Editor’s note: Last week Jason Rufner caught up with Briar Woods High School senior Trace McSorley and it was clear from the article below that the quarterback/safety standout was keeping his options open after Vanderbilt coach James Franklin accepted the Penn State job … and those options changed in a huge way after a weekend visit to “Happy Valley” as he went ahead and de-committed from Vanderbilt and verbally committed to play next year for the Nittany Lions and Franklin
By Jason S Rufner
Speical to Viva Loudoun
Ashburn (Jan. 17, 2014) – Briar Woods High School dynamic dual-threat quarterback Trace McSorley committed to Vanderbilt University last July 13, during an unofficial visit to the prestigious Nashville institution. McSorley, a perennial all-region and all-state performer who led the Falcons to four state championship games and three state titles, picked Vandy for a multitude of reasons.
“A big part of it was the high academic institution that it is. My family has always pushed me toward a great education,” said McSorley, who has yet to take any of his allotted five official visits to prospective schools.
“Also I liked the big city vibe of being in Nashville, and it’s a beautiful campus. And being around the other players, they seemed like the sort of guys I would want to be around for the next four, five years of my life. But obviously the coaching staff was a big thing for me. I was very comfortable with them.”
At that time of his visit, the Commodores’ highly regarded third-year head coach, James Franklin, appeared fully committed to maintaining the successful momentum he had begun at the Southeastern Conference program, McSorley said.
“When I talked with him, it sounded like he was committed to staying at Vanderbilt and building the program up,” McSorley said.
In three seasons, Franklin led the Commodores to a 24-15 record and two consecutive bowl victories. The usually lowly Commodores finished each of the past two seasons ranked in the nation’s Top 25.
On January 11, with Signing Day less than one month away, Franklin left Vanderbilt to become the head football coach at Penn State University.
McSorley took the news somewhat in stride, saying Franklin’s decision was “shocking” but not altogether surprising.
“College football is a business, and that’s his job. He has a family, and he has to look out for that and take the best opportunity for him and his family,” McSorley said, adding that he knew such a situation could arise no matter where he committed.
“It was upsetting and I’m disappointed, but I understand that it is a business and he had to do what he had to do.”
Multiple media outlets have reported that the bulk of Franklin’s Vandy staff will accompany him to Penn State. Additionally, reports indicate as many as eight of his 2014 recruits could switch their commitments to PSU. Two have already done so.
For the moment, McSorley does not count himself among them.
“Right now I am fully committed to Vanderbilt,” he said.
Signing Day, the date on which athletes are due to submit their National Letters of Intent to accept grants-in-aid to their chosen program’s school, is February 5. That leaves scant little time for a young man to reconsider his options if the coach to whom he committed is no longer there.
Whether McSorley signs with Vanderbilt will depend substantially upon his comfort with the school’s football staff. To date, Vanderbilt has yet to name Franklin’s successor. That selection will be very important to McSorley’s ultimate decision.
“I’m waiting to see who the new coach will be. If the new staff comes in and it’s not the right fit, I might take the opportunity to take some other visits.”
McSorley has an official visit scheduled to Vanderbilt later this month, though that may not happen if the school has not selected a new football staff. The Ashburn product said he might also make use of his other official visit openings.
He mentioned Stanford, Boston College, Wake Forest and Penn State as potential recipients of those visits.
McSorley, who was also an accomplished safety for Briar Woods, acknowledged that many Division I football programs have nearly filled their recruiting classes for 2014. Being late in the process, he noted that he would be open to a position change to wide receiver or a defensive spot, though quarterback remains his preference.
“I’m a little bit more open to a position change right now just because of how late it is in the recruiting process,” he said. “A lot of schools have had their quarterbacks set for a while now, so I’m a bit more open. But I still feel like I’ve built up a good résumé as far as what I’ve done as a quarterback, so I still want that shot.”
While McSorley reaffirmed his Vandy commitment, that status could change depending upon his read of the Commodores’ next set of coaches.
“A big thing is finding a staff that is the right fit for what I do as a player,” McSorley said. “How I get to impact the team, that’s one thing I’m looking for.”