With Drew Allar’s emergence, tough decisions loom for Christian Veilleux at season’s end
Penn State was deadlocked at zero when Sean Clifford went down with an Illness right before halftime. Replacing Clifford was true freshman Christian Veilleux, who torched the Scarlet Knight secondary.
Veilleux finished the game 15-24, throwing for 235 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 28-0 victory over the Scarlet Knights.
As Clifford entered his final season with the program, having a capable backup in Veilleux gave the blue and white confidence.
Many expected Veilleux to be the backup entering 2022, but James Franklin sent shockwaves through the media room when he named true freshman Drew Allar the backup before Week 1.
Allar came to Happy Valley as one of the highest-rated recruits in program history and has been hailed as the savior by many fans, but it was still shocking he was ahead of Veilleux on the depth chart.
Franklin and his staff haven’t tried to hide who they feel will be Clifford’s successor, with Allar appearing in seven of nine contests while Veilleux has played in just two.
Although Veilleux has seen a lot of playing time this year, Franklin has been impressed with how he’s handled himself.
“I think Veilleux’s been phenomenal,” Franklin said. “His attitude has been great. He's been in great meetings. He's totally engaged.”
The thought before the season opened was to have Clifford start and act as a mentor to the younger quarterbacks, as Allar and Veilleux would trade reps as the backup. The trading of reps could have potentially led to a quarterback competition in 2023, but that never occurred.
Allar has impressed at every chance he’s gotten, completing 27-43 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns. His size, skillset and poise in the pocket give Franklin no concern in handing him the keys to the offense once Clifford moves on.
Allar seems to have locked up the starting job for next season, leaving Veilleux with a difficult decision.
“Those are tough conversations and tough decisions that have to be made,” Franklin said. “You look at some players that may play as a true freshman and play well, and another guy redshirts and is in the same class, and then you look three years down the road, and the guy that redshirted ends up having what people would describe as maybe a better career.”
Franklin is no stranger to having quarterbacks transfer due to a lack of playing time, as in 2020, Will Levis transferred to Kentucky after losing the starting spot to Clifford.
Levis ultimately made the right choice, as he’s now a projected first-round pick, while Clifford’s future in the NFL remains uncertain.
Before Clifford and Levis, it was Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens. McSorley won the starting job, forcing Stevens to transfer to Mississippi State before getting drafted by the New Orleans Saints.
Franklin understands that players have to do what they feel is right but having those talks are never easy.
“There's a lot of twists and turns along these journeys,” Franklin said. “There's a part of me that breaks my heart a little bit about the conversations and the things that you have now in college football that you didn't use to have.”
In the ever-changing world of College Football, the transfer portal has become a huge resource for players and teams alike.
If a player doesn’t like his situation with his current team, he can enter the transfer portal and go to another school without penalty.
This also helps teams as they can add players that will have an immediate impact and do not have to sit out a season like they used to.
Penn State has had great success in the portal, adding Mitchell Tinsley, Chop Robinson and Hunter Nourzad this past offseason.
If Veilleux does transfer, that will leave the Nittany Lions with three scholarship quarterbacks, Allar, current freshman Beau Pribula and incoming freshman Jaxon Smolik.
However, it's becoming more apparent as each day passes Veilleux will transfer at the end of the season.
“I hope he stays at Penn State and continues to chase his dream and get his degree and see how it all plays out,” Franklin said. “Because again, there's a lot of twists and turns along these journeys.”
Alex Rocco is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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