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Round Pegs in Square Holes: James Franklin, Sean Clifford, and Penn State Quarterbacks // B1G 2019, Potluck #1

We ask if milk can go in cocktails and pro-style quarterbacks can work in James Franklin’s offenses.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Citrus Bowl - Kentucky v Penn State
how symbolic
Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Happy Penn State Week!

We’ve already kicked things off with a Mailbag Request and Cocktail Party Preview, so go check those out if you haven’t already—I’m ready to tell you why your questions on Penn State are wrong, dumb, and bad.

MNW says I have to do the Potluck ideas, though, so here’s his stuff so I don’t get “fired.”

Question #1: Some Milk With Your Booze?

The state drink of Pennsylvania is milk. I’m not kidding.

So, in honor of The Dude, we’ll think of milk in terms of its role in a cocktail. So let’s talk about mixers.

I went to buy tonic the other day, my summer staple. I usually buy Schweppes or Canada Dry tonic, but I saw a four pack of Fever Tree tonic for the stupid price of $6.99. That seems to be a bit excessive...or maybe I’m cheap.

I didn’t pull the trigger, but I’m asking you guys, are high-end mixers worth the money? And what do you like to mix with?

Boilerman: High-end mixers are rarely worth it. Mainly because drinking a mixed drink already declares one’s willingness to foul alcohol with something other than an ice cube or two.

I’m a sipper of whiskey when it comes to hard alcohol so I guess the question doesn’t really apply to me.

GF3: It’s summer. The only mixer you need is lemon juice.

Candystripes: Personally, I prefer chocolate as a mixer with my milk. I have also tried caramel (seriously, Hershey’s recommends caramel milk on its bottle), but the amount you have to add to actually get the taste is not worth the effort.

Aaron Yorke: I have no idea what a high-end mixer is. If I’m drinking rum or whiskey, I’ll mix with Diet Coke. If I’m drinking vodka, I’ll mix with club soda. That’s as fancy as it gets, Mr. Fancy Pants.

When you mentioned milk, I thought we would be talking about White Russians. I don’t think I’ve had one since I went to Cancun during junior year spring break and my friend was obsessed with them. Milk and vodka sounds like a pretty terrible combo, but it’s not as bad as bad as you think it is. Still not good, though. I missed Fat Joe performing because my friend drank too many of them and ended up hugging a toilet seat.

Jesse: I remember when some of my friends tried to mix Crown and Chocolate Milk. It curdled. They drank it. It was uh… decidedly not bad apparently? As for high-end mixers, I gotta assume it depends on the type of gin drinker you are. That said, a nice bitter that is either (a) homemade, or (b) not-angostura is always a nice change of pace.

Thumpasaurus: Fever Tree has a point; if you’re making, for instance, a Moscow Mule, most of the drink is your mixer. Their ginger beer is PHENOMENAL for this purpose. It really depends on what you’re drinking.

WSR: A high-end mixer? Like actual Sprite for my Big Gingers instead of a generic?

MNW: I am 100% with Aaron on this one — milk and vodka is not a good combination; I’m sure it just means the Dude has ascended to a higher plane of existence than I have, but there you go. If I’m going to do a creamy cocktail (that even sounds gross), I’ll do some Bailey’s and Kahlua together, maybe with a splash of milk to thin it out a touch. Or just drop an ice cube in a tumbler of Bailey’s and go to town.

If I am resorting to the clear alcohols, GF3 is pretty damn close. Lemon juice and club soda or just some lemonade. Nothing fancy. I don’t care for the taste of tonic water, either. Oh, and if you’re making anything for me requiring ginger beer: Use the alcoholic stuff, or get the hell out of my country.

Beez: There’s alcoholic ginger beer?


Milk as a mixer?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Love a White Russian.
    (51 votes)
  • 32%
    Hell no.
    (38 votes)
  • 23%
    There’s alcoholic ginger beer?
    (27 votes)
116 votes total Vote Now

Football: Quarterback Quandary

Love him or hate him, Trace McSorley set all kinds of records while at Penn State. According to wikipedia:

Holds Penn State’s career records for:

  • wins (31)
  • completions (720)
  • passing yards (9,899)
  • passing touchdowns (77)
  • total offense (11,596)
  • rushing yards by a quarterback (1,697)
  • rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (30)
  • touchdowns responsible for (107)
  • consecutive games with a touchdown pass (34)
  • 300-yard passing games (10)
  • 200-yard passing games (28)

Turns out, I’m not a great quarterback evaluator. I thought Hack was going to be the best PSU quarterback ever. And I will admit that I was a Team Tommy Stevens guy during he and Trace’s initial competition.


We talk quarterbacks in damn near every potluck, and there’s no reason to change now. With Tommy and Trace gone, here’s what PSU has at the helm:

Sean Clifford (RS So) - 6’2” 216 lbs. 4* Pro-Style. 4 games. 5-7 for 195 yards and 2 TDs.

