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Onward Debate: What Direction Does Penn State Football Go At Quarterback?

Penn State football benched Sean Clifford for Will Levis against Iowa last Saturday, but the Nittany Lions didn’t end up faring much better in the end.

Levis struggled to get much going for Penn State’s offense and continued the ugly turnover trend, and with that Clifford was put back in behind center in the third quarter. The Nittany Lions’ starter at the season’s beginning threw two touchdowns, but that wasn’t enough to give James Franklin’s squad a victory.

With a program-first 0-5 record, there’s now even more confusion surrounding Penn State’s quarterback situation more than halfway through the season. So, who should Penn State’s QB1 be?

Our football staff made the case for each candidate.

Will Pegler: Sean Clifford

Saturday’s loss proved that Will Levis is a solid athlete, but he’s hardly the answer to Penn State’s offensive struggles. Maybe he can break more tackles than Sean Clifford can, but his lack of experience running the offense and struggles through the air means he’s not good enough to be the Nittany Lions’ starter just yet.

That isn’t all to say that Clifford hasn’t struggled. In fact, the Cincinnati native probably will continue to have turnover issues and miss open receivers from time to time, but Penn State is 0-5. Why not let him ride it out?

Last season, Clifford proves he’s capable of playing QB1 at a high-level. He’s not a “bad football player” by any means — he’s just struggled to settle into this year’s role thanks to the fact that the Nittany Lions’ offense simply isn’t as good as it was in 2019.

I just don’t see how a change at quarterback is going to magically fix Penn State’s ugly offense, as it clearly didn’t against Iowa. The Nittany Lions should focus on fighting through their other issues, such as the offensive line inconsistencies, and let Clifford take his lumps through the rest of the season at quarterback.

Who knows? Maybe 2020 will serve as a learning experience for him, and he’ll come back even stronger with a more talented slate of offensive weapons next fall.

Ryan Parsons: Will Levis

Penn State is in a very tough situation at its quarterback position. Sean Clifford has an ongoing case of the yips, Will Levis is a fumble machine, and Ta’Quan Roberson has been medically unavailable. When the dust settles after this season, it’s likely that competition for the starting role will open up over the summer. Since James Franklin has already seen a full year of what Clifford can do, why not get Levis a shot at putting a bit of a run together?

Yes, the balls he’s coughed up have been a pretty bad look. But Clifford’s interceptions have been just as bad, and what do the Nittany Lions have to lose at this point? Give Levis the chance to come into his own as a passer, and if he looks really bad Clifford will be on the sideline to relieve him. If no other quarterback stands out in the coming year or two, Levis will likely be the starter after Clifford leaves if he doesn’t transfer by then. So, let him get the experience and develop his game during a year that’s already a lost cause.

Gabe Angieri: Ta’Quan Roberson / Micah Bowens

It’s time to give Ta’Quan Roberson or Micah Bowens a shot as the starting quarterback. Sean Clifford has been a turnover machine so far this season, and Will Levis failed to impress in his only start against Iowa. Clifford has struggled and we know what Levis brings to the table at this point.

Roberson or Bowens deserve a shot in what has become a lost season for the Nittany Lions. Roberson would presumably be the next man up behind Clifford and Levis, but James Franklin said he’s been medically unavailable, so his status is uncertain going forward. Regardless, making the move to Roberson or Bowens would give Penn State a glimpse at the future, and it could see what it has in its two young quarterbacks. Roberson, a redshirt freshman, appeared in one game last season and attempted one pass. Bowens, on the other hand, is a true freshman who came to Happy Valley as a three-star recruit this fall.

If Roberson or Bowens were to impress in the final four games, that could give the Nittany Lions an answer at the quarterback position heading into next season. In the meantime, however, there is a huge question mark between Clifford and Levis.

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Posts from the all-student staff of Onward State.

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