was even born. While there aren’t stats to pair with Killinger, he led Penn State to undefeated seasons in 1920 and 1921, and was named an All-American in ‘21. The Delaware native earned nine letters in football, baseball and basketball at Penn State and eventually coached all three sports at the college level.

QB Clark
Daryll Clark finished his career with the most touchdowns responsible for in program history, a mark that was broken by Trace McSorley in 2017. CDT/Nabil K. Mark

7. Daryll Clark, 2006-2009

Best ranking/ worst: No. 4 / unranked

Career stats: 5,742 passing yards, 43 TDs, 60.2 completion percentage; 619 rushing yards, 22 TDs

Remember Penn State’s “Spread HD”? While the Nittany Lions’ offense regressed from 2009 on, it was electric in ‘08 — thanks in large part to Clark. Surrounded by running back Evan Royster and wideouts Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood, Clark used the weapons at his disposal to guide the Nittany Lions to a share of the Big Ten title. The Ohio native led the conference’s highest-scoring offense with 2,592 passing yards and 29 total touchdowns. He finished his career with the most touchdowns responsible for in program history, a mark that was broken by Trace McSorley in 2017.

QB Lucas
Penn State quarterback Richie Lucas was a first-team All-American in 1959 and finished second in the Heisman voting.

6. Richie Lucas, 1957-1959

Best ranking / worst: No. 3 / unranked

Career stats: 1,822 passing yards, 12 TDs, 47.3 completion percentage

Of Penn State’s seven Maxwell Award winners, Lucas was the first. He was also the first Nittany Lion to seriously contend for the Heisman Trophy. By offensive standards decades ago, Lucas’ 1959 campaign was remarkable. The Glassport native — nicknamed “Riverboat Richie” for his gambling nature on the field — passed for 913 yards and five touchdowns, led the team in rushing with 325 yards and added five interceptions on the other side of the ball. Lucas, who led Penn State to a 9-2 record and a Liberty Bowl win over Alabama, was a first-team All-American in 1959 and finished second in the Heisman voting.

QB Robinson 1
Michael Robinson finished fifth in the 2005 Heisman voting and was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Nabil K. Mark

5. Michael Robinson, 2002-2005 (1 first-place vote)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / unranked

Career stats: 3,531 passing yards, 23 TDs, 49.1 completion percentage; 1,637 rushing yards, 20 TDs

As a freshman, sophomore and junior, Robinson moved all around the field — quarterback, running back, wide receiver, you name it. But Robinson’s stock skyrocketed when he settled into the starting signal-caller role as a senior. With 3,156 scrimmage yards and 28 total touchdowns in 2005, the speedy decision-maker finished fifth in the Heisman voting and was named the 2005 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, pushing Penn State to an 11-win season and Orange Bowl win. “Nobody has had a better season for us than he has,” former Penn State assistant Jay Paterno told The Chicago Tribune in 2005. “Hey, Kerry Collins was outstanding. But nobody has meant more to us in leadership and making plays.”

QB McSorley 1
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley and the Nittany Lions earned a top-10 ranking in the Amway Coaches Poll. Abby Drey

4. Trace McSorley, 2015-present (1 first-place vote)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / unranked

Career stats: 7,369 passing yards, 59 TDs, 61.8 completion percentage; 899 rushing yards, 18 TDs

McSorley is the only player returning for Penn State’s 2018 season to make a top-10 list — and it’s warranted. Under Joe Moorhead’s RPO scheme, McSorley has already established himself as Penn State’s most prolific passer. The senior’s 59 touchdown passes and 77 touchdowns responsible for rank first all-time, and he sits 1,059 yards away from breaking Christian Hackenberg’s mark. McSorley might get that out of the way by Week 4.

Without Saquon Barkley in the backfield beside him — and with DaeSean Hamilton and Mike Gesicki gone to the NFL — the pressure of Penn State’s season will be on McSorley’s shoulders. But the Big Ten champion and Fiesta Bowl MVP is committed to continuing his Nittany Lion glory in 2018. “When I step on that field,” McSorley told the CDT, “I’m not holding anything back.”

QB Fusina
Chuck Fusina won the Mawell Award in 1978 and was named a first-team All-American.

