Manheim Central vs Manheim Twp.-HS Football

Manheim Twp. quarterback Evan Clark, throws a pass under pressure from Manheim Central defenders during a scrimmage at Manheim Twp. High School Friday September 11, 2020.

Penn State’s recent history includes some ideal role models for walk-on quarterbacks.

Matt McGloin arrived in Happy Valley in 2009, went from third string to starter and spent four seasons with the Oakland Raiders.

Michael Shuster walked on in 2016 after a record-setting career at Camp Hill High. He virtually never got on the field.

But Shuster made academic all-Big Ten three times and evolved into more coach than player.

“He’s great when it comes to game-planning,’’ James Franklin said of Shuster in 2019. “He’s a culture-driver. He’s going to go on and be very, very successful.’’

Shuster is now a graduate assistant at Old Dominion under ex-PSU offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne.

Which brings us to Manheim Township QB Evan Clark, who announced a week ago he was heading to Penn State as a preferred walk-on.

“I know there’s a lot of things I have to work on,’’ Clark said Friday. “I’ll do whatever it takes to get on the field.’’

Clark is a longshot. But maybe an intriguing one, given when he’s getting at Happy Valley and what he’s bringing.

Clark had some Division II recruiting interest, but his only Division I options were to walk on at Robert Morris, Virginia Tech or Penn State.

He didn’t play until his senior year. The 2019 Blue Streaks went to the district semifinals, with a huge senior class that included a Division I QB (Harrison Kirk, now at Colgate).

Because of the pandemic, Clark never got a shot at the summer camp circuit.

“If this was another year, there’s no doubt he’s been a scholarship player,’’ Township coach Mark Evans said Friday. “I really feel for the (Class of) 2021 kids.’’

Clark started at QB in just seven varsity games. They were against high-level competition; his first two games were against Philadelphia power La Salle College and L-L power Wilson.

And he more than delivered, completing 98 of 141 throws for 1,505 yards, 18 touchdowns and no interceptions. The efficiency those numbers reflect — completing 70% for 11 yards per attempt with zero turnovers — is about as good as it gets.

Clark is 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. His arm strength is by all accounts (including, apparently, new Penn State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich) elite. He bench-presses 300 pounds and squats 435.

Clark said he doesn’t know what his 40 time is, although some recruiting publications have said it’s 4.7-ish (McGloin, at 6-1, 215, did a 4.86 at Penn State’s 2012 pro day).

“If you watch Evan play baseball — he’s an outfielder — and you’ve seen him track a fly ball, you know he can run,’’ Evans said.

Clark is a relative neophyte. He didn’t start playing QB until ninth grade.

“I have a lot to learn about reading defenses at the line of scrimmage,’’ he admitted. “I definitely feel like if I’d played as a sophomore and junior, I’d be a lot better now.’’

Clark acknowledged that he could play another position, maybe tight end, his pre-QB position. Evans believes he could even play linebacker in college.

But the QB situation at Penn State, although fluid, is not all that daunting at this moment.

There are four scholarship QBs on next season’s roster: fifth-year senior Sean Clifford, redshirt junior Will Levis, redshirt sophomore Ta’Quan Roberson and, in Clark’s class, true freshman Christian Veilleux.

Micah Bowens, a true freshman in 2020, announced last week he was transferring out.

Veilleux is enrolling early, arriving this weekend. Clark, who will play high school baseball this spring, will start college in the summer.

Beau Pribula, the highly-regarded dual-threat QB from Central York High School, will arrive in 2022.

So Clifford starts for the Nittany Lions next year, Clark’s logical redshirt year. Levis is in line for ’22. After that, Clark will only be a redshirt sophomore. Roberson and Veilleux aren’t to be counted out. They aren’t Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields, either.

We’re in wildly speculative territory here. Recruiting never stops. There will be transfers, in and out. There’s more player movement, and de facto free agency, in college football than ever.

But it doesn’t look as if there’s a glut of elite talent or budding superstar in Clark’s path. If he is indeed a diamond in the rough …

“If he’s willing to learn and grow and hang in there,’’ Evans said, “I really think the sky’s the limit.’’

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