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Penn State Football: Clifford Running At Better Clip Than You Might Have Expected

by on October 16, 2019 2:23 PM

The assumption had always been that Sean Clifford wasn't going to be quite the running threat Trace McSorley was.

And while six games into the season the Nittany Lion quarterback's legs haven't been as crucial to the overall success of the Penn State offense, Clifford is probably overachieving what fans expected of him on the ground.

So far this season Clifford has rushed for 252 yards, the second most on the team at a 4.3 yards per carry clip to go with two touchdowns.

"I had mentioned...this off-season that Sean probably doesn't get enough credit for the type of athlete he is and how he came in with certain numbers in terms of running, jumping, and change of direction and has worked really hard at attacking that," Coach James Franklin said on Tuesday.

"I remember specifically a time two years ago where he did something really good at practice, and I pulled him to the side and I said, look, you're doing some great things, but you have got to get faster. You have got to get more explosive for us to be able to run our offense the way we want to run it and for you to have the type of impact we want you to have. And I remember some people thought that was funny."

Clifford has apparently taken the advice in stride. His 252 yards is already 14th best in program history for a quarterback rushing in a single season. Simply doubling that figure at 504 yards would be third best all-time ahead of Trace McSorley's 2017 and 2016 seasons. McSorley rushed for 798 in 2018 while Michael Robinson made it to 806 during the 2005 season.

Of course a quarterback racking up rushing yards isn't entirely a good thing. It is probably no coincidence that McSorley's rushing yardage maxed out during a year Penn State's offense struggled the most. Even so, it's hard to debate the value of a running quarterback in Penn State's offensive system.

So what's next? Well, not rushing.

"Now, the thing that he can't do that we've got to spend time working on, which he's not good at, is sliding," Franklin said with a laugh. "Like it's like literally Little League baseball slide. It's like, it doesn't look natural. It's awkward. So literally we're going to spend time at practice like sliding, getting down.

"I think some of it's indecision. It's like he wants to get as much yards as possible and then he kind of changes his mind. I think we said before, it's like the squirrel crossing the road, like you can't be indecisive. He's got to get better there. But I couldn't be more pleased with how he's running."

Clifford will need his legs against a Michigan team that comes in 13th in the nation with 21 total sacks, by far the best pass-rush team the Nittany Lions have faced all year and Clifford has seen in his short stint as Penn State's starting quarterback.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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