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Penn State Expects a '100 Percent' Sean Clifford for Ohio State

James Franklin says the quarterback was limited vs. Illinois but 'felt great physically' this week.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford is poised to start again Saturday at Ohio State, as coach James Franklin said he expects Clifford to be "100 percent" for the game.

Clifford was limited physically in Penn State's nine-overtime loss to Illinois, during which he played through an undisclosed injury that caused him to leave the Iowa game two weeks prior. Clifford completed 19 for 34 passing attempts and rushed five times for minus-28 yards, including four sacks. Clifford's lone true carry ended with a 2-yard loss after he slid to avoid contact.

On Tuesday, however, Franklin said that he expected Clifford to be at full strength for Penn State's game at No. 5 Ohio State.

"Sean’s much further ahead now to being back to 100 percent, so that’s a positive, feel really good about that," Franklin said at his weekly press conference. "Know Sean felt great physically on Sunday. ... We expect to have a 100 percent Sean Clifford this weekend."

Franklin reiterated that Clifford's status for the Illinois game was uncertain last week as the team went through practice. Clifford took limited reps in practice, sharing them with fellow quarterbacks Ta'Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux. Franklin added that those limitations affected Penn State's offense, particularly regarding designed run plays and scrambles for Clifford.

"That's a big part of Sean and what his game is," Franklin said. "His ability to extend plays, his ability to keep the defense honest and be able to make a play or two throughout the game where he picks up a first down with his legs. He was limited obviously in what he could do, and we tried to limit it as much as we could as well. So obviously that was a challenge, when you’ve got a guy like Sean and that’s a big part of what he does and how he plays, that being limited obviously impacted him and us."

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Roberson, who struggled after replacing Clifford in Penn State's 23-20 loss to Iowa, did not play against Illinois. Franklin said that he has kept Roberson, a redshirt sophomore, and Veilleux, a true freshman, engaged but deferred to an injured Clifford against Illinois based on experience.

Though "those guys continue to grow and develop," Clifford presented Penn State's best option to win, Franklin said. The coach compared Clifford's situation to that of Trace McSorley, another three-year starter who faced injuries later in his career.

"Sean’s played enough football here, no different than a few years back with Trace," Franklin said. "Trace had played enough football here to really kind of give him the benefit of the doubt, and I feel like Sean has kind of been in the same situation. [He has] played a lot of football here and has done some really good things, so we were going to give him the benefit of the doubt based on what he had done in practice and what he's done over his career."

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