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Penn State Football Preseason Top 10: #5 Sean Clifford

Sean Clifford will have the same offensive coordinator two seasons in a row for the first time in his career heading into 2022.

Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford talks to the media during Big 10 football media days at Lucas Oil Stadium.  Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time for our annual season top 10! Each summer, the staff votes on its top 10 players ahead of the upcoming season. A first place vote is worth 10 points, second place is worth nine points, and so on.

Reminder: This is a Top 10 for how the players will produce this season. It’s not just based on what they have done in their career up to this point. Instead, it’s how we think they will play this coming season.

How He Got Here

Sean Clifford is one of two quarterbacks in the Big Ten heading into their sixth season of college ball. They will play each other this season, but more on that at a later date.

Clifford started his career at Penn State with a near perfect stat line: 5 of 7, 195 yards, two touchdowns zero interceptions, as he backed up Trace McSorley in 2018. In 2019, when the job was his, he showed all the promise in the world by leading the Nittany Lions to an 11-2 season and a win in the Cotton Bowl.

Things went south for him in 2020, where he couldn’t hold onto the starting job while learning a new offense, on the way to Penn State’s worst start in history. In 2021, Clifford seemed like a different man, commanding the offense and limiting on the mistakes that plagued his 2020. You could still see the work that he needed to put in, but the progress was more apparent.

Then, the ill-fated injury happened at Iowa (this one apparently not fake, wonder why?) and derailed his season, in the process unmasking a more pressing issue: Clifford’s play was covering an alarming inability to run the ball, onset by a combination of poor offensive line play and a running back room that failed to live up to expectations.

For the rest of the season, a hobbled Clifford did the best he could to will the Nittany Lions to 7 wins, losing six of eight in the process.

What to Expect in 2022

As an Unapologetic Supporter of Sean Clifford™ —there’s room in the bus, hop in now! I believe he will build on what he did in the 2021 season and have his best year yet with the Nittany Lions. Under the guidance of Mike Yurcich, Clifford was on pace to blast through all the single-season records in place at Penn State. His efficiency rating was off the charts, and he was doing all of that with a poor offensive line and non-existent running game.

I expect the latter two to be vastly improved from a year ago, which will allow Clifford to simply play his game. And with a year of Yurcich’s tutelage under his belt, Clifford will be able to not just build on his learnings, but successfully work on his deficiencies to make him a more complete quarterback.

Expect Clifford to finish the job in 2022, and leave Penn State as the record holder for just about all the single-season marks you can get your hands on.