3. Chuck Fusina, 1975-1978

Best ranking / worst: No. 3 / unranked

Career stats: 5,382 passing yards, 37 TDs, 55.9 completion percentage

Fusina narrowly beat out McSorley for the No. 3 slot. Fusina, like McSorley, was a winner in Happy Valley. A three-year starter, the Pittsburgh native owned a 29-3 record — directing Penn State to a pair of 11-1 seasons. In 1978, the Nittany Lions played Alabama for the national title thanks in large part to Fusina, who won the Mawell Award and was named a first-team All-American that year. He also finished second in the Heisman voting to Oklahoma running back Billy Sims. Fusina briefly played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers, but made a significant impact in the short-lived USFL. In three years, he passed for more than 10,000 yards and led all quarterbacks with 66 touchdowns.

QB Blackledge
Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge guided Penn State to its first national championship in the 1983 Sugar Bowl, won the Davey O’Brien Award and came in sixth in the Heisman voting. Craig Houtz Centre Daily Times

2. Todd Blackledge, 1980-1982 (1 first-place vote)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / unranked

Career stats: 4,812 passing yards, 41 TDs, 51.8 completion percentage

While the gap between Fusina and McSorley was slim, the gap in voting between Blackledge and the No. 3 spot was significant. In the eyes of the panel, Blackledge is part of a clear one-two top-tier. It’s understandable, too.

Blackledge drove Penn State to its first national championship in 1982. He was the Davey O’Brien Award recipient that year and came in sixth in the Heisman voting. Blackledge owned a 31-5 record as a three-year starter with 11 comeback victories and three postseason victories — including that memorable 1983 Sugar Bowl. Blackledge’s 47-yard strike to Gregg Garrity in the fourth quarter remains one of Penn State’s greatest plays of all-time, if not the top highlight. Blackledge also defeated Pitt in a massive 1981 upset and clinched Penn State’s national title opportunity with a narrow win over the Panthers in 1982.

With 4,812 yards, Blackledge barely cracks Penn State’s top-10 all-time passers. But when you have that 1982 ring — and 30 more wins — nothing else matters.

QB Collins 1
Penn State quarterback Kerry Collins, a College Football Hame of Famer, earned the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien awards and came in fourth in the 1994 Heisman voting after leading the nation in passing.

1. Kerry Collins, 1992-1994 (9 first-place votes)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / No. 2

Career stats: 5,304 passing yards, 39 TDs, 56.3 completion percentage

While the total votes were closer than expected, Collins’ first-place votes cemented him as Penn State’s No. 1 passer; the only players with more first-place votes in the series were Saquon Barkley and Bobby Engram.

Of course, Collins made a living connecting with Engram and the rest of the Nittany Lions’ 1994 offense. The Lebanon native compiled a 40-9 record in Happy Valley — but he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this past year because of his legendary ‘94 campaign. Collins drove the country’s most prolific offense (47.8 points per game) to a 12-0 record, controversially finishing No. 2 behind Nebraska. The quarterback earned the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien awards and came in fourth in the Heisman voting in ‘94 after leading the nation in passing — throwing for 2,679 yards and 21 touchdowns. Collins — a 17-year NFL veteran — is the first member of Penn State’s 1994 team to make the College Football Hall of Fame.

“I was surrounded by great players and coaches during my time at Penn State, and was fortunate to have been part of an unbelievably talented undefeated 1994 Big Ten Championship team,” Collins said in a statement in January. “My years at Penn State were special.”

Top QB honorable mention: Wally Richardson, 1992, 1994-1996; Chuck Burkhart, 1968-1969; John Shaffer, 1984-1986; Tony Sacca, 1988-1991; Shorty Miller, 1910-1913

Voters in our panel: (Players) Keith Conlin, 1992-1995; Bill Contz, 1980-1982; Stephon Morris, 2009-2012; Joe Nastasi, 1995-1998; A.Q. Shipley, 2005-2008; Adam Taliaferro, 2000; (Media) Nate Bauer, Blue White Illustrated; Matt Brown, The Athletic; Cory Giger, The Altoona Mirror; John McGonigal, Centre Daily Times; Josh Moyer, Centre Daily Times; Mark Wogenrich, Allentown Morning Call

How the voting was done: Each voter was given an online survey, with 20-50 players at each position, to rank 1-10. If a player was not listed, voters were given the option for a write-in. First-place votes gave players 10 points, second-place votes gave them 9, etc. We then added all the point totals together to find our top 10; honorable mentions have received at least 10 total points.