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Sean Clifford More Experienced & Confident Under New Scheme

After a long and uncertain offseason, Penn State football head coach James Franklin believes Nittany Lions fans will see a different type of quarterback in Sean Clifford.

The star gunslinger, equipped with a fresh group of wideouts, is ready to take the next step as a field general. Franklin thinks the extended offseason gave Clifford more time to grow and mature as a person and player.

“Some quarterbacks have a glaring weakness in one area…I think for Sean, it’s just continuing to grow in his total development,” Franklin said after Wednesday’s practice. “I think that naturally comes with age, maturity, and experience.”

What exactly makes a quarterback good can be hard to pin down or attributed to one statistic, especially in college football.

From one season to another, any guy can take that “next step” as a passer — you saw it last year with Joe Burrow at LSU. Usually, it’s just a new feel for the game, often through confidence and experience, that helps a quarterback elevate his game.

But the scheme and offensive weapons are required for success as well. Luckily for Penn State, Clifford and new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca have really hit it off. Over the long offseason, they learned a lot from each other through a combination of strict and lighthearted meetings.

“Obviously [Clifford] and coach Ciarrocca have clicked, so that that helps,” Franklin said. “It’s also the rapport with the wide receivers and tight ends, obviously that’s going to be something that’s very important — and that’s a challenge with us not having a bunch of production returning.”

Although many of Penn State’s promising wide receivers think they’re primed for breakout years, Franklin’s correct in saying that many of the young wideouts are unproven. With KJ Hamler now playing in the NFL, Jahan Dotson is the only receiver left on the roster who was targeted more than 10 times last season.

Although tight end Pat Freiermuth was one of Clifford’s favorite targets last year, it’s hard to build an offense without wide receivers.

Clifford hasn’t had much time to practice with his new set of receivers, but he’s still remained sharp over the offseason. He’s done everything from studying film to throwing with his brother (a Penn State commit) to even playing chess with a trainer.

“I’ve had a little bit of a leg up with my brother being in my family and committed to the same school,” Clifford said. “I think that’s definitely been a plus for me. Being able to work with Liam [Clifford] has been great and definitely beneficial for the both of us.”

But in the time he’s had with his receivers, they’ve noticed some of the quarterback’s changes. Daniel George and Cam Sullivan-Brown both remarked how much more accurate he’s become and even hinted at a more explosive offensive style with more deep passing plays.

Despite all these offseason challenges, James Franklin is still confident Clifford will come out week one as a new player.

“I think you’re gonna see a more experienced, more seasoned guy that I think is a little bit more confident, a little bit more comfortable,” Franklin said. “Even in an adjusted system.”

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected].

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