Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford reminded everyone that he's actually working with his fourth offensive coordinator this year. Don't forget: Clifford was a freshman in 2017 when Joe Moorhead was at Penn State.
From Moorhead to Ricky Rahne to Kirk Ciarrocca to Mike Yurcich, Clifford has learned different playbooks and heard multiple voices regarding Penn State offenses. Now in his fifth year with the Lions, and potentially his third as the starting quarterback, Clifford sees that as a bonus.
"You can look at it as a bad thing or a good thing, and honestly I see it as a good thing," he said. "... I would say that you'd like to have a little bit of consistency. But at the same time, I feel like I’ve taken advantage of every single person who has walked through this building from an offensive coordinator perspective. I think that it’s going to benefit myself, my teammates and everybody in the long run."
Clifford and coordinator Yurcich have made progress in their new relationship during Penn State's spring drills, which have entered their third week. Clifford spoke glowingly last year about former coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, saying Ciarrocca made the best of a difficult situation by trying to install his offense online during the pandemic shutdown.
Yurcich is taking advantage of actually having spring practice, challenging his quarterbacks and the offense to match what head coach James Franklin has called the coordinator's "aggressive" approach. Coming off an uneven offensive season in 2020, Clifford said that's just what the Nittany Lions needed.
"He is somebody who, as he says, brings the juice every day," Clifford said. "He’s never short of it, and he’s been really inspiring to this offense, giving us a lot of optimism. It’s made us all excited to be here, excited to really come into work every single day. And I think that’s what we need, honestly."
Clifford said he learned plenty from the 2020 season, during which he threw more interceptions (nine in nine games) than he did in 2019 (seven in 12 games). His quarterback rating fell nearly 10 points (to 137.4), and Clifford was benched for one start, against Iowa, in favor of Will Levis.
Yet Clifford called the two weeks surrounding that Iowa game, in which he ultimately played a relief role, "definitely one of the best experiences I've had in football."
"I kind of grew up more last year, and it really taught me a lot of lessons about life in general," Clifford said. "And looking back on when I got benched, I’m really proud of the way that I handled it personally and I’m very thankful for my teammates as well, because they had my back through it all.
"It was definitely a challenge to be benched on national television for everybody to see. It takes a lot out of you, because you’re that guy. You want to lead your team, you want to be there for everybody. And then the one week you don’t have that opportunity, it kind of hurts. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. But at the same time, I knew that I had to be there for my teammates, and for Will especially."
Regarding Yurcich's offense, Clifford didn't want to give too much away, partly because he's still learning it himself. But the quarterback described it as a combination of "explosiveness and grinding out the ball," an offense that seems to match his personality.
"It's kind of everything that you want," Clifford said of the offense. "... I'm excited for everybody to see it in the future."
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