Penn State Football QB Breakdown | Biggest challenge to Sean Clifford? Christian Veilleux’s role?

Dec 19, 2020; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) warms up prior to the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 19, 2020; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) warms up prior to the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports /
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Penn State Football has been as aggressive as any team in college football acquiring players via the transfer portal this offseason. They have not added a quarterback, and it looks like they may not, so let’s break down who they do have, including Sean Clifford’s future and Christian Veilleux’s role.

Penn State Football coach James Franklin was fairly direct when addressing quarterback play during last week’s press conference, saying the program must ‘take the next step’ at quarterback.

quarterback play was inconsistent at best last season, leading many to believe the Nittany Lions would be players in the quarterback market in the transfer portal.

Franklin has been ultra-aggressive in acquiring talent from the portal, bringing in four players who were starters at their former program, however has not grabbed headlines with the addition of a quarterback.

"“We’re gonna be as aggressive as we have to be at every position to help our football program. If there’s anything that makes sense then we’re going to look at it,” Franklin said."

A few high profile quarterbacks have come and gone through the portal to this point, headlined by McKenzie Milton and Hendon Hooker who have landed at FSU and Tennessee respectively.

However, outside of those two not many signal callers remain in the portal that present a significant upgrade over what Penn State Football currently has in the quarterback room.

When you factor in potential years of eligibility remaining on a potential transfer and how it could effect younger players like Ta’Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux or even recruits like Beau Pribula, Franklin must be sure that who he brings in will help them take the next step.

Penn State Football played two quarterbacks last season after benching redshirt junior Sean Clifford for redshirt sophomore Will Levis, and then after just a few quarters going back to Clifford. down the stretch they used Levis in what they called the ‘falcon package’ where he was mostly featured as a runner on goal line and short yardage situations.

Youngster Ta’Quan Roberson is waiting in the wings for his chance to show the world what he can do after only throwing one pass in his two years on Campus, while newcomer Christian Veilleux has enrolled early and looks to get a jump on throwing his hat in the ring for being QB1 next fall.

Let’s breakdown the quarterback depth chart as it stands, and rank them in terms of their chances of being the opening day starter at Camp Randall week 1 next fall.

Proven Commodity

1.  Sean Clifford

Sean Clifford was named the starter ahead of the 2019 season after Tommy Stevens transferred out to go play with former offensive coordinator Joe Moorehead at Mississippi State.

Clifford led Penn State football to an 11-2 record and a Cotton Bowl victory over Memphis, however was less then stellar at times, limiting what they could do on offense, effectively more of a ‘game manager’.

Clifford threw for 2,654 yards and 23 touchdowns to only seven interceptions while rushing for 402 yards and five scores in 12 starts.

After hiring former Minnesota offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca many fans hoped he could take a Joe Burrow esque leap from one season to the next, and unfortunately for Clifford it did not work out that way. In eight starts he threw for 1,883 yards and 16 touchdowns, rushing for 335 yards and three touchdowns. However his biggest issue was the turnover bug, throwing nine interceptions and fumbling three times.

In 2019, the redshirt junior was intercepted on only 2.2% of his passes, last fall that number rose to 3.6%, an alarming statistic for coach Franklin who referenced turnovers as the heart of their problems last year. Yurcich’ quarterbacks have only thrown eight interceptions over the last two seasons, so their is optimism he can cut those numbers down for Clifford.

New offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich has coached some explosive offenses in his previous stops and his spread, air-raid attack could benefit Clifford. Getting the ball out of Clifford’s hands and to his playmakers, attacking space with quick easy reads should increase his 60% completion percentage and improve his efficiency as a passer.

It is clear that Clifford is the best — and most game ready — quarterback on the roster right now.

Expect the schedule to play a role as well, as Penn State Football opens the season at Wisconsin, hosts Auburn in week 3, and travels to Iowa in week 5.

Unless a younger quarterback really impresses during spring and fall camp, expect Clifford to make his 20th collegiate start in week 1 at Wisconsin.