Penn State’s annual Blue-White Game always seems to come down to quarterback watching, and that will be the case once again Saturday, even if the name of the spring practice has changed.
The Nittany Lions’ final spring practice is being called just that, rather than the Blue-White Game, and the general public won’t be allowed to attend. Only first-year students at the University Park campus can be on hand at Beaver Stadium.
Given that, we can’t really call this list “three things to look for” in the final spring practice. Why? Because there’s no way for fans to watch the practice if you’re not among the select few in the Stadium.
So, let’s call this the three most important things to know about the practice going in.
1: Comparing QBs Roberson and Veilleux
Will we see much of starting QB Sean Clifford? Conventional wisdom would perhaps say no, since he’s a two-year starter, but he is still learning new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich’s system. Penn State gets only 15 spring practices, and it would be a mistake for Clifford to be on the sidelines for this one.
The guess here is Clifford will indeed see a good bit of action.
However, the coaches are going to want to get a long look at redshirt freshman Ta’Quan Roberson and true freshman Christian Veilleux, who arrived in January.
Franklin already has a good understanding of what Roberson can do, since he’s been in the program for two years. But Yurcich has only been able to watch Roberson this spring, so the OC likely will want to put the young signal caller through a lot of situations Saturday.
It is absolutely imperative for Roberson to prove to the coaches that he would be ready to step in and play at a high level if needed this fall. The coaches surely have been keeping a close eye on Roberson all spring just for those purposes.
Because the coaches also need to know that, if Roberson doesn’t seem like he’s going to be up for the challenge, then Franklin and Yurcich will need to up the ante in the transfer portal in the coming weeks.
There’s not as much pressure on Veilleux, who is still new and doesn’t come with the same level of expectations as Roberson. However, if Veilleux has a good day Saturday — along with how he’s performed all spring — then Franklin and Yurcich will know they could have another strong option as the backup this fall.
As I’ve written before, I would be stunned if Penn State doesn’t go get a quarterback in the transfer portal. The question is what level of quarterback? Will it be someone expected to come in and be the backup right away, or merely someone to help add depth in the competition?
We could get a good feel Saturday for just what the coaches will have to be looking for if they do go into the portal in the coming weeks.
2: ‘Tempo is a weapon’
I personally can’t wait to see all of the various tempos Yurcich utilizes in the offense later this year. He likes to play fast at times, and very fast at times, things we simply haven’t seen at Penn State in recent years.
As Franklin said last week, “Tempo is a weapon.” He also admitted that, “To be honest with you, we’ve never been tempo. We’ve been no-huddle and we’ve been look-look.”
Indeed. There was always a bunch of standing around and waiting in the most recent offensive systems. Not seeing tempo in practice also has made it tougher for Penn State’s defense to get ready to face tempo teams, which Franklin noted.
Now, how much tempo will we see in Saturday’s practice? I’ve got to think it will show up from time to time, again, because there are only 15 practices, and the coaches need to know what they’ve got in these quarterbacks.
Typically, the game plan in spring games is to remain basic, and Penn State probably will be pretty basic. But these scrimmages also are about learning what the players can do, and after not having spring ball last year with a new offensive coordinator, the guess here is the coaches will try out more things than usual Saturday.
3: Newcomers in spotlight
Penn State added five players from the transfer portal this winter, and many people will be interested in seeing how they perform. Again, since this won’t be open to the general public, fans really won’t get to see for themselves just yet what these players can do. But there will be reports from the media and coaches about their performances.
The newcomers are:
OL Eric Wilson (Harvard), DE Arnold Ebiketie (Temple), DT Derrick Tangelo (Duke), CB John Dixon (South Carolina) and RB John Lovett (Baylor).
These guys are older and more experienced, so they may not see a ton of playing time in the final practice Saturday. But they all will be counted on as key players come this fall.