Who will be Penn State’s starting QB?
Penn State coach James Franklin said Wednesday night that he has no timetable on when the starting quarterback will be announced and no corresponding staff discussions have yet taken place.
It’s still too early to decide between Sean Clifford and Will Levis, the head coach said, especially considering the team is just now finishing up on its installations.
“When it comes to the quarterbacks, we’re going to get through the installs first and then just kind of go from there,” Franklin said. “But, obviously, we’re evaluating everything. I think both Clifford and Levis are doing some really nice things. The two young kids (Ta’Quan Roberson and Michael Johnson Jr.) are starting to get more comfortable, too. So we’ve been pleased — but we haven’t had one discussion yet as a staff on making decisions.”
Regardless, Clifford remains widely regarded as the heavy favorite over the younger Levis, who redshirted last season. Earlier on Wednesday, Pro Football Focus went so far as to rank Clifford as the No. 31 overall QB in the country.
Plenty of other signs have pointed to Clifford as the inevitable QB1. When Tommy Stevens was injured last year, Clifford served as the backup to Trace McSorley. And, in the spring, both Clifford and Stevens spoke as if it was a two-man battle. (“For me, right now, I’m No. 1. ... When Tommy comes back, it’s back to competition,” Clifford said April 10, a week before Stevens’ transfer.) Clifford also stepped up shortly after Stevens’ transfer and vowed during a team meeting, “There will be no drop-off in the quarterback position.”
Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, Clifford appears to be taking the current competition in stride. When Clifford was asked earlier this month whether he would be bothered if he was named the starter as late as Aug. 30, he deferred to his coaches.
“That’s Coach Franklin and Coach (Ricky) Rahne’s decision to make,” he said at media day, ahead of the second practice. “Obviously I’m trying to show them I’m the guy, but we have a lot of talent in the room. So whenever they’re ready to make that decision, I know they’re going to make the best one for the team.”
Franklin will have to make a decision at some point this month. Penn State’s season opener kicks off at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 31 against Idaho.
Hard Knocks: Penn State?
Penn State is reportedly one of four college football programs that HBO is interested in filming for a “Hard Knocks”-style series — but Franklin reiterated Wednesday night that nothing has yet been decided.
Penn State acknowledged Tuesday it was in discussions with HBO about a potential show. But it refuted reports that it came to an agreement with the premium cable station.
“We consider all these options that we think are in the university’s best interest,” Franklin said Wednesday. “It’s great that we’re in that conversation, but no decision has been made at this time.
“As you can imagine, there’s a lot that goes into it, not just with Penn State but with the Big Ten and a lot of other things that factor into it. So, at this point, we haven’t made a decision.”
New-look Garrett Taylor
Taylor is taking his fifth and final season seriously.
The starting safety is steering clear of Cold Stone Creamery, formerly a weekly staple, in favor of grilled chicken and sauteed vegetables. (Apparently, Taylor has learned, it has to be grilled chicken — because he’s no good at broiling salmon.) And, between his nutrition and workout regimen, he’s clearly in better shape than last season.
His body fat decreased from 10 to 7 percent, he gained considerably more muscle, and he said he feels faster. On top of that, his football IQ has grown exponentially.
“One thing I’ve really been working on is reading the offensive line, and not just run-pass keys,” Taylor said, acknowledging he wasn’t comfortable doing that last season. “I’m trying to look at light vs. heavy hands in guards and looking at tackles’ splits and seeing how close the tight end is to the tackle.
“And that’s something easy to talk about in meetings and easy to watch on film. But when you’re out there and you have a lot of moving parts and we’re having to make checks and stuff, that’s something you have to consciously look at and make part of your game. So that’s something I’m really working on now.”
Added Franklin: “He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
Can this OL be better than 2018?
Offensive lineman Michal Menet didn’t hesitate when asked whether this unit could be better than last season, considering it lost two players to the NFL.
“For sure,” he said. “We have a lot of great guys that are ready to step up.”
C.J. Thorpe and Mike Miranda are still battling to be the starting right guard, although Franklin said to expect a rotation no matter who starts. The coach also noted that it’s been tricky getting Miranda enough reps since he also wants to play him as a backup center.
At the other opening, left tackle, there’s a lot less competition. Redshirt freshman Rasheed Walker, who stands at 6-foot-6 and 324 pounds, remains locked in at that spot.
“Rasheed’s been doing really well,” Menet said. “He was coming to camp with a few things he wanted to really work on, and he’s been consistently improving on those daily. I think he’ll have a very good year for us this year.”
Overall, Menet said, he feels the “buy-in” for the offensive line is different than years past. And while he didn’t offer details, he also said the unit made some “technique changes” heading into camp that should help with pass-protection.
A play to remember
Penn State recently held a scrimmage, and Menet recalled one play that especially stood out — a pass play from Clifford to wideout Dan Chisena.
We’ll let Menet take it from here:
“He had a very good catch. I don’t know the route, but he went up the field, came back, slipped a little bit at the top of his route, then got up and made a really nice fingertip grab on the ball. So that was very impressive. That showed how hard he wanted that ball, how hard he was willing to work for it.”