There has been a lot of chatter surrounding the quarterback situation at Penn State since the beginning of the Fall season. While it was a strange season, what was even more strange was the quarterback play. The Nittany Lions utilized two quarterbacks during the 2020 season. The first being starter Sean Clifford. The second, Will Levis. Clifford is still the first string quarterback going into spring practice, but Levis has decided to graduate transfer at the end of the academic year.
So, what is to blame for the lackluster quarterback play in 2020? Was it the new offensive coordinator who is now gone? Or was it the changes that kept occurring to the schedule and not having time to adequately prepare? Was it that the quarterbacks hit a talent and learning wall? None of the above are solely responsible for the way the offense played this season. It was a combination of all three and maybe more.
Who Are the Penn State Quarterbacks?
First, we should note that Levis will be transferring to Kentucky after the Spring semester. Levis will not be a factor in the quarterback breakdown. Further, Micah Bowens also decided to transfer after the 2020 season. That is two quarterbacks down. So, who is left?
Quarterback One: Clifford
Clifford has been QB1 since Trace McSorley graduated and started slinging passes for the Baltimore Ravens. As a redshirt sophomore in 2019, he played in all 12 games for the Nittany Lions. He had a 59.2 completion percentage. Clifford threw for 2,654 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He also had KJ Hamler and Pat Freiermuth on the field. Through nine games in the 2020 season, one where he did not start after being benched, Clifford had a 60.6 completion percentage. However, the quarterback struggled throughout the entire season. Hamler was gone and Freiermuth was injured.
Further, the offense was not what Penn State fans were used to. The run-game struggled which made the offense rely not just on Clifford’s arm, but his legs as well. The redshirt junior threw for 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2020. Now Clifford has a new offensive coordinator in Mike Yurcich. Can Yurcich revitalize a quarterback that struggled in 2020 to not only stay on his feet but also find the talented receivers downfield? Only time will tell, but if anyone can do it Yurcich can.
Quarterback Two: Ta’Quan Roberson
Roberson has appeared in two games in blue and white. The redshirt freshman saw action during the season finale against Illinois in 2020 and he had one pass attempt and rushed once against Rutgers in 2019. Roberson was a four-star dual-threat quarterback, according to the 247Sport Composite, out of New Jersey. He was the fifth-ranked recruit out of New Jersey and the eighth-ranked dual-threat quarterback. Further, Roberson was said to need to improve accuracy but had good footwork coming out of high school and had a huge upside. Could Roberson thrive under Yurcich this Spring and make a run for the QB1 spot? Potentially, but we will have to wait and see.
Quarterback Three: Christian Veilleux
Veilleux is an early-enrollee at Penn State this semester. The pro-style quarterback signed his NLI during the early signing period and enrolled at Penn State for the spring semester. The Canadian signal-caller has good footwork and is football smart. His stature resembles that of Clifford when he arrived in Happy Valley. Veilleux is a three-star quarterback according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. He will need to work on his arm strength, but that is something the world-class weight room will help. Yurcich is getting a quarterback with good mobility and accuracy. Is it possible for Veilleux to move up the depth chart by Fall? Unlikely, but he could make great strides to being a great Penn State quarterback in the future.
As You Can See…
There are only three scholarship quarterbacks at Penn State that are preparing to be Nittany Lions in the upcoming season. Clifford is the only one with real Big Ten game experience. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming months. Will the Penn State coaches look to the Transfer Portal for a quarterback to fill in the holes? Will they be looking for a new starter? Those are only answers that the Penn State coaches have amongst themselves, but right now those three are the scholarship quarterbacks that the Nittany Lions have so those are the quarterbacks that fans should be focusing on.