It’s probably the most important word in sports. It’s definitely the biggest difference between a ho-hum player and a standout — again, no matter what the sport.
The word? Consistency.
It’s something James Franklin addressed specifically when asked to evaluate the progress so far of Penn State backup quarterbacks Ta’Quan Roberson and true freshman Christian Veilleux.
“Ta’Quan has really done some nice things since he’s been here and this spring as, well,” Franklin said Wednesday night after one of the Nittany Lions’ spring practices. “But it’s about consistency. Most of these guys make really good flash plays or a big-time throw or decision or whatever it may be, but it’s really about consistency. It’s kind of like the kicker that can make the 60-yarder every once in a while but doesn’t consistently hit the 40-yarder, and that’s what we need.
“So I think Ta’Quan is showing more of that right now.”
Roberson was a 4-star dual-threat quarterback prospect out of New Jersey in the class of 2019. He sat out his first year and played briefly in the season finale last season against Illinois.
Sean Clifford is PSU’s starter, but with Will Levis transferring to Kentucky, the Lions need to find a consistent backup between now and the start of the season.
The team also is learning new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich’s explosive system, so that’s part of the process, as well.
Most everyone figures Roberson will be QB2, since Veilleux only just arrived on campus this semester, but there will be a competition for that backup job.
“That’s an important thing for us to figure out is, we gotta make sure we have a two and a three that we feel good about,” Franklin said. “And also, you’d like to get to a point where your two is truly competing and pushing your starter. So, all those things are important, and I think this spring will help with that. But if I had to guess, that’ll go into fall camp, as well.”
As for Veilleux, Franklin offered some encouraging words but didn’t go into much detail.
“Veilleux is pretty far along for a true freshman in terms of being able to operate what we’re asking them to do,” Franklin said.
The key question is: What exactly are the coaches asking Veilleux to do at this early stage?
One would think it’s not much just yet, but that could change depending on how much Roberson shows in the coming weeks of spring practice and throughout the summer and fall.
There’s also the possibility that Penn State could go out and look for a quarterback in the transfer portal, something Franklin has addressed.
It’s pretty clear there’s a wide gap between Clifford and the other quarterbacks. That’s to be expected, given that Clifford is a two-year starter, and Franklin addressed that when evaluating his work so far this spring.
“He’s 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’s a guy that really wants to be good and really 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.”