Just like we all predicted. It will be a quarterback from Ohio starting under center when Penn State trots onto the field against Purdue to open the 202 campaign.
No, not the one with 5 stars. The other one.
Penn State doesn’t need Sean Clifford to come back but Penn State is in a better spot than I or you thought with Clifford coming back. It’s a spot that will have lasting positive effects on Clifford’s legacy beyond just the 2022 season.
A few weeks ago, I thought Christian Veilleux started to turn the page on the Clifford chapter. Even if Veilleux’s chapter was going to be short in the big book of Penn State’s quarterback room with the Drew Allar chapter on the horizon, I was OK with Clifford moving on.
And then, I started to think about it.
Penn State plays two of its first four games on the road, including opening the season at a conference opponent, plus a visit to Jordan-Hare Stadium, not exactly known for its quiet, polite fans.
Oh and by the way, Ohio State comes to town on that fifth weekend followed by a trip to now-College Football Playoff entrant Michigan and a visit from Michigan State two weeks after that.
I don’t care if Veilleux is Maple Manning and Allar is the 2025 Heisman Trophy winner. I would much rather have Clifford take Penn State through that test than the 2022 iteration of Veilleux and Allar. Clifford is more experienced, he’s more knowledgeable, and he’s the only quarterback with actual playing time against those schools.
Clifford has been battered and bruised, heralded and benched but throughout it all, he’s stuck with Penn State. He owes the school nothing, and yet him coming back gives the school even more than already been asked.
Clifford’s return puts everyone who cares about Penn State football in a better spot in terms of expectations going into 2022, taking care of a massive question looming without even closing the book on the 2021 season.
But it’s not just next season that it helps.
Now Allar can learn from someone who has been in those games I mentioned. There are things that Allar is going to learn from Clifford that put Penn State in a better position when Clifford is gone. Clifford will be one of the most experienced quarterbacks in college football history, not just Penn State history.
When it’s all said and done, Clifford could become the first QB in Penn State history to throw for 10,000 yards, which would put him in first place over Trace McSorley. Clifford will only need 17 touchdown passes for the all-time record at Penn State. There’s also a very real chance at the completion record.
In all of those facts and figures are a lot of valuable lessons that Allar could learn that will help him to that level many Penn Staters already expect based on his talent.
But there’s one more thing missing from Clifford’s resume that virtually every great Penn State quarterback has. No, it’s not a New Year’s Six Bowl win. He’s got one of those already.
McSorley has it on his resume. Daryll Clark has it on his. Kerry Collins has it on his. Even Matt McGloin has one.
For a kid who has stuck around through three offensive coordinators, a new era in college sports full of transfers and changes, plus a global pandemic, that Ohio State win would be the perfect addition to the resume for a kid from Ohio.