STATE COLLEGE — Penn State coach James Franklin isn’t in any hurry to publicly announce his starting quarterback.
The Nittany Lions are less than two weeks away from their Aug. 31 season opener against Idaho, and Franklin said he and his staff haven’t brought up the matter in conversations.
“We haven’t even discussed it at this point,” Franklin said after yesterday’s practice. “We’re obviously getting closer to that, but we haven’t had a discussion yet — not just on the quarterback, but really at any position when it comes to depth chart and rotations.”
Redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford is the speculative favorite to emerge with the starting job. Clifford has been entrenched in an offseason battle with redshirt freshman Will Levis.
In the closing minutes of yesterday’s practice, Clifford connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver KJ Hamler, who belted out a scream of approval when he jumped to his feet and flashed the football.
Sophomore wide receiver Jahan Dotson offered his evaluation of Clifford and Levis and said both have impressed him by their efforts during fall camp.
“Honestly, they’re just both competitors,” Dotson said. “It’s great having either one of them on the field. We’re really blessed to have two guys who can lead the team as well as they do and compete every day.”
While Franklin didn’t name a starting quarterback, he did say freshmen signal callers Michael Johnson Jr. and Ta’Quan Roberson could be used similarly to the way he used former quarterback Trace McSorley during his early years with the program.
“I think it’ll be a lot like Trace, where we’ll name a third quarterback,” Franklin said. “We haven’t discussed that yet, but I think we’ll name a third quarterback. We will try to redshirt both of guys knowing we have four games to play with. So it will be very similar to Trace when Trace was the backup quarterback, but we redshirted him. The difference now is you have four games if you need them.”
Penn State wraps up its final camp practices this week, and will soon shift its focus to Idaho. Franklin said he and his staff have already gotten a jump on scouring the Vandals.
“We started looking at Idaho this summer, and we started again yesterday with our players’ day off,” Franklin said. “We will start working that in next week, but from a planning perspective and those types of things, it’s pretty much in. From this point on, it’s about building confidence (and) it’s about starting to get their legs back.”