Penn State Football: Ciarrocca Sees Growth in Wideout Group, Experience at QB
New Penn State offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca -who has done perhaps as much waiting around as anyone in college football this offseason- took a chance on Thursday night during a radio interview to talk about returning quarterbacks Sean Clifford and Will Levis.
Ciarrocca, who has yet to work with his new offense in any real pad-wearing capacity this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said that he has spent time with the offense watching all of Minnesota's 2019-20 season to go over thought process and schemes with his new players.
And like any offense in football, much of its success comes down to the thought process of its quarterback, and in the world of college football, a team with a returning starter is a team with a leg-up on the competition.
“I’m seeing a guy who’s very talented,” Ciarrocca said of Clifford. “He can throw and run, is a natural leader, a guy who is extremely driven and committed to being the best player that he can possibly be. You know, his actions are constantly backing up that vision, that thought process that he has for himself.”
Penn State will hope that Clifford can make that next step in a strange but now very really 2020-21 season. The Nittany Lions might have modified playoff dreams this campaign but they will go as far as their second-year starting quarterback will take them. A little more accuracy here or there, a little better decision-making from time to time, and suddenly dreams can become reality.
Of course staying healthy is key as well, and for Clifford and Ciarrocca, returning backup Will Levis gives Penn State something to fall back on, although much like Clifford, Levis has learning left to do tool.
“Will’s a guy who has a lot of talent, a big arm, it might be as strong an arm as I’ve been around," Ciarrocca said. "Will doesn’t have quite the experience that Sean has had, so he’s still learning some of the things Sean has already experienced out there, but super talented, super smart guy, and a guy who can beat you with his arm and his leg.”
All of this wraps up into Penn State's biggest question heading into the fall: who is going to catch the ball?
The Nittany Lions have talent, and tight end Pat Freiermuth gives Clifford a reliable safety net to work with, but life will be a lot easier as Jahan Dotson and his fellow wideouts find their hands again.
The good news, they've made strides, the bad news, what you do in practice you have to do on Saturdays.
“Since the day I got here, the receiver position has probably improved more than any other position," Ciarrocca added. "Is that going to produce immediate results on Saturday when we’re playing for real? I don’t know yet, but you have to be able to do it in practice before you can have a reasonable expectation that it can happen on Saturday.”
Check in next month.