STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WHTM) — It was a sight Penn State fans longed to see after a particularly long bye week: QB Sean Clifford back at practice taking snaps with the offense. The senior quarterback was back on the field on Wednesday during the portion of practice open to the media and participated in drills.
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The third-year starting quarterback left the 23-20 loss to Iowa in the first half on October 9 with an injury and did not return to the game. Penn State has not said specifically what his injury is or detailed any plans for his return to the starting role.
Clifford was wearing a brace on his left knee, but he has done so before at practice; both Roberson and Veilleux also wore braces on their left knee.
On Tuesday, head coach James Franklin said backup quarterbacks Ta’Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux would be splitting first-team reps in practice until one emerged as the clear favorite to start.
“We’ll split the reps,” Franklin said on Tuesday. “It will be a competition. I think it’s always a competition, but it’s probably magnified a little bit. Looking at those guys closely in practice, and the scrimmage periods, and things like that. We will split those reps between those two evenly. Make it a competition.”
It is Penn State football’s policy that injury information will not be made available, so there is no clear timeline for Clifford to return to practice. Therefore Clifford participating in practice during throwing and handoff drills doesn’t automatically mean that QB will start against Illinois.
Franklin was asked on Tuesday about Clifford’s progress to return to full reps, and the head coach said he saw he’s been impressed by his toughness both physically and mentally.
“Literally just walked coming over here to the press conference and saw him in the facility,” Franklin said. “He kind of lives in there, watching film and obviously getting treatment and doing everything he possibly can to put him in the best possible position to get back as soon as possible whenever that may be. So, we’ll see.”
Clifford’s anticipated return to the field has been hotly debated since the first, and only loss of the season 11 days ago to Iowa.
Franklin has told the media about player injuries if the injury is season-ending. As Franklin has not said Clifford’s is season-ending, fans hope there is still a path for Clifford to return.
“It won’t be because of a lack of effort on [Sean’s] part,” Franklin said on Tuesday. “He’s going to do everything he’s supposed to do, from the doctors and the trainers and their recommendations, make sure the parents are informed and involved in the process as well. And then as I’ve told you guys before, mentally in terms of how he approaches the game, as good as I’ve been around. He’s doing all the right things. Not surprised by that. Hopefully, that will put him in the best position to come back as soon as possible.”
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