Penn State expected one preseason quarterback competition but will get another in August, when Sean Clifford and Will Levis make their cases to start. But, as coach James Franklin said, it’s still a competition.
“I’ve been pretty consistent with that since day one,” Franklin said Wednesday in State College. “Guys who are returning starters obviously have an advantage. We’re going to have open competitions every single year. Just because you’re a returning starter doesn’t guarantee that. You have to go out and earn it every single day.”
Franklin addressed Tommy Stevens’ transfer and his changing quarterback room Wednesday during an interview session in State College. The coach did not get into details regarding Stevens’ decision to leave Penn State for Mississippi State but wished the quarterback well.
“At the end of the day, I care about Tommy,” Franklin said. “He did wonderful things for us in our program. I wish him nothing but success. And I want to make sure that Penn State is going to be successful.”
Regarding his quarterbacks, Franklin said that his “confidence level is high.” Clifford is the only player with game experience, though he threw just seven passes last year. The redshirt sophomore was the No. 1 quarterback during spring drills while Stevens recovered from offseason surgery.
Further, Clifford has asserted himself since Stevens’ departure, telling the team in a meeting, “I won’t let you down.” Offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne on Wednesday called that moment unscripted and impressive.
“We’ve done a pretty good job of recruiting guys and developing guys [at quarterback],” Franklin said. “We have a lot of confidence in Sean and what he’s been able to do. In some ways [Stevens’ injury] was a blessing in disguise, because he was able to get work last year that probably would have been Tommy’s work.”
Levis, a redshirt freshman, played significantly in the Blue-White Game and is known for his strong arm. Levis said recently that he plans to challenge for the starting spot, which Franklin welcomed.
“[Levis is] a competitive guy,” Franklin said. “He’s done extremely well in school. He’s very smart. I think our team has a lot of confidence in him. It should be an interesting camp.”
Morning Call reporter Mark Wogenrich can be reached at 610-820-6588 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.