Sean Clifford is back for his fourth year as Penn State’s starting quarterback, and is hoping to end the season with one of college football’s highest honors - the Maxwell Award.
The Maxwell Award is given out in December following each regular season, and is handed to the top player in college football, regardless of position. The award has been given to seven Penn State players since its inception in 1937, including Larry Johnson (‘02), Kerry Collins (‘94), Chuck Fusina (‘78), John Cappelletti (‘73), Mike Reid (‘69), Glen Ressler (‘64), and Richie Lucas (‘59).
Clifford is just one of 87 players named to the watch list, and more names will almost certainly be added as current lesser-known players experience breakout seasons. He is the only Nittany Lion on the preseason watch list, but is joined by several quarterbacks from around the Big Ten, including Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Michigan State’s Payton Thorne, and Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell. Former Nittany Lion and current Kentucky quarterback Will Levis also made the cut.
Clifford was well on his way to his best season as a Nittany Lion in 2021 before being derailed by an injury. During the five-game win streak to open the season, Clifford was completing 68 percent of his passes, averaging 267.2 passing yards per game with 11 touchdowns to three interceptions (two of which were result of a hail mary pass being picked off in the end zone). He suffered an injury against Iowa, causing his mobility and overall performance to suffer throughout most of the season as he gritted his way to play injured.
Clifford will have the chance to make his mark early this season, with high-profile road contests at Purdue, Auburn and Michigan all in the first six games of the season.