Although Penn State’s 41-17 loss at Michigan in Ann Arbor Saturday wasn’t solely Clifford’s fault, it also hasn’t done anything to quiet the sixth-year quarterback’s skeptics.
It makes sense. Allar was a five-star signee and has shown flashes of brilliance in his brief college career thus far. Clifford has led a team that went 11-11 over the past two seasons and just got embarrassed in a big game.
Penn State’s struggles shouldn’t have been placed squarely on Clifford’s shoulders. Not this past Saturday, and not over the previous two seasons.
But the bottom line is, people want to see Allar.
Fans love the true freshman, and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich does, too.
In fact, Yurcich is one of the main reasons Penn State landed the star from Medina, Ohio.
But in a Zoom session with reporters Thursday, Yurcich gave some insight into why Clifford is QB1.
“What he brings to our team is invaluable,” Yurcich said. “Everything he does from a leadership standpoint, from a toughness standpoint. He does all the little things that a true-freshman quarterback may overlook at times.”
“Those are important things for the overall offense to be successful, for us to be able to adapt and to change and to maybe check a play here or motion a receiver based on coverage and all those sorts of things.”
Although Yurcich didn’t endorse Allar to be the starting quarterback, he spoke highly of him.
“Drew has come a long way since spring,” Yurcich said.
Coming into the season, many expected second-year QB Christian Veilleux to be Clifford’s backup. So it came as a surprise when Coach James Franklin announced Allar as the team’s QB2 days before the season opener at Purdue.
So what did Penn State’s staff see that led Allar to leapfrog the more experienced Veilleux?
“What we saw was the ability to stretch the field vertically with good pocket vision,” Yurcich said. “We know he’s a tough guy, what his big body can handle. He’s very durable.”
Allar made an unexpected college debut in that Purdue game. After Clifford had to leave briefly in the third quarter, Allar came in and went 2-4 for 26 yards in one drive.
That brief sample was enough to further encourage Penn State’s coaches.
“He gets thrown in the Purdue game,” Yurcich said, “and he seemed very, very comfortable in that setting. So that gave you a little bit of confidence that he’s able to handle the bright lights.”
But the biggest memories Penn State fans will have of that Purdue game, both positive and negative, came courtesy of Clifford.
The negative came when Clifford threw a 72-yard pick-6 to Purdue’s Chris Jefferson to put the Boilers ahead with 8:29 left.
Clifford made up for that later in the quarter, leading Penn State on a game-winning drive that took 8 plays, 80 yards and 1:25.
For Yurcich, the character Clifford showed that night is part of what makes him an asset.
“That really epitomizes Sean,” Yurcich said, “his toughness, what he brings to our team. He’s invaluable.”
If all goes according to plan, Allar will succeed Clifford as Penn State’s starter.
Allar’s physical skills are well-known, and Yurcich is pleased with Allar’s off-the-field approach to football as well.
“He’s a pro…” Yurcich said. “When you get to the meeting rooms, that room is really competitive in the meeting room as well. They’re always trying to get a leg up with the game film and game plan and all that stuff. He’s awesome. He fits in well with our culture.”