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QB Clifford: Detail-oriented Ciarrocca ‘gonna get on your ass’ for making mistakes

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Sean Clifford

New offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca comes across as a nice, laid-back guy, but you’d better not make a mistake running his offense.

Ciarrocca is a detail-oriented coach, something quarterback Sean Clifford explained in a colorful way Thursday.

Clifford said that when you watch tape of Ciarrocca’s offense, “You can see an offense that is very detail oriented” without a lot of missed assignments.

“And when you get to know Coach Ciarrocca, you understand why,” Clifford explained.

“He’s a guy who’s not gonna allow you to … if he wants you to run your route at the third inside step, he wants you to run third inside. Second or fourth (step), he’s gonna get on your ass.”

Clifford and the offensive players didn’t have the spring or summer to get to work closely with their new offensive coordinator on the field, so a lot has to be crammed into camp getting ready for the season.

“I think Coach has done a great job,” Clifford said of Ciarrocca. “I keep going back to the details, but that’s kind of been the name of the game with this offense right now is details are the most important thing.

“Because A, it’s a new offense. And B, we’re battling the clock. We don’t have much time, and we haven’t had the spring and the summer to develop the way that we wanted to.”

Clifford said Ciarrocca “really harps on the details and finding the littles things to get better at.”

“I’ve written down in my notes before each practice, alright, I’ve got to focus on this, this and this for sure,” the QB said. “I need to get better at this today because I wasn’t as good as I wanted yesterday. I think that approach has really helped me.

“Coach Ciarrocca’s brought a bunch of different points,” he added. “I could go on and on about the things that he’s brought to the table, and I’m just excited to keep grinding.”

Clifford answered a few questions about team chemistry and how tough it can be to establish that after missing so much team time together.

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He didn’t have a chance to throw to his wide receivers over the summer, but he said they would send him videos of themselves running routes just to kind of stay on the same page.

Clifford isn’t concerned about team chemistry and believes “it’s gonna happen naturally.”

“You can’t force chemistry, obviously,” he said. “If you force chemistry, it’s not true. So I’m not gonna force anything.

“But at the same time, it is much more difficult this year because you can’t, after practice go grab some ice cream with a group of guys, you can’t go out to eat like you used to. We can’t go to the bowling alley, the pool party, miss a practice and Coach Franklin brings us all up and tells us that we’re going to Champs to get food and shoot pool. So those little moments we just don’t have with some of these guys.”

Clifford pointed out he hadn’t even met some of his new freshmen teammates until the past few weeks.

“It’s definitely a weird time to get to know certain people,” he noted.

One thing that’s not weird, though, is now he and his teammates finally get to focus on football again. After all the crazy things that have happened this year, football is the return to normalcy.

“It’s been difficult times, honestly, for our team, our community, our country,” Clifford said. “So I think that just having this little bit, be able to come in, see my friends in a safe environment with my coaches and get to play the game that I love, that’s definitely been something that I’ve been having a blast with so far.”

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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