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The Walker Report: James Franklin Should Bench Sean Clifford for Drew Allar if he Struggles at Michigan

Drew Allar
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - SEPTEMBER 01: Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) runs with the ball during an NCAA football game against the Purdue Boilermakers on September 1, 2022 at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire)

Penn State is on its bye week getting ready for the teeth of its schedule: at Michigan and then back-to-back home games against Minnesota in the “White Out” game and Ohio State.

Penn State head coach James Franklin is spending his weekend on the recruiting trail, and then he will be doing any and everything he can to be “1-0” after its Oct. 15 game at Michigan.

Franklin, along with offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, will be putting in the best game plan possible on offense for Penn State to have success at Michigan and maintain its goal of winning a Big Ten championship and possibly getting into the College Football Playoff. Part of the game plan should be getting freshman Drew Allar ready to play and take over for Sean Clifford, not next season, but right now.

Let me explain. Penn State has the talent everywhere on the field to compete with any team in the country, not just in the Big Ten. Its defense has speed and playmaking ability at all three levels.

It has good wide receivers that can make plays when given the opportunity. It has Brenton Strange, the best tight end in the conference, and an offensive line that has steadily improved week after week.

I think the offensive line played its best game of the season last Saturday against Northwestern.

Freshmen running backs Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen— aside from their fumbles Saturday— have proven to be as good as advertised and more.

The only thing that is stopping Penn State from winning the conference and going to the CFP is quarterback Sean Clifford. Clifford has had solid numbers this year, throwing for 1,030 yards, nine touchdowns, and only two interceptions while completing 65.2% of his passes. On the surface, he is doing his job as a leader, running the offense and being a game manager. The problem is that he is not the best quarterback on the roster.

Allar is.

Clifford had his moment earlier in the season at Purdue when he overcame that critical pick-six to lead Penn State on its game-winning drive. But the last four games have been driven by the running game and the defense.

It’s seemed like Clifford is just along for the ride.

I thought that the calls for his benching were ridiculous until the last two games. Since the first two drives against Central Michigan, Clifford has been less than average.

He has been underthrowing receivers, not pulling the trigger on open receivers and just looking out of sorts in the pocket. It’s fine against Central Michigan and Northwestern, and credit goes to Clifford for not letting a repeat of last year’s game against Illinois happen last weekend, but these performances will not cut it against Michigan.

It will take a superstar effort at the quarterback position in the next three games, and Clifford, for as good as he has been to the Penn State program, is just an above-average college quarterback. Allar was a five-star for a reason, and in limited action, he’s shown the ability to lead the team. When Clifford cramped up in the opening night game at Purdue, Allar came in and showed off his generational talent.

 

 Why wouldn’t Franklin pull the trigger when Penn State has an opportunity to beat a top-five team on the road or two formidable conference opponents at home?

Franklin shouldn’t let his loyalty to Clifford get in the way of doing what is best for players in his program. Penn State has a potentially special team in 2022, and I know Allar is the future, but why can’t he be the present? 

And if you think that a freshman quarterback can’t come in and win a national championship, I will refer to Trevor Lawrence in 2018.

Lawrence, like Allar, was a five-star recruit out of high school. In the middle of the season, Lawrence took over for Kelly Bryant. Bryant led Clemson to the 2017 ACC Championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff, but once coach Dabo Swinney saw what was best for the team, he pulled the trigger and made the switch to Lawrence, and the rest is history.

With that being said, I think Clifford should get one more opportunity to prove himself in big games.

But he should be on a short leash, and Franklin should have Allar ready if Clifford starts to falter.

Twitter: @bwalkerdadon

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