Will Levis (RS Fr) - 6’3” 229 lbs. 3* Pro Style - Has not played

Ta’Quan Roberson (Fr) - 5’11” 192 lbs. 4* Dual Threat - Has not played

Michael Johnson Jr. (Fr) - 6’2” 199 lbs. 4* Dual Threat - Has not played

The problem here is that Sean Clifford, the most experienced guy (ahem) on the roster, is a pro-style QB. That’s not exactly a great fit for our RPO offense of the last few years.

That means we either get a square peg/round hole at quarterback or they modify the offense a bit. That’s what I expect. Clifford as the starter with lots of stupid fakes, where Clifford always pretends to run the ball, but never does.

Sooo...who should Coach Hype start? Pro-style experience or dual threat that fits the offense?

Boilerman: Let me tell you something about round-peg square-hole situations. It rarely works.

After Kyle Orton departed Purdue, the heir apparent was Brandon Kirsch. He was a dual threat guy and Tiller wanted to try to use it to his advantage. The result was trying to add Option plays to Jim Cheney’s spread offense that brought the forward pass to the B1G. The problem was Kirsch wasn’t a great option QB and the offense faltered. What was supposed to be an amazing 2005 campaign turned into a disaster and the Boilers missing their first bowl since Tiller was hired.

Not going to say Clifford end the same for PSU, but it does raise a fair amount of concern.

Jesse: There was this really cool idea that Mike Riley had after the Tommy Armstrong debacle. Go get a pro-style QB and just assume the rest of the offense would follow suit. In comes Tanner Lee who, despite his absurdly awful ability to throw to the other team always, could make most throws in theory. So, here we are, watching this guy try to run the offense and then literally everyone remembered that the skill positions were built around an entirely different offense still and it was a disaster.

I’m sure that’s not the problem for you all, right?

Aaron Yorke: Sean Clifford should start because Sean Clifford is going to start. Every time he came into a game last season, he stepped up in the pocket and completed a deep pass. Sure, it was garbage time, but most guys who come into the game in that situation just play it safe. Clifford has a lot of confidence, and that makes him a lock to start the opener.

Is Clifford a perfect fit for James Franklin’s offense? We’re going to find out, but I don’t think he would come all the way from Cincinnati if he didn’t think he could succeed in the shotgun-based attack. He won’t have to carry the ball as much as McSorley did; he just needs to keep it a couple of times per game to keep the defense honest.

GF3: Hard to make a real prediction based on what little we know of them, I’d say he should start whichever one is best at the bubble screen and handing off 4-yards deep in a critical third down against Ohio State.

Beez: This is why it’s better to just ignore your passing game and hope you catch lightning in a lightning-catcher once every 6 or so years.

Thumpasaurus: Illinois is answering the same question with Brandon Peters and Isaiah Williams right now. I’d say if you’re Penn State, you watch and see what Illinois does and then do the opposite of that, since Illinois will choose wrong.

WSR: You need a guy that fits your system. It doesn’t matter if you openly acknowledge that you don’t have a passing game, because then you should get a guy that can move the ball downfield in other ways (running, handing off, drawing personal foul calls against the defense because you can make any contact look like a collision that nearly killed you) and be true to yourself.

In the case of James Franklin, being true to himself is to be a putz of a coach while occasionally having coordinators that are good at their job that save yours before going on to get the Mississippi State HC job.

MNW: If Sean Clifford doesn’t succeed and it looks like State is jamming a round peg in a square hole, I think that’s a pretty firm indictment of James Franklin not learning from the Christian Hackenberg debacle. OC Ricky Rahne was the one responsible for developing Hack as QBs coach, too, so just lump him into the group I’m ready to point fingers at. Rahne did have success with Jordan Rodgers at Vanderbilt, so perhaps a blank-ish slate and his familiarity with Clifford will be good.

That said, you’ll see Johnson at some point this year, in a weird big-spot moment when Franklin brings him in and uses a lot of pre-snap motion, allowing him to get some RPO [/drink] or other looks. The kid from Oregon had a good spring game throwing the ball, reportedly, and I can see Franklin and Rahne springing a few different looks like a running QB.

THAT said, I think it’ll still be a learning year on offense, and we’ll see just how equipped Brent Pry’s defense is to keep the Lions in games.


Who starts at QB for Penn State?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Sean Clifford
    (172 votes)
  • 2%
    Michael Johnson Jr.
    (5 votes)
  • 2%
    Ta’Quan Roberson
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    Will Levis
    (3 votes)
  • 13%
    Some combination
    (30 votes)
215 votes total Vote Now


Will it work?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    No—round peg, square hole.
    (45 votes)
  • 45%
    Yep—Franklin’s learned the lessons of Hack.
    (96 votes)
  • 14%
    Yep—because they’ll make a QB change or something else.
    (31 votes)
  • 19%
    No—because I resent Penn State.
    (41 votes)
213 votes total Vote Now