Sean Clifford: The Navy Blue & White Dog
Every year, there is always that quarterback in college football that comes out of nowhere and looks significantly better than the year before and has NFL Draft scouts buzzing, as LSU’s Joe Burrow did last year. Who is that guy this year, and why is it Penn State’s Sean Clifford?
Sean Clifford has all the god-given talent and attributes in the world to play the quarterback position at a high level. For one, at his size of 6’2”, 218 pounds, he’s extremely athletic, as he showed last season rushing for 402 yards and five touchdowns. And he possesses very strong leadership. But, looking at what he has to play quarterback, Clifford has all the arm talent in the world.
See, when evaluating Sean Clifford, it’s not really about what he has physically, as was know how athletic he is and how big and how accurate of an arm he has, but rather, all about in between the ears. When you watch him on tape, he is slow through his progressions, fails to see wide-open receivers, and elects to take the check down too often. However, being a first-year starter last year, those knocks can and should be attributed to inexperience and having a lack of confidence. This year, though, should be different, and here’s why:
New OC Kirk Ciarocca:
After a couple of really successful offensive seasons with OC Joe Moorhead, the incumbent Ricky Rahne, formerly the coach of the tight ends at Penn State, took the reigns of the offense heading into the 2018 season. Penn State legend Trace McSorely sorely missed Moorhead in his final season, as McSorely threw 1,000+ yards less than the two years prior and got banged up due to running the ball on almost ever play.
It’s not that Rahne lacked in incompetence or leadership, as he graduated from Cornell University and is regarded as a great players coach, it’s just that he was limited in his play calling and was very predictable. So, when you look at Sean Clifford’s tape from last season, you’re going to see that he just wasn’t utilized properly because that is not the offense for him, as Rahne was desperately trying to pretend that Trace McSorely was still at quarterback. Clifford, too, was banged up by seasons end due to too many rush attempts and not enough passes.
Now, with Kirk Ciarocca at the helm, who has 30 years of NCAA coaching experience with a great track-record, Sean Clifford is set to annihilate the numbers of 2,654 yards and 23 touchdowns he put up a year ago. Ciarocca is a bona fide quarterback guru, who we saw just recently completely turn around Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan. In 2019, Ciarocca turned around Morgan from throwing for 1,401 yards and nine touchdowns with a 58.6 percent completion percentage, to 3,253 yards and 30 touchdowns, while completing 66 percent of his passes. We will see a much more confident, seasoned, and smarter Sean Clifford this year than the year prior, and much of that will have to do with the exodus of Ricky Rahne and the plug-in of Kirk Ciarocca.
Weapons At His Disposal:
Yes, his number one wide receiver KJ Hamler left for the NFL draft after last season and was selected in the second round of it. However, his number one target is still in State College-Pat Freiermuth. Last season, Freiermuth caught 43 balls for 507 yards and seven touchdowns (and 22.8 percent of Clifford’s completions were, in fact, to him). Moreover, he’s got many other weapons, as well.
Same-class tight end as Freiermuth, Zack Kuntz, who was rated higher than Freiermuth, is primed to explode. He’s a 6’7”, 201 pound target that has hands like a wide receiver and can run, quite literally, like a wide receiver. Additionally, he’s got an offensive line that will return every starter. Also young, talented wide receivers in guys like Jahan Dotson, Daniel George, and KeAndre Lambert. And, oh by the way, has the best running backs room in the entire country with the likes of Journey Brown, Noah “Nova” Cain, Devyn Ford, and Caziah Holmes. In short, Clifford is nothing short of having many dynamic, effective weapons.
A year can make all the difference for a quarterback to be an absolute stud. Especially when they are hooked up with a terrific offensive mind and quarterback guru to help that tap that formerly un-tapped potential. And Sean Clifford has that now with Kirk Ciarocca. Sean Clifford and this offense are going to be extremely fun to watch this year. Not only will Ciarocca have creative calls and game plans, but he will have unlocked Clifford’s untapped potential. If Sean Clifford does, in fact, take the jump that he and many think he can, this Penn State team take down Ohio State, just as they did when Trace McSorely took the jump he did in 2016 under the creative Joe Moorhead… and this time, they could actually make it into the College Football Playoff.