STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- After months of practices, scrimmages and workouts, James Franklin finally announced Penn State's starting quarterback on Wednesday night: It's redshirt sophomore Trace McSorley.
The Nittany Lions' offense can ultimately move forward now, but the move itself was not a surprise.
Franklin often reiterated this was an "open competition," going so far as to say back in June that "everyone rushed to judgment based on the spring game." There, McSorley played with the first-team offense for three quarters and finished 23-of-27 for 281 yards and four touchdowns. Backup Tommy Stevens participated in five plays with the starters.
But even before that scrimmage, McSorley seemed like the natural choice, based on the way the players spoke and the way Franklin had praised him in the past.
"I just feel like he's the guy everyone's looking upon," wideout DaeSean Hamilton said early in the spring, referring to McSorley. "He's ready to take that role and lead our team."
Franklin even said in the spring of 2015 that he was thrilled with McSorley: "If you talk to our team, there's a lot of people that have been really excited about his future, about Trace's future. There's a buzz in our program about him."
Penn State's third-year coach constantly labeled this as anyone's race, but it never really felt that way. McSorley served as Christian Hackenberg's backup the last two seasons and impressed in the TaxSlayer Bowl by throwing for 142 yards and two TDs against Georgia's No. 1-rated pass defense. Stevens redshirted and served as the scout-team QB.
McSorley has only ever been praised since he stepped foot on campus in June of 2014. He was the first Franklin quarterback on the roster, and many immediately assumed he was the heir apparent to Hackenberg. After all, as a dual-threat signal-caller, he better fit the coach's style -- and he seemed to get the OK from Hackenberg.
"I love working with him and playing with him," Hackenberg said last season. "He's a guy who gets it. He's a smart player. He's just really fun to be around in those types of environments."
The point is this: McSorley is ready for this job. Starter or not, teammates like Hamilton have been looking toward him this offseason. He's been groomed for this position. He has the experience, and even Franklin acknowledged there's been a gap between McSorley and Stevens for quite some time.
McSorley came across as confident and sure of himself during offseason interviews. Stevens wasn't quite sure how to handle questions about that "gap." Did he feel like, after 12 practices in the spring, that he closed the gap at all? "I'm not sure." What about closing it at all by July? "It's kind of hard to tell."
In the end, Stevens couldn't overcome the fact that McSorley was more prepared. Teammates sometimes singled out McSorley for his leadership. Stevens couldn't compete with that or his fellow signal-caller's experience.
"The entire spring, [McSorley] made good passes, he made good reads, knew when to pull the ball," running back Mark Allen said back in April. "Trace is the man."
Players and coaches have been complimenting McSorley since February of last year, and teammates have sung his praises throughout this offseason. So it felt like McSorley earned this job quite a while ago.
But, now, it's finally official: This is McSorley's offense.