May 25, 2024

Drew Allar thrilled about Penn State’s new aerial attack this spring

Penn State Nittany Lions Football

Penn State quarterback Drew Allar scrambles for a first down during the first quarter against Illinois Saturday September 16, 2023 at Memorial Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Nittany Lions are inching closer to the annual Blue-White Game, and their quarterback believes the offense is ahead of schedule.

Drew Allar is ready to build off a promising campaign, in which he led the Big Ten in touchdown passes. Now the gunslinger is operating under new Offensive Coordinator Andy Kotelnicki this spring, and feels he’s making an immediate impact.

After all, there’s more emphasis on passing execution, unlike under Kotelnicki’s predecessor Mike Yurcich. Allar is also building chemistry with a new weapon in Julian Fleming, who caught 60 passes over the past two seasons at Ohio State. Keandre Lambert-Smith is back in Allar’s arsenal, and he led Penn State in receptions and receiving yards last year. Not to mention tight end Tyler Warren is the ultimate safety net, after earning third-team, All-Big Ten honors in 2023.

Allar is encouraged by the competition in the wide receiver room, and believes the entire unit has made strides. Building the Nittany Lions’ aerial attack into a team strength is a major priority, and Allar feels everything is coming to fruition in a short period of time.

“The biggest thing that we talk about on the offensive end is creating stress and applying pressure on the defense, whether that be pre-snap or post-snaps,” Allar said. “We have a lot of shifts and motions that we’ve been doing, that really makes it harder on a defense because they have to communicate everything.”

Penn State hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Jahan Dotson accomplished that feat in 2021. However, Allar is confident that Lambert-Smith’s versatility will provide him with plenty of options to move the ball downfield. Allar understands it’s going to require him to have better accuracy, crisper routes from Lambert-Smith, and the ground game has to be efficient, in order to do damage with the play-action pass.

“I think the more ways we can get the ball to him (Lambert-Smith) out on the perimeter, and let him showcase those skills, the better for the offense,” he said. “Because he’ll pick up yardage, get his touches and make things happen out of nothing.”

Fleming continues to raise Allar’s eyebrows with his leadership, work ethic, and willingness to do the blue-collar work that doesn’t show up on stat sheets. Everything appears to be trending up in Allar’s eyes, and having Fleming’s experience will strengthen the unity in the locker room.

“Julian is a great receiver, and I think he brings a certain toughness and mentality to that receiver room,” the 20-year old said. “The things I’ve learned from Julian is how receivers see pre-snap changes based off leverage and coverage, so I think that’s been very valuable for me.”

Allar led Penn State to 10 wins during the regular season last year, but everyone remembers the two losses against Ohio State and Michigan. The former five-star prospect completed 28 of his 65 passes for 261 yards, and two touchdowns in those two games combined. Allar is determined to change the narrative in the Nittany Lions’ biggest contests of the season, and that’s going to be more challenging in the expanded Big Ten.

Regardless, Kotelnicki has Allar feeling comfortable approaching the spring game on April 13, and his scheme is very quarterback-friendly. The fans want Kotelnicki to elevate Allar’s skills, like he did with helping Jason Bean finish fourth nationally in passing efficiency at Kansas last season. It’s no mystery that Allar ranked 58th in the FBS in that category, and 74th in completion percentage.

Ironing out all of the wrinkles, and making improvement through spring practice, could bring additional victories this fall. Which is why Allar is preparing to take that next step. He had solid protection up front as a sophomore, but won’t have the luxury of All-American tackle Olumuyiwa Fashanu protecting his blind side this time around. Still, Allar is poised to take the Big Ten by storm.

Just like other elite signal-callers, Allar wants to make others around him better, and build off his energy. Everyone is soaking up Kotelnicki’s playbook like a sponge, and Allar is feeling no pressure.

“I feel like I play at my best when I’m loose, free, confident and just having fun out there, and I think I’ve done a lot better job at that by letting the more competitive side come out of me this spring.”