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Spring scrimmage notes and takeaways: The backup QB may not be on current roster

My takeaways from tonight’s second spring scrimmage at Beaver Stadium.

**I love the thought of having two open scrimmages for the public (or at least students) in Beaver Stadium, as opposed to only the Blue-White Game. It gave us in the media two opportunities to see where the football team is at, and some basis for comparison seeing the squad twice.

**For instance, Sean Clifford looked better and more comfortable in the second scrimmage, after an uneasy performance in the first one. So we have a little more to judge him on in new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich’s system. Clifford was more accurate this time, didn’t throw as many deep balls and seemed to have a better handle on things in this scrimmage.

**I’m still not at all convinced that the backup QB is currently on the roster. Ta’Quan Roberson has a lot of tools, is a good scrambler and has a nice arm. But his accuracy is a concern, based on the two scrimmages.

We have to remember that Penn State likely will be ranked in the top 10 or 15 this fall, and there are still some questions about Clifford. Now, maybe Clifford will have a big year, bouncing back from last season’s struggles. But if he’s inconsistent again, or has to deal with any injuries, we have to ask: Can Roberson come in and win games against quality competition?

At this point, in late April, the answer is probably no.

Now, the season is still more than four months away. So Roberson has time to improve.

But James Franklin and Mike Yurcich might be in position where they have to make a decision on whether to go get a backup quarterback candidate from the transfer portal in the next few weeks, while a lot probably will be available. If PSU waits too long, the right QB might be already gone.

**RB Keyvone Lee looked very good in the two scrimmages. I believe he will be the starting tailback to open the season, even if Noah Cain is healthy.

**PSU’s first-team defense once again looked good. That unit is still ahead of the offense, which is to be expected with a new system being put into place.

**I joke about it some below, but I have a feeling we will see the QB go under center a good bit in this offense — in strategic situations such as short-yardage or at the goal line. It seems strange saying that something like that is really even newsworthy, but it certainly is with this program after the QB never went under center in recent years.

Notes from the scrimmage, with the newest updates listed first:

**On the last offensive series, reserve QB Mason Stahl scrambled and threw a nice TD pass to Theo Johnson. Stahl showed good scrambling ability several times during his opportunity to play.

**John Lovett got into the end zone with a 1-yard run. That had to be a good moment for the young man after transferring in and trying to earn a good role in a deep running back room.

**We just saw an excellent play from Ta’Quan Roberson, maybe the best play he’s had in two scrimmages. He avoided pressure, stepped up in the pocket and found Malick Meiga open along the right sideline for a good gain inside the 5. Roberson has shown good scrambling ability.

**I love Keyvone Lee catching ball out of the backfield. He just took a short slant from Sean Clifford for a first down to convert third-and-13 in the red zone. Very nice play. Lee scored from a yard out two plays later.

**Parsons on hand:

**Penn State having trouble with some snaps tonight. One high snap from the 1 went over Veilleux’s head and out of bounds. On fourth-and-3, bad snap to Roberson, who grabbed ball and did best he could completing short pass on the run. Sloppy, though. Hey, it’s the spring.

**Winston Eubanks, running a crossing pattern, made an excellent one-handed running grab of throw by Ta’Quan Roberson and raced to the 1-yard line.

Roberson went under center and scored on a QB sneak from a yard out on the next play. Roberson has a good arm. His accuracy needs work. Eubanks made play there. Roberson hasn’t given WRs a chance to catch ball on several throws.

**Times have changed:

**Parker Washington just made excellent catch — bobbling it and pulling it down — to convert a third-and-7. Lions then went tempo right away on the next two plays, the second of which Sean Clifford hit Cam Sullivan-Brown deep down to the 2-yard line. Very entertaining sequence.

**They’re still not letting Christian Veilleux do a whole lot. He threw a couple of short passes on his first drive. On third-and-4, he threw very short for just a couple of yards. Would like to see them give Veilleux a chance to take some shots.

**A couple of times tonight, RB Keyvone Lee has been in backfield, then split out wide near the sideline as a receiver. Interesting.

**Keaton Ellis, a State College product, who played cornerback last season, was at safety during the scrimmage. PSU has good depth at the corner spot, with the transfer of Johnny Dixon and emergence of freshman Kalen King, so the move for Ellis makes sense.

**RB John Lovett, a Baylor transfer, made his scrimmage debut on the second series for the first-team offense. Lovett picked up 3 yards to convert a third-and-2 on his first carry.

**Great start for Sean Clifford. He hit Keyvone Lee and Parker Washington on quick hitters the first two plays, then the offense went quick tempo and Clifford found Jahan Dotson.

Clifford connected with Dotson on a ball over the middle, and Dotson broke a tackle and took it to the house from about 60 yards.

**Look who’s in the house! Only the most important pickup for the PSU basketball team this offseason.

**Ta’Quan Roberson tries a deep pass in 7 on 7 and airmalls it, getting picked off by Sebastian Costantini.

**Just my 2 cents on Friday night football:

**A big-time recruit is in attendance tonight at Beaver Stadium. He’s a 5-star offensive lineman from Ashburn, Va.

**RB Noah Cain getting reps in practice, as is Baylor transfer RB John Lovett. Neither played during last week’s scrimmage. No Joey Porter Jr. again tonight. O-lineman Juice Scruggs is taking part in tonight’s drills.

**I watched Christian Veilleux throw a lot during warmup drills. Didn’t see him miss a pass on 15-yard throws to left side and middle of end zone. Obviously not the most difficult passes, but Veilleux looks composed & fundamentally sound. He managed things well last week.

**Backup QB Ta’Quan Roberson goes UNDER CENTER during a goal-line drill from inside the 5-yard line with the second-team offense during practice. Times have changed.

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Written By

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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