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Sean Clifford is Practicing, But James Franklin Isn't Naming a Starter

The Penn State quarterback is throwing ahead of Illinois' visit. Ta'Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux are preparing as well.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford practiced Wednesday, but coach James Franklin was not ready to name a starter for Saturday's game against Illinois.

"I don’t know at this stage, but we’ll see where he’s at by Saturday," Franklin told reporters in State College after practice. "Hopefully, obviously, we’ll have an idea before that. But it was good to see him be able to get some reps today in practice, and all three of them were able to."

Franklin said that Clifford, Ta'Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux each took one-third of the quarterback reps as the team continues to determine who will start against the Illini. Clifford, a third-year starter, left the game at Iowa on Oct. 9 with an undisclosed injury but has practiced this week.

During the 20-minute media window of Wednesday's practice, Clifford took snaps, made handoffs and threw passes alongside Roberson and Veilleux.

Media clips showed all three quarterbacks wearing knee braces, a common occurrence at practice.

Earlier this week, Franklin said that Clifford was "getting treatment" for the injury he sustained in Penn State's 23-20 loss to Iowa. Franklin added that Clifford is "doing everything he possibly can to put him in the best possible position to get back as soon as possible, whenever that may be.

"Fluid is a good word to describe kind of where we're at right now," Franklin said Wednesday.

If Clifford is unable to play, Penn State continues to make contingency plans with Roberson and Veilleux. Roberson, who replaced Clifford at Iowa, and Veilleux have been splitting reps at practice, though Franklin never specified whether those primarily were first-team reps. Franklin always has been reluctant to tip injury or personnel information for opponents during game weeks.

The coach did say, however, that Veilleux, a true freshman, had made up ground on Roberson, a redshirt sophomore who earned the No. 2 spot during preseason camp. Before the season, Franklin said that Roberson took 90 percent of the second-team reps during training camp, and Veilleux had taken 90 percent of the third-team reps.

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"Everybody clearly understands where they're at and where they stand," Franklin said in August.

That since has changed.

"The guy that's been in the program for a long time and the guy that's getting the most reps should be able to widen that gap," Franklin said this week. "Right now, it's somewhat close."

If Clifford can't play, Penn State will have to tailor a gameplan to a first-time starter, whether it's Roberson or Veilleux. Franklin said that certain aspects of the offense will change but the overall approach won't.

"With Sean, there's a lot of things we can do," Franklin said. "I wouldn't necessarily say that our offense will change stylistically, but you want to say, 'OK, Ta'Quon, what do you feel really good about?' ... That will be a conversation that we'll need to have."

Penn State hosts Illinois at noon Saturday on ABC.

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