STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Trace McSorley hears the comparisons to Baker Mayfield. So do others around the Penn State senior quarterback. Nobody in Happy Valley is backing down from them.
Mayfield, a 6-1, 215-pound QB, completed the journey from former walk-on to Heisman Trophy winner to No. 1 pick of the Browns in the 2018 NFL Draft. McSorley, a 6-1, 203-pound senior, watched Mayfield make that run with great appreciation.
“When you see a guy like Baker do that and you hear the comparisons between me and him, it definitely sets a goal for yourself,” McSorley told Sporting News. “It makes you think, ‘That’s what I want. If he can do that, that’s something I want to be chasing.'”
It’s easy to see why that comparison is being drawn. Mayfield piled up 14,230 passing yards and 129 TDs for a career in which he led the Sooners to two berths in the College Football Playoff. McSorley, who is 22-5 over the last two seasons as Penn State’s starter, brings a similar skill set to the field. Both have proven that height comes secondary to play-making ability. Penn State coach James Franklin was an assistant coach with Green Bay in 2005, the year the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers. At 6-2, Rodgers had to address questions about his height.
McSorley figures to answer the same in advance of the 2019 NFL Draft. He is not considered a high-round pick in early mocks, but Franklin can think of several examples where size doesn’t matter.
“It just helps when there is examples of guys that look like you or play like you that have been able to have that type of success in college and in the NFL,” Franklin said. “There is a lot of value in that. Whether it’s Baker or whether that’s Russell Wilson or whether that is the number of NFL quarterbacks that are playing now that are 6-1 or smaller. Joe Montana wasn’t the biggest guy in the world. The guy with the Saints? He’s had a pretty-good career.”
Drew Brees, a 6-0, 209-pound QB, has become a standard for that comparison. Brees was a record-setting passer at Purdue from 1997-2000 and is entering his 18th season with the Saints.
“He’s extremely consistent in what he does,” McSorley said of Brees. “He’s not super, super flashy. He’s not doing anything necessarily out of the ordinary that you wouldn’t see just from watching film. I’ve talked to a couple people and there are certain things he does on the practice field and kind of carries himself that you don’t see out of guys.”
So it comes as no surprise that Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne and McSorley still study Brees. Rahne played quarterback at Cornell from 1999-2001. He remembers watching the 1998 Alamo Bowl shootout between Purdue and Kansas State, a game in which Brees threw the game-winning TD pass in the final minute of a 37-34 victory.
“I remember sitting around with my friends, watching that game and thinking, ‘This guy’s amazing,'” Rahne said. “It has nothing to do with his height.”
Rahne sees similarities in McSorley, who has led Penn State to back-to-back New Year’s Days Six Bowls; games that led to shootouts against USC and Washington the past two seasons.
“If I’m an NFL team I’d take him, and I know I’ve got a guy that’s going to give me a chance to win every game,” Rahne said.
That will lead to more comparisons to Mayfield down the line, and it’s part of a trend Franklin sees evolving in the NFL.
“Let’s be honest, 10 years ago, Baker wouldn’t have been drafted in the first three rounds,” Franklin said. “That’s not a knock on Baker; that’s just how it was. Fortunately people are focused on things that matter more now than just the measurables, and that’s production. … I think with Trace you’ll probably see that.”
McSorley, meanwhile, remains focused on his final season with the Nittany Lions. After all, Mayfield took that next step by having an unforgettable final year with Oklahoma. That’s the path McSorley hopes to follow first before taking on the 2019 NFL Draft.
“It sets a goal and sets something what you want to work toward, but at the end of the day, all that kind of stuff comes through the team’s success,” McSorley said. “That’s how I’ve always been. I’ve always stayed focused on making the team as good as it can be.”