Heading into the 2018 season, not many casual Penn State football fans knew who Sean Clifford was. Those who followed recruiting knew he was the 3rd-ranked pro-style quarterback and ESPN’s 80th overall prospect coming out of St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati. Clifford redshirted in 2017, and made his debut in the Blue and White against Pitt last season, throwing a 34-yard touchdown pass to wideout Brandon Polk. He became the first quarterback since the Scranton Slinger Matt McGloin to throw for a touchdown with his first pass attempt.
Clifford went on to complete the next four passes as well, including a 95-yard strike to Daniel George in the game against Kent State (breaking the program’s record for longest pass play and longest play from scrimmage). He finished the year 5/7 for 195 yards and two touchdowns.
Now as we head into the 2019 season, Clifford is in a battle to replace Trace McSorley with redshirt freshman Will Levis and true freshman Ta’Quan Roberson. At 6’2’’, 216 pounds, Clifford is just an inch shorter and 13 pounds lighter than Levis, while Roberson is built similarly to McSorley. From an outside the locker room perspective, it appears as it is his job to lose-however, coach James Franklin has made it clear that the job is still open.
Simply put, for Penn State to succeed in 2019, Clifford should be the starter. It’s not as though Roberson or Levis can’t do the job, but Clifford has game experience (albeit in garbage time) and the measurables to earn the nod. When he ultimately does, the Ohio native will justify the faith of Nittany Nation and emerge on the national scene as a star-in-waiting (more than he already has). If Clifford is unable to have success, Penn State is destined for another mediocre season. That is why he is the clear selection for 2019’s Breakout Player.