During the bye week, I was working on an article basically saying that I thought Sean Clifford should be benched for Drew Allar. I ended up not publishing it because I thought it would serve better post-Michigan. Well, as it turns out, Penn State did too good of a job in strengthening my case by throwing up all over itself on Saturday. Now, I think it’s safe to say that “Bench Clifford, Start Allar” isn’t up for much debate in the mind of this fan base.
So now that we’ve had a couple days to let things simmer, let’s take a step back and truly look at things with a clearer mind. Yes, let’s point out the valid reasons that Allar should be starting, but let’s also point of the reasons that Clifford should keep his job.
CASE FOR ALLAR
- Proof of Good
A fan base calling for the benching of a starting quarterback is nothing new. Watch a college team lose, go to Twitter or a message board, and you will likely find at least one person saying the starter should be benched. Most of the time, that’s dumb because it’s largely based upon liking the unknown and conjuring in your head just what the unknown could be. It’s like going on a game show and having the host ask you: do you want this lawnmower or do you want what’s behind this door? The lawnmower might be fine, but what if a jet ski is behind the door? Or a car? Or a free trip? Anything could be behind that door — and that’s the problem a lot of the time. Anything could be behind that door — including a worse quarterback, which is usually the case for teams that bench their starter.
I say all this because Drew Allar isn’t a complete unknown to us and that’s important. We know he’s super talented, given his five-star status coming into college. We’ve seen that he’s been competent enough on the field in limited action, whether it was looking composed after getting thrusted into the Purdue game or operating the offense for multiple series against Ohio. Do we have the complete picture? Not at all. Despite the frustration felt on Saturday, no one can say for sure that Drew Allar is the better quarterback than Sean Clifford. But what we can say is that in the opportunities provided to Allar thus far, he’s impressed enough to be given the shot to prove it.
- Injured Not Hurt
As James Franklin pointed out during his press conference when he wasn’t blaming the recruiting that he’s been in charge of for the last nine years, the decision to go with Allar during the Michigan game was because Clifford was hurt. The FOX broadcast booth did mention that Clifford went into the injury tent, and the camera showed Clifford trying to stretch out and move his shoulder. This is, now in addition to, what many have concluded is a knee issue, given the fact that Clifford has been wearing a knee brace for the entire season.
If he is battling knee and shoulder problems, it makes all the more sense to give Allar the start against Minnesota. Last year, Penn State had to rush Clifford back after the Iowa game despite not being close to full health because they really didn’t have anyone else. A 50% Clifford was better than the alternative. This year, that does not seem to be the case.
Plus, not that I care about it but Franklin might, you don’t even have to “bench” Clifford in this case! Blame it on the injuries and you give Allar the week to see how things go. If Allar looks good, you continue to rock with the “Yeah, Clifford just isn’t healthy enough right now.” If Allar looks bad, you can toss Clifford back out there against Ohio State if you really want to do so.
- Get Reps Now
To go against the last sentence of my last blurb, one of the major reasons you play Allar now is to build for the next two seasons. Yes, I personally think that Allar helps Penn State’s 2022 team too but this is also about setting him — and the program — up for success in future years. Let Allar get a start in a White Out. Let Allar look across the field at the Ohio State Buckeyes. Have him go on the road to Indiana and Rutgers. And provided that he doesn’t have a Taquon Roberson vs. Iowa performance in him, let him play through the mistakes that will pop up because it is for the betterment of his development. Let him grow, let him learn, and he will be better for it come West Virginia on September 2, 2023.