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Franklin seeking depth at QB

Though Penn State returns a two-year starting quarterback in Sean Clifford, the Nittany Lions opened spring drills Monday with the position as the team’s top priority.

James Franklin said he hopes to emerge from the spring “with a good idea” of the starter and backup and whether more depth is needed via the transfer portal.

Following the exits of Will Levis and Micah Bowens, Penn State has just three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.

Redshirt freshman Ta’Quan Roberson, who enters his third season in the program, and true freshman Christian Veilleux, who arrived in January, are behind Clifford.

“You’d like to be at five scholarship quarterbacks all the time,” Franklin said. “I think you can get away with four. Three gets a little dicey. We want to get all those guys reps. We want to see Ta’Quan and Christian. We want to feel like we can put them in a game and win with them.”

That, and whether Clifford can regain his 2019 form — “we won a lot of games with Sean two years ago, and we want to build on that,” Franklin said – will determine “whether we need another” addition “from a competitive and depth standpoint.”

He said a transfer “would have to be the right person from an academic and cultural fit.”

Penn State has two quarterbacks committed for its 2022 recruiting class – York’s Beau Pribula and Ohio product Drew Allar, who verbaled last week.

New quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich “has done a nice job” acclimating, Franklin said, and has kept Penn State’s terminology the same as it was last year under Kirk Ciarrocca, who was let go after one season.

From a team standpoint, Franklin said the main theme of the spring is “confidence, chemistry and leadership” along with “ball security,” which contributed mightily to last year’s 4-5 record (and 0-5 start).

Franklin said tailback Noah Cain, who missed almost the entire 2020 season with a leg injury, should be able to practice during the latter part of spring drills.

A Blue-White game is being discussed with Penn State’s administration but has not yet been scheduled.

Notable: … Franklin mentioned several candidates to replace center and team leader Michal Menet, including Des Holmes and Mike Miranda … This will be the biggest team Franklin has coached with the team weighing an average of 241 pounds, up four pounds from 2016, a previous team high … Big things are expected from defensive end Nick Tarburton, who Franklin said had a “tremendous offseason. He’s in position to have a big year, and we need him to.” … Franklin praised the team’s academic standing, citing a collective 3.37 grade-point average that includes 37 players with a 3.5 or better and five players with a 4.0 average.

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