With Tommy Stevens heading to Mississippi State as a grad transfer, the Penn State quarterback job likely falls to Sean Clifford. James Franklin hasn't decided as much just yet, insisting that he remains in a quarterback battle with Will Levis.
Clifford is the overwhelming favorite to win that quarterback battle, though. Levis is coming off of a redshirt year as a true freshman, while Clifford got his feet wet a bit, as Stevens missed time due to injury behind star Trace McSorley.
As a redshirt freshman in 2018, Clifford appeared in four games. He was 5-for-7 for 195 yards and two touchdowns.
Most of that production came in a 63-10 win over Kent State, in which he completed all three of his throws for 117 yards and a touchdown. His other score came on his only throw against Pitt.
With Tommy Stevens' transfer, Sean Clifford recently addressed the biggest issue he faces, should he step into the starting quarterback role at Penn State.
Assuming Clifford is, in fact, named the starter, what is the biggest challenge now? The details, all the little things that go from being important on the sideline to crucial in the backfield. Clifford has the physical tools, but in his eyes, it’s sharpening the knowledge to go with it.
“The extra step of preparation is probably the biggest [challenge] because obviously you know the past few years, I was prepared as a starter but you know it's not as pressing when you know you're not going to go into that game or you're not going to start the game off,” Clifford said.
“So I would say that's the biggest difference... that I’ve really got to know what they're going to give me on third-and-3. You can’t be like when it happens and I’m on the sideline and I’m like 'I think there is going to be in Cover-4 here?' You have to be way more prepared but I think I’ve gotten better and better over the years.”
Coaches will often talk about a quarterback "winning the team" in a position battle. Clifford's reportedly taken big steps to instill confidence in his teammates since Stevens' decision, per fellow Nittany Lion stars like Micah Parsons.
Time will tell if he successfully lifts the heavy mantle left by McSorley.