Christian Veilleux Assumes Penn State’s Backup Quarterback Role
There’s a new backup quarterback to look out for just ahead of Penn State football’s Senior Day matchup with Rutgers.
Head coach James Franklin confirmed after Wednesday’s practice that true freshman gunslinger Christian Veilleux will operate as the Nittany Lions No. 2 guy at the quarterback position moving forward.
“That’s fair [that Veilleux is taking the backup reps] at this stage right now,” Franklin said. “It’s still a weekly competition, but yeah, that’s fair.”
Ta’Quan Roberson, who performed poorly when forced into Penn State’s week six matchup on the road against then-No. 3 Iowa, will now become the third-stringer. The redshirt sophomore had seen the field only during garbage time before Sean Clifford went down against the Hawkeyes.
Despite the age and experience gap between the quarterbacks, this decision shouldn’t come as a surprise for Penn State fans. Franklin said Veilleux and Roberson were splitting practice reps in Clifford’s absence, and he had previously knocked Roberson by noting the “gap” between the two quarterbacks should be bigger than it is.
Veilleux, who is just 19 years old, has not played a live snap of football since the 2019 season because his senior high school campaign was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Canadian was also slated as Penn State’s backup against Ohio State, although that appeared to be an issue with Roberson’s health.
Despite the 6’4″ quarterback’s long break from game action, players and coaches in the program appear to be confident in his abilities, specifically his arm strength.
“Christian’s arm talent is elite,” wide receiver Cam Sullivan-Brown said Wednesday. “He can throw the ball deep, that’s one thing I see with Christian that I like. He can launch the ball.”
Earlier this month, Franklin agreed with the wideout’s notion, even saying that Veilleux sometimes relies on his arm too much and doesn’t get his lower half involved in throws. The head coach also highlighted his poise in the pocket.
Wide receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield pointed out Veilleux’s work ethic and quick development as well. He said that although some true freshmen play around the country, it’s typically rare due to the slew of adjustments signal-callers need to make between high school and college.
“He’s put himself in a position where he’s put his head down, he’s recognized some of the areas where he needs to get better at,” Stubblefield said. “We’ve challenged him…and he’s put himself in a position to be the backup.
This position change coming ahead of a Rutgers matchup is significant. Clifford took quite the beating against Michigan — as he has almost all season — so it wouldn’t be too out of the question for him to sit out a few plays against the Scarlet Knights.
With the Nittany Lions entering the game as double-digit favorites, it wouldn’t be surprising either to see Veilleux come in late if his offense can build a comfortable margin. But, as we’ve all learned the past two seasons, that no win is guaranteed for Penn State.
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