With news breaking on Wednesday afternoon that fifth-year senior Tommy Stevens had entered his name in the NCAA Transfer Portal, it appears that the Nittany Lions quarterback competition is over before it ever really started. Cincinnati native and redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford is Penn State's de facto starter in 2019.
Yes, Stevens can certainly elect to return to Happy Valley, but count me as a skeptic that comes to pass. After waiting four years for his shot, it appears that a lingering foot injury may have derailed those plans.
Before I go any further, however, a tip of my cap to Stevens. Ever since arriving at Penn State as an early enrollee in January of 2015, he has done everything that has been asked. It's easy to feel bad for a young man that does everything right, only to see injuries side track a plan one year in the making. A bum foot that ultimately required surgery in December cracked the door for Clifford to get his shot, and at least from the outside looking in, he has taken it. Wherever Tommy Stevens ends up, it will be easy to pull for him to succeed. Unless he happens to go up against the Nittany Lions.
As for McSorley's heir apparent, Sean Clifford has done nothing but turn heads since we got our first look at him last fall. Yes, the first snaps of his collegiate career came in garbage time of blowouts, but it didn't take much to see the raw talent. Even in relief of McSorley in the Citrus Bowl, Clifford was unlucky not to complete a long pass down the sideline that may have jump started the Nittany Lion offense. It was dropped, of course.
A product of the legendary St. Xavier program in Cincinnati, Clifford arrived at Penn State as a four-star recruit, and the eighth-ranked pro passer in the nation. He is much more than a pocket quarterback, however. His offense in high school with the Bombers featured many of the same elements Ricky Rahne employs. While he may not look to run as much as a typical dual-threat, Clifford is certainly no slouch with the ball in his hands either. 247Sports' Alan Trieu had this to say about him in high school:
Smart kid who has all the intangibles to be successful in college. Tough, stands in the pocket and delivers passes with pressure in his face and while getting hit. Solid athlete who can escape pressure and make some plays happen with his feet. Anticipates and throws into windows. Solid, accurate passer with a consistent arm. Can continue to work on adding more velocity, but a proven winner who plays good competition in high school.
It may not be the player many fans expected, but the 2019 Penn State offense looks to be in good hands if Sean Clifford is the one directing the ship.