In February, Penn State head football coach James Franklin announced that Sean Clifford as Penn State’s returning starter for 2022. When Clifford released his decision to return for a sixth seasonhe was met with a polarizing response.

To the 2022 Nittany Lions blue-white game, Clifford has established himself as the team’s best option at quarterback. His veteran poise and confident decision-making contrasted sharply with the more shaky performances of his younger counterparts.

Last season, after being promoted to starting position against Rutgers on late notice, Christian Veilleux impressed the fans with his insight in the air and on the ground. New freshman quarterback Drew Allar has also generated significant buzz due to his five-star status and ranking as the No. 1 quarterback in the nation in the class of 2022.

With Clifford taking on first-team responsibilities at the 2022 Nittany Lions spring exhibition, Veilleux and Allar have filled reserve roles.

Clifford ended his day relatively lightly completing four of seven passes for 41 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Veilleux was 5 of 14 for 75 yards and Allar was 6 of 14 for 61 yards. Allar also threw a pair of interceptions, one on a bad juggle from wide receiver Omari Evans and another on a bad throw directly to linebacker Dominic DeLuca.

Where Clifford seemed comfortable, Veilleux and Allar looked visibly unstable. Although he didn’t show much brilliance on his seven assists, Clifford made precise decisions and didn’t force anything. Conversely, Veilleux knocked down a handful of receivers and Allar looked raw, despite an obvious wealth of arm talent.

Of course, the Blue-White Game is just a larger-scale workout, so it would be a mistake to read also far in the performance of any individual player. But even still, the trends displayed indicate the reason behind the decision to launch Clifford.

In his postgame comments, head coach James Franklin described the spring’s final session as Clifford’s best, a sentiment that was also echoed by the quarterback. Citing feedback from defensive coaches, his leadership ability with young quarterbacks and his advanced stats, Franklin made it clear the coaching staff has faith in Clifford heading into the 2022 season.

“You talk about his interception ratio,” Franklin said of Clifford’s offseason. “You talk about his completion percentage. You talk about his explosive game percentage. We follow everything. We track percent drop, adjusted percent drop – all these different things… I thought he was great.

Franklin and Clifford both pointed to the sixth-year senior’s experience as a major factor in his control of the passing game. Clifford explained the importance of this experience, offering a positive progress report on his competitors: Veilleux, Allar and Beau Pribula.

“They’re all talented,” Clifford said in his post-match remarks. “It’s not that they don’t know, it’s just that they don’t have [taken] what you get from the classroom, from the boardroom, to the field.

Clifford’s experience will likely only be enhanced by the fact that the 2022 season will mark the first time he’s played under a returning offensive coordinator.

“[I have] a second year in system confidence,” said Clifford. “I feel like I’ve seen every look in this particular offense. I know the terminology like the back of my hand.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” continued Clifford. “More progress than I’ve made in a long time, just because of this second year in attack.”

In addition to the big difference in playing experience, Franklin said Clifford topped the other quarterbacks on the team in reps this spring.

Reflecting on last season, Clifford identified “consistency” as his biggest struggle and biggest point of emphasis throughout this spring training session.

“Consistency was the number one thing just because last year I felt fantastic for the first half of the season until…I got injured,” Clifford said. “I wasn’t coming out and I was the same guy.”

“It’s just…making sure I come in every day with a plan the same way I’ve been here for 100 years,” Clifford continued with a smile.

Last season, Clifford captained the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions in the nation. En route to Penn State’s four best games against IowaClifford was playing some of the best football of his career.

Over the first five games of the season, Clifford recorded 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions. His 67.3% completion percentage and 1,336 passing yards were instrumental in the team’s success. When he ends up succumbed to an injury against Iowa, the entire offense stalled and the repercussions were evident later in the year.

“I’m not trying to make excuses, don’t get me wrong,” Clifford said of the injury. “I’m just being transparent… I took a step back at the end of the year and I can’t do this. I have to be consistent throughout the course. »

Clifford expects him to continue to improve as the offseason progresses, saying he “just can’t be complacent” and, in reference to his status as a veteran of the team, asking “Can Tom Brady still learn things in 20 years?”

Despite his weaknesses, Clifford’s experience puts him in a unique position to lead Penn State’s offense in its 2022 campaign. His performance in the Blue-White Game only further instantiated his comparative advantage. However, if Clifford can deliver on his aspirations to improve his consistency, his handling of the game could pay even bigger dividends than fans might expect.

Sam is a junior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in Journalism and Political Science and minoring in German and Creative Writing. He’s a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. Any hateful comments can be directed to [email protected] or @TheSammer88 on all social media platforms.

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