Penn State quarterback already has said that he feels like "a new player" under offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. Now, the third-year starter says he feels like the country's most confident quarterback.
Three days before Penn State visits Wisconsin in a high-profile Big Ten opener, Clifford made a self-assured statement about himself, his offense and his coordinator.
"I think [Yurcich has] done a really good job demanding," Clifford told reporters in State College Wednesday after practice. "He's a thermostat, not a thermometer. He really sets the tone when he walks in the room, and we feed off that.
"He's hard on you sometimes, but it's for the better. I think that I really needed it this past year, to set my mind straight and get my confidence truly back. And I can really say that I'm the most confident quarterback in the country, because of the guys around me, the way I've prepared and the way everybody else has prepared. So I'm excited to get after those boys in Madison."
Clifford certainly sounds restored this preseason, one he used to study and move past his uneven 2020 campaign. Clifford's touchdown/interception ratio (16/9) was appreciably lower than during his sophomore year (23/7) and he was benched for the fifth game of the season against Iowa.
But under Yurcich, Penn State's first-year offensive coordinator, Clifford has regained his stride. In August, as training camp began, the quarterback said that Yurcich had "brought a lot of good out of me" and credited their relationship for making him feel revived.
"I feel like coach Yurcich is definitely bringing out a new player," Clifford said. "He's definitely pushing me to a new level and he's making me a better version of Sean Clifford, who I feel the team's happy to see, and I'm happy to see myself."
Penn State coach James Franklin often has said that Clifford demonstrates a high football IQ. But under Yurcich, Clifford has been able to put that IQ to work in different ways.
Clifford also will have a coordinator on the field for the first time as a starter. Former coordinators Ricky Rahne and Kirk Ciarrocca coached from the booth. Yurcich will call plays from the sideline.
"Mike has been different and, I think in a lot of ways, it's been good for Sean," Franklin said. "Mike is aggressive. I think you guys saw on the field the other day, Mike is aggressive in how he coaches. I think that's important because, come Saturday, it's going to be an aggressive game."
Earlier this week, Penn State announced that Clifford and fellow senior Jonathan Sutherland had been voted the program's first pair of three-time captains in history. Clifford said that he and Sutherland don't take the responsibility lightly.
"To be a captain is one thing, and it’s an amazing honor," Clifford said. "But to be able to be elected three times by your teammates, ... it's the guys I'm with day in and day out, to be able to be said I'm one of their leaders, and somebody they can lean on, truly means a lot to me."