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A Look At Penn State Football’s Increasingly Crowded Quarterback Room

Penn State football added to its 2021 recruiting class last week when four-star quarterback Christian Veilleux announced he is coming to Happy Valley. The Canadian is the first signal-caller to join James Franklin’s 2021 recruiting class, but his commitment makes for a crowded quarterback room going forward.

The Nittany Lions currently have quarterbacks Sean Clifford, Will Levis, Ta’Quan Roberson, and Michael Johnson Jr. on their roster. Clifford impressed in his first season as the starting quarterback by throwing for 2,654 yards and scoring 28 touchdowns (23 passing, five rushing). He completed 59.2% of his passes and threw just seven interceptions.

Clifford is expected to stay at Penn State through the 2021 season to keep improving his game before hopefully taking the next step to the NFL.

After being beaten out by Clifford for the starting job before the season, Levis served as the backup quarterback during the 2020 campaign. Despite that role, the Connecticut native still saw a fair share of playing time.

Levis started the final game of the regular season against Rutgers and showed off his ability on the ground. He rushed for 108 yards and threw for one touchdown in the 27-6 win over the Scarlet Knights. That performance, along with an impressive day against Ohio State after Clifford went down with an injury, made it clear Levis is a serviceable backup who can step in and be effective.

It isn’t too far-fetched to say Levis could take on a Tommy Stevens-like role for Penn State. Stevens was used in the ground game quite a bit for the Nittany Lions and racked up 506 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns in his three-year Penn State. Levis totaled 219 yards and three touchdowns on the ground during the 2019 season. The 6’3″ quarterback is more than capable of taking on such a role if offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca decides to go in that direction.

Roberson was the third-string quarterback behind Clifford and Levis this past season. The former four-star recruit suited up for the final game of the regular season against Rutgers and saw some game action. Johnson Jr., who hails all the way from Oregon and is also a former four-star recruit, redshirted his freshman season this past year.

James Franklin and Co. have another quarterback joining the offense this fall, as three-star recruit Micah Bowens II committed to the team in February 2019. Bowens II will be the fifth quarterback on the team in 2020, with Veilleux coming in 2021 to make it six.

Considering Levis has a strong hold on the backup spot and Bowens II and Veilleux are coming soon, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Roberson or Johnson Jr. try their luck in the NCAA’s transfer portal. While the two quarterbacks clearly have plenty of talent, an already-crowded quarterback room is going to get even busier, which doesn’t leave much room for opportunity.

It was just last year when Tommy Stevens decided to enter the transfer portal, eventually leaving Penn State in favor of Mississippi State a month later. This decision was beneficial for Stevens, who was recently selected by the New Orleans Saints in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Could this whole dynamic change if when Clifford wins the Heisman Trophy in 2020 and declares for the 2021 NFL Draft? Of course. But it stands, Clifford will be at the top of a soon-to-be clustered depth chart for the foreseeable future.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

After a four-year career with Onward State, Gabe is now a college graduate and off to the real world. He shockingly served as the blog’s managing editor during the 2022-23 school year and covered football for much of his Onward State tenure, including trips to the Outback Bowl and Rose Bowl. For any professional inquiries, please email Gabe at [email protected]. You can still see his bad sports takes on Twitter at @gabeangieri.

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