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Penn State QB Sean Clifford Wraps Up ‘Best Spring’

Sean Clifford

After Saturday’s spring game, quarterback Sean Clifford joked that he had been at Penn State for “100 years.”

Although it feels like Clifford has been at Penn State since Grover Cleveland was president, Clifford has “only” been there since 2017 and just wrapped up his final spring as a Penn State quarterback.

Of all the spring practice seasons Clifford has had in Happy Valley, he and his head coach, James Franklin, agree that this has been his strongest.

“I feel so confident,” Clifford said. “And it was my best spring. I’m not going to harp on myself that long, but I feel great—my mind’s clear. I’m having a blast. This is a great team, really great group of people.”

Near the beginning of last season, Clifford said he was the “most confident quarterback in college football.” Coming into the 2022 season, Clifford feels having a year of learning coordinator Mike Yurcich’s offense under his belt further enhances his belief in himself.

“It’s ‘second-year-in-the-system'” confidence,” Clifford said. “I feel like I’ve seen every look in this offense specifically. I know the terminology like it was the back of my hand. I know what plays we want to be into certain looks, and when we get a look that I don’t like, I know the checks to get us out of those looks. We did that today. A lot of communication.”

For Franklin, Clifford’s experience both in general and in Yurcich’s system will be beneficial, and so will Clifford’s influence on younger quarterbacks Christian Veilleux, Drew Allar and Beau Pribula.

“Getting a veteran quarterback like Sean Clifford with the same offensive coordinator for two years and to be able to mentor three really talented underclass quarterbacks,” Franklin said, “all these things gain value.”

The addition of a veteran receiver will also help out Clifford.

Mitchell Tinsley is new to Penn State and Yurcich’s offense. But the Western Kentucky transfer— who had more than 1,400 receiving yards last season and 14 touchdowns— has four years of college football experience and coincidently wears the same number as now-former Penn State wideout Jahan Dotson.

“I know it’s not Jahan (on the field this year),” Clifford said with a laugh. “I’d hope that I know that it’s not Jahan. But no, Mitch and Jahan have very similar characteristics. Both crafty in their routs, both can catch the ball, both can catch in traffic and both are special.”

Clifford’s 2021 season mirrored that of Penn State as a whole.

Through five weeks, Clifford played well— 11 touchdowns, three interceptions— and helped lead Penn State to a 5-0 start and No. 3 ranking.

Then, Iowa happened.

Clifford got hurt at Kinnick Stadium and had to leave the game. Penn State lost to Iowa, and although Clifford started Penn State’s last seven games, Penn State only one-two of them.

Clifford wasn’t looking to make excuses but acknowledged the injury’s impact.

“I felt fantastic going through the first half of the season up until Iowa, to be completely transparent,” he said. “And then, the minute that I got injured, I just didn’t feel the same. I wasn’t consistent. I wasn’t coming out and being the same guy that I was. I was playing at a high level early, and we were playing at a high level early as an offense, and then once I got that injury, I kind of took a step back. It took a little bit from me just because it was such a brutal injury.”

With so much college football experience already under his belt, Clifford still feels like there’s a lot he can learn in year six.

“Can Tom Brady still learn things in year 22?” He asked semi-rhetorically. “(I’ve learned and can still learn) a lot… I’ve seen all the looks that I can see, but there’s always going to be those looks that, it’s just different. Like something happens, and you just have to make a play. Or something breaks down, or a dude falls over, and it’s ‘how do you react?’ and ‘what’s that thought process?’ So it’s a lot of different things that I’ve learned. Every day, I learn something new.”

Had Clifford’s career ended after 2021, it would have done so with a 7-6 season. Instead, Clifford decided to use his remaining year of eligibility and is hoping for a strong finish in his “100th year.”

“It’s a blast,” he said. “I’m playing football at 23 years old. Not many people get to do that.”

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