Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford has been taking the first-team reps with Tommy Stevens limited in spring practices, and the redshirt sophomore is all in when it comes to winning the job as Trace McSorley’s replacement.
Clifford showed promise in 2018, serving as McSorley’s primary backup with Stevens sidelined with injuries. In fact, he connected for a deep touchdown on his very first pass of his college career.
The former four-star prospect has been consistently labeled as competitive, and Clifford’s reputation seems to be well-deserved. Franklin has been calling the quarterback one of the most competitive players on the team since he’s arrived in Happy Valley.
“You could ask anybody on this team and I think they’d have the same response that I’m one of the most competitive guys on this team,” Clifford said. “And I’d tell you that I’m the most competitive guy on this team because… I am.”
For Clifford, the key is pushing himself. He believes he must back up his competitive nature by improving in every respect. Clifford even admitted that there have been a couple times his coaches have told him to take it down a notch.
Clifford says the quarterback competition — the first such competition we’ve seen since McSorley beat out Stevens for the starting job before the 2016 season — is going to be as intense as the two want to make it. The Cincinnati native says he’s excited for Stevens to come back and that the two are putting as much pressure on each other as they can.
All in the name of getting better, of course.
“We all know where we want to be,” Clifford said. “It’s the day-to-day process — it’s coming in every day competition with yourself, competing with the defense, competing with each other.”
Competition extends from basic drills, like dropping the ball into a bucket, to full scrimmages among the quarterback group, which has recently welcomed blue-chip prospects Taquan Roberson and Michael Johnson, Jr.
When it comes to competing, perhaps there’s no one better to look up to than McSorley. Clifford says the most important thing he picked up from No. 9 is the importance of the day-to-day process — not just getting ready physically and watching enough film to understand what defenses are doing, but also remaining focused throughout the season.
“When you’re in week three or week four all the way up to week 10, and Trace is still zoned in on the game plan — he knows the ins and outs of what we’re going to see that week — people don’t understand how hard that is sometimes.”
Only time will tell how the quarterback battle shakes out, but you can be certain that Clifford will be working hard for the starting spot.