Land of 10 writer Tyler Donohue breaks down a Penn State recruit every week. In this edition, he evaluates quarterback Taquan Roberson. Be sure to review his past analysis of many potential Nittany Lions here.
Penn State aims to stockpile young quarterbacks who are capable of developing into dynamic playmakers when their moment arrives. Current starter Trace McSorley has broken multiple single-season and career program records while operating under the direction of Nittany Lions offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, using his arm and legs to produce big plays.
McSorley may be back next season, along with compelling backup Tommy Stevens, who is eligible through 2019. Beyond those two, the goal for Penn State is to assemble of a collection of players prepared to compete for an opportunity to take the reins of what projects as a talent-laden offensive attack.
Last week, we focused on 2018 quarterback commit Will Levis, who has enjoyed an outstanding senior season at Xavier (Middletown, Conn.). Now, let’s focus on DePaul Catholic (Wayne, N.J.) junior Taquan Roberson.
Roberson, a 2019 prospect, pledged to Penn State on Oct. 26. The Nittany Lions extended an offer July 16 following his visit to Happy Valley for camp action, and several Power 5 programs entered this pursuit prior to the season.
Though Roberson opened plenty of eyes during a sophomore season in which he earned starting reps and impressed during ensuing offseason camps, he’s truly broken out as a prominent and productive player this fall.
Through nine games, Roberson has completed 66 percent of pass attempts for 2,112 yards and 23 touchdowns, according to MaxPreps. He’s thrown only 5 interceptions on 204 tosses, while adding 433 yards and 4 scores as a rusher.
— tr.1__ (@TaquanRoberson_) October 26, 2017
Some “dual-threat” quarterback recruits are essentially athletes playing the position without substantial passing prowess. Roberson is an impressive talent who excels in both aspects.
The mark against him as a prospect is he stands 6-feet tall. This may concern some college staffs, but Penn State has flourished with the 6-foot McSorley at quarterback since 2016. He became the team’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns (50) last Saturday against Michigan State and helped capture a Big Ten championship last season.
Recent 5-star quarterback recruits Tate Martell (Ohio State) and Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) were also the same height, if not smaller, as high school seniors. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was of similar stature, while 2017 Heisman contender Baker Mayfield is 6-1.
These measurements are more of a concern when making the leap from college to NFL competition, and considering Roberson still has another prep campaign ahead there’s a definite chance he will continue to add size.
Roberson, likely to receive a bump in recruiting rankings following industry-wide assessment of his breakout 2017 season, is considered a 3-star recruit in 247Sports 2019 composite rankings. Expect more offers to arrive in the coming months, but Penn State should view his offensive abilities as especially valuable since there is a strong fit in the Nittany Lions’ offensive attack.
Penn State attacks opponents with a run-pass option scheme that intends to keep defenses off balance and allow its quarterback to make a quick decision based on coverage reads. This requires mobility, improvisation and decisiveness delivering the ball downfield.
Roberson carries each of these attributes, and he is occasionally tasked with a similar role at DePaul:
Roberson, now in full command as DePaul’s starter, is competing with a lot of confidence this season. He reads and reacts with fluidity, displaying an assertive mentality that too often evades prep quarterbacks.
When it comes time to air the ball out, Roberson presents tremendous arm strength. He can deliver darts while moving beyond the pocket, hitting receivers in stride even as momentum carries him away from a pass target.
His accuracy is excellent in the intermediate range, and Roberson also showcases precision on attempts that travel 20 yards or more. He slings the ball with a blend of zip and touch that adds up to ideal ball placement on long-distance throws:
It’s no surprise to see Roberson lead his prep squad in rushing yards, as he is a highly effective runner in the open field. His vision beyond the line of scrimmage allows him to avoid big hits and move the chains with regularity.
Pair Roberson in the backfield with another elusive rusher, such as elite 2018 Nittany Lions running back commit Ricky Slade, and defensive strategists will have a difficult time preparing for those possibilities:
Ultimately, I see significant and legitimate similarities to McSorley, far more so than when reviewing the high school film of Levis or Penn State freshman Sean Clifford. Roberson is probably the more dynamic rusher, though McSorley has certainly showcased an impressive set of wheels during key moments of his college career.
The Nittany Lions landed an intriguing fit in Roberson, and it will be interesting to see how he develops prior to arrival at Penn State. Don’t be surprised if he pushes incumbent quarterbacks Clifford and Levis for playing time after McSorley and Stevens have moved on.
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