Sean Clifford, Penn State offense looking for improvement

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford considers himself a good communicator, but he’s found connecting with his younger teammates to be a bit tougher this spring.

He attributes it to the age gap. Now in his sixth season with the Nittany Lions and fourth as their starter, Clifford said he feels like an “old man” at 23 since he’s surrounded by so many fresh-faced 18- and 19-year-olds.

“It’s a different generation,” Clifford said. “It really is. When I ask, `Hey, what’s your number?’ They’re like, `Hey can I get your Snapchat?’ I’m like, `Is this how we communicate these days? Give me an email or something!’ It’s funny.”

Minus that, spring ball has been pretty smooth compared to what Clifford is accustomed to. For the first time in what seems like forever, he didn’t have to start a new year by learning a new playbook. Penn State has had four offensive coordinators and three quarterback coaches since Clifford arrived on campus in 2017.

Last fall, under first-year coordinator Mike Yurcich, the Nittany Lions finished 82nd in total offense and 90th in scoring. Oftentimes, Clifford throwing to now-departed receiver Jahan Dotson was Penn State’s only offensive outlet. The Nittany Lions finished 118th in rushing offense and ran for just 11 touchdowns.

Clifford got banged-up down the stretch but still completed 61% of his passes for 3,107 yards with 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Penn State finished 26th in passing offense.

That’s in the rearview mirror.

“If I go back to last year, I think it’s a distraction and I don’t think it really is pertinent to our mission to improve this spring,” Yurcich said. “We’re going to execute better, we’re going to coach better, we’re going to play better.”

Clifford already feels the offense trending in that direction, even if the Nittany Lions only played with a handful of healthy offensive linemen this spring.

“I’ve always had to re-learn offense or learn a new one,” Clifford said. “Now, being able to be in the same one back-to-back years, it just makes my job a lot easier and really be able to master the offense in the spring instead of learn it in the spring and then do it in the fall. We’re so much farther ahead now.”

Penn State coach James Franklin believes Clifford had his most productive spring practice. His practice numbers were the best they’ve been in nearly every category.

“You talk about his interception ratio, you talk about his completion percentage, you talk about his explosive play percentage, we track it all,” Franklin said. “I thought he was tremendous.”

Clifford had most of the last week of practice off to give freshmen Drew Allar, Beau Pribulla and Christian Veilleux more chances to work.

The Nittany Lions concluded their spring with a scrimmage on Saturday at Beaver Stadium. Clifford was sharp in the game’s 11-on-11 segment. He went 4 for 7 for 41 yards and tossed the game’s only touchdown pass – a tight swing to newcomer Mitchell Tinsley for 13 yards.

Tinsley, a fifth-year senior who transferred from Western Kentucky, even looked a bit Dotson-like on the play, wearing No. 5, snagging the ball in stride, and zipping through downfield blocks to score. He’s been rooming with Clifford and will join KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Parker Washington and a handful of tight ends as options for Clifford.

Clifford plans to hook up with all of them this summer and left the locker room on Saturday with an edict.

“I just told them,” Clifford said. “We’ll have three weeks of player-led stuff. It’s mandatory for us. It’s not mandatory from the coaches. It’s not mandatory from the strength staff. No one is telling us to do anything. It’s mandatory for us because we know the talent we have and we know what we can do this year so guys are ready.”

Clemson gives raises, contract extensions to staff

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson’s board of trustees approved raises for special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach Mike Reed and defensive tackles coach Nick Eason.

Reed and Eason also received one-year extensions keeping them tied to the Tigers through Jan. 31, 2026.

Reed, who’s been with the Tigers since 2013, had his yearly salary increased $50,000 to $800,000. Eason, the former Clemson standout defensive lineman, joined the staff this past season. He also had his compensation upped by $50,000 to $800,000.

Seven other assistants were given one-year extensions by the trustees’ compensation committee, but without a raise in salary.

Co-defensive coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn had their contracts extended through Jan. 31, 2026.

Defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall, tight ends coach Kyle Richardson, offensive line coach Thomas Austin, running backs coach C.J. Spiller and wide receivers coach Tyler Grisham all got one-year extensions through Jan. 31, 2025.

New offensive coordinator Garrett Riley last month received a three-year contract at $1.75 million per season.

Clemson will pay its 10 on-field assistants $7.475 million this season, an increase of $925,000 from the total for 2022.

The Tigers went 11-3 last season, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

South Carolina’s Beamer suspends three freshmen from program

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said freshmen Monteque Rhames II, Anthony Rose and Cameron Upshaw were suspended from the football program.

There was no reason given for the suspensions in the school’s statement Friday. Online records showed Rhames, 18, was booked last night and was being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on charges of carrying weapons on school property and obstructing justice.

“Our student-athletes know what is expected of them,” Beamer said. “They know that both the university and the football program will hold them accountable for their actions and decisions.”

None of the three have played for the Gamecocks.

Rose is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back from Miami who enrolled in January 2022 and redshirted this season. Rhames and Upshaw were part of South Carolina’s latest recruiting class and enrolled last month.

Rhames is a 6-5, 235-pound defensive lineman from Sumter and Upshaw is a 6-2, 193-pound safety from Perry, Florida.