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Penn State Opens Quarterback Competition in Sean Clifford's Potential Absence

As Sean Clifford gets 'treatment,' Ta'Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux are splitting practice reps.

Penn State coach James Franklin offered only a vague injury update regarding quarterback Sean Clifford on Tuesday but did elaborate on how practice reps are being divided at the position.

Franklin said that quarterbacks Ta'Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux are splitting reps ahead of Penn State's game against Illinois on Saturday as the team navigates its plan for the offense.

"It’s always a competition, but it’s probably magnified a little bit," Franklin said at his weekly news conference. "We’re looking at those guys very closely in practice and the scrimmage periods. So we will split the reps between those two evenly and make it a competition."

Clifford, injured in the Lions' 23-20 loss to Iowa, is receiving "treatment" and working with team medical personnel to return as soon as possible, "whenever that may be," Franklin said. Franklin addresses injuries and potential missed time only when they are season-ending.

The coach added that Clifford "has shown his toughness over the years, both physically and mentally" and his potential return won't be delayed "because of a lack of effort on his part."

"Mentally, in terms of preparation and how he approaches the game, he's as good as I've been around," Franklin said. "He’s doing all the right things. I’m not surprised by that, and hopefully, that will put him in the best position to come back as soon as possible."

Meanwhile, Roberson a redshirt sophomore, and true freshman Veilleux have re-entered a competition that Roberson won for the No. 2 spot during training camp. Before the season, Franklin said that Roberson took 90 percent of the snaps with the second-team offense and had "opened a lot of eyes this camp."

On Tuesday, Franklin said that the gap between them "is somewhat close." Roberson entered the Iowa game after Clifford was injured, completing 7 of 21 passes for 34 yards and two interceptions. Veilleux has not played yet this season.

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"I’ve got a meeting with both guys today and [will] kinda challenge both of them and let them know that we’re going to be evaluating everything," Franklin said. "The good thing is, with both of them, I’m very impressed with them as young men and as competitors and as football players. This won’t be any new information to them, but I still think it’s important for me to sit down and talk to them face to face and go through some of this stuff with them."

Penn State quarterback Christian Veilleux during spring practice at Beaver Stadium. (Mark Alberti/USA Today Sports)

Penn State quarterback Christian Veilleux during spring practice at Beaver Stadium. (Mark Alberti/USA Today Sports)

Receiver Cam Sullivan-Brown said both quarterbacks took reps with the first-team offense last week and "looked great."

"I have a lot of belief in both of those guys," Sullivan-Brown said. "They're extremely talented. So every time they're in practice, they always make great throws. So I have a lot of belief in those guys. They were throwing really well last week."

Franklin likely won't announce his decision on a starter publicly, though he also said Tuesday was too early to make one. The team returned to practice Sunday and was off Monday. But Franklin made it seem as though Roberson and Veilleux would get equal auditions this week.

"You'd like to make the decision as early as you can," Franklin said. "We're not in position to do that right now, so those reps will be divided evenly, and once we know that it’s clear, then we’ll make the decision and go from there."

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