Oct. 19—Penn State football coach James Franklin said Tuesday that quarterbacks Ta’Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux will split work with the first-team offense in practice, all but declaring Sean Clifford out for Saturday’s game against Illinois.
Clifford left the 23-20 loss Oct. 9 at Iowa early in the second quarter with the Nittany Lions leading 17-3 and did not return. Penn State and Franklin have not revealed what Clifford’s injury is.
“Sean has shown his toughness physically and mentally over the years,” Franklin said. “I just saw him in the facility (Lasch Building). He kind of lives there, watching film and obviously now getting treatment and doing everything he possibly can to put him in the best position to get back as soon as possible, whenever that may be.
“We’ll see, but it won’t be because of a lack of effort on his part. He’s going to do everything that he’s supposed to do from the recommendations of the doctors and trainers.”
Clifford played well in the first five games, all Penn State wins, passing for 11 touchdowns against three interceptions. He threw two first-quarter interceptions at Iowa, but he also directed three scoring drives.
It appeared that he got hurt taking a hit from an Iowa pass rusher while throwing an incompletion.
Roberson, a 5-11, 197-pound redshirt sophomore, replaced him and dropped the snap on his first play, which was a sign of how the rest of his day went.
Often saddled with poor field position, he completed just 7-of-21 passes for 34 yards and was intercepted twice. On his 11 possessions, the Lions had more false start penalties (eight) than points (three).
For the year, he’s completed
. He had attempted one pass and played in two games in his first two seasons.
Franklin said at the end of preseason camp that Roberson was clearly the No. 2 quarterback behind Clifford. That has changed since he and the 6-4, 202-pound Veilleux, a true freshman who has yet to see any game action, will split repetitions this week in practice.
“If it’s close, it really shouldn’t be,” Franklin said. “The guy who’s been in the program for a long time and the guy who’s been getting the most reps should be able to widen that gap and right now it’s somewhat close.”
Veilleux, a native of Canada, was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and a three-star prospect by Rivals and 247 Sports. He played the 2019 season at the Bullis School in Potomac, Md., where he passed for 2,006 yards and 26 touchdowns. The school canceled the 2020 football season because of the pandemic.
Offensive lineman Bryce Effner was asked Tuesday to describe the strengths of Roberson and Veilleux.
“All of our quarterbacks are amazing athletes,” Effner said. “Ta’Quan has all the strengths we would need to succeed in our offense. We recruited him. He’s been a part of our team for three years. He’s grown a lot as a player. The team has the utmost confidence that he can perform just as well as Cliff.”
Effner never mentioned Veilleux, whether it was an oversight or not.
Roberson or Veilleux likely will start for No. 7 Penn State (2-1 Big Ten, 5-1) against Illinois (1-3, 2-5) Saturday at noon (TV-ABC, WEEU-AM/830). Clifford is the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster.
Franklin tried to recruit a quarterback from the NCAA transfer portal in the spring and described Penn State’s effort as “aggressive.”
“Most guys want to come in and be guaranteed the starting job depending on where they’re at in their careers and why they’re leaving,” Franklin said. “You’re talking about where your program is and what your situation is.
“Did your starter just graduate, which makes it a very attractive destination? Do you have a returning starter they’re going to compete with? Also, (what’s) the impact on your current roster and the impact on your recruiting? You have to balance all of that.”