Penn State Football: James Franklin all but puts end to any QB competition

Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports)
Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports) /

Penn State Football Head Coach James Franklin met the media Wednesday night for an update on spring practice and all but put an end to any quarterback battle that fans may have thought or even hoped their might be

Media access is few and far between when it comes to spring practice, and that will be especially true this year with Penn State Football’s annual Blue-White Game not not being televised and not allowing media members inside Beaver Stadium.

However, on Wednesday night Penn State Football coach James Franklin met with the media over zoom for a spring practice check in, and let us behind the curtain a bit, more than his usual coach speak.

Franklin was inevitably asked about the quarterback situation, in particular redshirt freshman Ta’Quan Roberson and his ability to potentially get a chance to compete for playing time next fall. The head coach cited consistency, saying that was something all quarterbacks needed, but seemed to focus that in on Roberson, saying he makes big throws or big plays, but it’s not every play which is what they need.

Franklin said Roberson was getting better at being consistent while early enrolled freshman Christian Veilleux is very far along for a freshman. Veilleux getting praise from Franklin is even more impressive considering he lost his senior year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning he has not played football since 2019.

Knocking the redshirt freshman’s consistency was not the big takeaway, however it was what Franklin added to the end of his answer that was somewhat shocking to hear this early in the process.

"“Thats an important thing for us to figure out, we got to make sure we have a two and a three that we feel good about,” Franklin told the media. “You would also like to get to a point where your two is truly competing and pushing your starter. If I had to guess, that will go into the fall camp.”"

You never want to overreact or read too much into comments made in March, just over 160 days before they will kick things off for real, but that is a telling comment from Franklin.

It sure seems from those comments that Roberson is more so locked in a battle for the backup role with Veilleux than he is in a competition with Sean Clifford for the starting job. That is high praise for the freshman, however it is troubling for Roberson if he cannot beat out Veilleux and even compete for a starting job in his third year with the program.

As previously mentioned, Franklin cited Roberson needing to be more consistent, however you have to wonder if it is his inability to pick up the offense, a lack of physical tools, or a combination of both.

Speculation this winter was that this was the year Roberson would push Clifford after Clifford regressed in offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca’s system last year. It would be fair to blame Clifford and the offenses struggles and inconsistencies last season on a lack of spring practice and wonky offseason altogether, but you can’t ignore the turnover issues and 0-5 start.

Despite that, Franklin and Yurich seem to be pleased with what they have seen from the former St. Xavier standout.

"“He’s just a vet, he’s a smart guy, he asks really good questions,” Franklin said of Clifford. “He’s had a lot of success and he’s had a lot of adversity and with that comes maturity, comes wisdom, comes experience. He is a guy who wants to be good and works at it, both mentally and physically. I think coach Yurcich has been pretty impressed with him in terms of his ability to take information from the meetings and transfer it to the field. He’s been impressive so far.”"

It sure seems like Franklin was discussing his starting quarterback when discussing Sean Clifford.

Clifford is on his third offensive coordinator in as many years with Mike Yurcich coming to Happy Valley from Texas, so Clifford’s veteran savvy should go along way to him picking up the offense. As Franklin discussed, mostly everyone is running the same plays, it is the packaging of how they do it that differs from system to system.

Yurcich was brought here to implement his air-raid, spread attack that will get Penn State Football back to what it looked like offensively under Joe Moorhead. Clifford should get back to his 2019 ways in an offense that will provide easier throws and attack space by getting the ball into his playmakers hands.

The biggest question will be, is 2019 Clifford good enough?

It might be good enough to win double digit games, but is it enough to get past Ohio State? only time will tell.

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