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Penn State quarterback Jaxon Smolik expected to miss significant time due to injury

Mug-Shot 4x4by:Ryan Snyder03/29/24


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Penn State just reached the halfway point of spring practice and its quarterback room has already suffered a setback. A source has confirmed to Blue-White Illustrated that Jaxon Smolik has suffered an injury that will have him off the field for a significant amount of time. The nature of the injury was not disclosed, per program policy, but Smolik will miss at least the rest of spring ball and is out indefinitely.

The redshirt freshman was spotted at Penn State’s first open practice on March 12 but hasn’t been seen at either of the last two practices open to the media. The Lions are now through eight practices en route to the Blue-White Game on April 13.

A 6-foot-1, 205-pound Des Moines, Iowa, native, Smolik backed up Drew Allar and Beau Pribula during his first season on campus and was expected to have a similar role in 2024. He did play in one game last season, totaling two snaps late against Delaware.

“It was a good experience. I learned so much from Beau and Drew and Coach O’Brien. I grew a lot, too, knowing the offense, knowing defenses. It was a really good experience last year,” Smolik told BWI in February. “I’d always ask them questions about what’s the certain read here. If you get this look, what do you do?

“They were always so helpful with that. They were always helping me and showing me on the field and then showing me in the film room; they’re really helpful guys.”

Sizing up the Penn State quarterback depth chart now

The loss of Smolik will put even more pressure on freshman Ethan Grunkemeyer, who just arrived back in January. He is now one of just three healthy scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. Like Allar and Pribula, Grunkemeyer is now learning first-year offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki’s offense. None of the three were recruited to Penn State by the former Kansas play-caller, of course. But Allar raved about him when speaking at the Peach Bowl in December.

Grunkemeyer did the same when he spoke with Blue-White Illustrated before enrolling about everything that went down with Mike Yurcich being fired and Kotelnicki being hired. He also noted the importance of there still being a familiar face in the quarterbacks room in the form of graduate assistant Danny O’Brien, who now carries the quarterback coach title and oversees that room with help from Franklin and Kotelnicki.

More: PSU setting ‘foundation’ through spring: James Franklin notebook

“Coach Franklin and Danny did a really good job of communicating,” Grunkemeyer said in January at the Under Armour game. “Everything they knew, they told me. Obviously they didn’t know who they were gonna hire until all the interviews were over. So just getting to that, I’m really excited about who they found. I think coach [Andy] Kotelnicki is a really good offensive mind and he’s just a great person to be around. So I’m really excited going there to work with him.”

After practice on March 26, Lions coach James Franklin offered an update on the freshman’s progress.

[Ethan] Grunkemeyer is really flashing and doing some nice things right now for a true freshman quarterback,” Franklin said. “What I’m most excited about is, he’s shown flashes right now. How is he going to be in the summer, when he’s had really all spring, and all of the early summer, to kind of grind on the playbook, grind on the installs, watch a ton of Kansas tape, watch a ton of Penn State tape? Where will those guys be? But it’s been good.”

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