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Sean Clifford Is 'Back to Normal' as Penn State Gets Healthier

James Franklin said he expects Penn State to be as 'healthy as we've been in a couple weeks.'

Penn State coach James Franklin expects his team to be as "healthy as we've been in a couple weeks," which includes the return of quarterback Sean Clifford.

Franklin said Tuesday at his weekly press conference that he expects Clifford, center Mike Miranda, linebacker Curtis Jacobs and others to return to practice as the team prepares for its regular-season finale at Michigan State. A non-COVID virus affected all three starters, and more than 30 other players, last week as the Lions prepared to play Rutgers.

Franklin said that, though some additional players have become sick, most have been cleared to practice. That includes Clifford, who started the game but played barely a quarter before exiting with continuing symptoms. Franklin said that Clifford is "back to normal" and will return to practice Tuesday. Clifford is expected to start Saturday against the Spartans.

"Most of those guys are coming out of it and are in a pretty good place," Franklin said. "But as you can imagine, we’ve had a few more kind of go into it with the flu, so it’s a little bit of a moving target. But Sean wasn't feeling great on Sunday, was feeling better Monday and is feeling back to normal today."

Franklin shed more light on the process of getting Clifford ready to play in last week's 28-0 win over Rutgers, which included the adoption of a new cadence. Because Clifford had lost his voice, the offense used a silent cadence when he was in the game.

Clifford did not participate in pre-game warmups while receiving IV fluids. A total of 14 players competed despite flu-like symptoms, some of whom told their coach they had hoped to play a Michael Jordan "flu game."

"[Clifford] felt like he could go, but he and [right tackle Caedan] Wallace tried to go and they were on IVs and they did not have the energy," Franklin said. "They were light-headed not really productive, so we said, 'We're going to make a change here.'

"Everybody had envisioned that they were going to be the Michael Jordan flu game. It didn't necessarily play out that way for a lot of our guys that were sick, but I still truly, and I know their teammates, appreciate the effort they tried to give."

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Before getting sick, Clifford had his best week of practice this season, Franklin said. Freshman quarterback Christian Veilleux entered late in the first quarter, threw three touchdown passes and was named the coaching staff's offensive player of the game.

Franklin said that the practice rotation this week will return to normal, with Clifford as the No. 1 quarterback and Veilleux as the No. 2.

"Obviously it's a good feeling knowing that you have a guy that you feel has played and played at a high level in actual game reps, which is something we hadn’t had had up to that point," Franklin said of Veilleux.

Franklin further said that he expected last week's experience to motivate more players to get flu shots.

"Obviously it would help us if more guys got the flu shot, and that’s our staff and everybody involved," Franklin said. "I think there’s some vaccine fatigue with everything we’ve been going through for two years. I think our number of flu shots were down this year compared to normal. I think that’s maybe because of all the COVID vaccine conversations that are going on out there. But now there's a lot of talk among our guys that they don’t want to go through this again."

Noteworthy

Punter Jordan Stout is among three finalists for the Ray Guy Award, presented annually to the nation's top punter. Stout leads the nation in "Boom rating," a punting metric devised by the Florida Atlantic College of Business.

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