STATE COLLEGE — Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford brings a career 4,732 passing yards and 41 touchdowns through the air to Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday as the 2021 season marks Clifford’s third as the Nittany Lions starter.
While Clifford’s position as the starter is cemented, questions arose this offseason regarding No. 2 on the depth chart after Will Levis transferred to Kentucky in the spring.
Despite Penn State’s decision not to release depth charts this year, coach James Franklin on Tuesday hinted at who will emerge as Clifford’s backup to begin the season.
“I sit in the quarterback meetings every single day, and one guy is taking 90% of the reps with the ones,” Franklin said. “Ta’Quan (Roberson) is taking 90% of the reps with the twos, and Christian (Veilleux) is taking 90% of the reps with the threes.”
Roberson is in his third season with the program, and he’s played in two contests during that span. The redshirt sophomore played in his first collegiate game in November 2019 against Rutgers, and last season he logged playing time against Illinois in December.
Roberson, for the past two seasons, was third on the quarterback depth chart as Levis held a firm grip on the back-up role. Levis started two games — Rutgers in 2019 and Iowa in 2020 — during his Penn State career.
This season, Roberson will work with his third offensive coordinator in as many years in Mike Yurcich. Yurcich was hired in January to replace Kirk Ciarrocca, who held the title for just one season.
“I really enjoyed it, and I’m just working on getting 1% better every day,” Roberson said of learning the new offense this offseason under Yurcich. “I love this offense, and I’m just excited for you all to see it.”
Franklin on Tuesday said Roberson has impressed this offseason, especially in regard to protecting the football.
“He’s done some really nice things,” Franklin said of Roberson. “He’s thrown for a high percentage. For a while there, his attempts without an interception were ridiculously high. He had thrown a bunch of balls without turning the ball over. The ball jumps off his hand.”
Veilleux gives Penn State its third scholarship quarterback for 2021.
The freshman was a three-star member of the class of 2021, and enrolled in classes in January.
With quarterback depth being a concern this season, keeping Clifford upright and protected this season will be paramount. Yurcich said both Roberson and Veilleux have developed.
“Growth-wise, we saw a big increase from practice one to practice 15 through the spring game, so we need to continue to see that growth,” Yurcich said. “But the maturity is there on both of the young men. Understanding what it takes to be great, whether it be extra meeting time, extra film time, asking the right questions, not being afraid to take a risk in the meeting room. I think they’re learning that and they’re getting better at that, and those are the things that it takes to be great.”