Two top Penn State recruits have officially become Nittany Lions by sending in their National Letters of Intent early this morning to usher in a new era of Penn State football.
Quarterback Sean Clifford (Cincinnati ,OH/St. Xavier) and offensive guard C.J. Thorpe (Pittsburgh, PA/Central Catholic) cemented their pledges in stone as they begin their collegiate journeys. Despite their obvious talent, neither player will be likely to see the field in 2017.
As the NLIs continue to roll in, let’s take a look at how two of Penn State’s top recruits factor into the picture as we approach spring ball in a few months:
Clifford — the No. 5 player in the state of Ohio and one of the nation’s premier pocket passers — enters an intriguing quarterback situation in Happy Valley. Rising redshirt junior Trace McSorley figures to remain James Franklin’s top choice at quarterback barring any significant regression. This means all other signal-callers will have to wait at least two years before any sort of competition ensues.
Backup Tommy Stevens — who made a handful of appearances in certain packages during the 2016 season — figures to be next in line, but Jake Zembiec — last year’s top quarterback recruit — will be hot on his tail for playing time. Zembiec has a bit more size than Clifford along with some extra speed, but both young quarterbacks will have a stout test ahead of them when it comes to staving off other gunslingers vying for playing time. Dual-threat Justin Fields — Penn State’s top 2018 quarterback commit — also figures to be involved in the competition once he arrives on campus given his unique skillset that perfectly fits what the Nittany Lions want to accomplish on the offensive side of the ball.
All of that said, Clifford can absolutely sling the football. He’s got all the tools to succeed at the Division I level — it just might not happen as soon as fans might hope.
Take a look at some of Clifford’s top highlights from the Five-Star Challenge last year:
Offensive guard C.J. Thorpe, who’s arguably one of the premier guards in the recruiting class, should see the field far sooner than Clifford. At 6-foot-4, 310 lbs, Thorpe has the physical makeup of a top-ranked tackle but the strength of a premier guard.
Thorpe may redshirt, but expect the Pittsburgh native to have an impact relatively quickly. As a quality blocker that can play guard or center, he’s a long term fix for Penn State’s often inconsistent offensive line.