The Ursuline High grad is also teaching the spread offense to his backups.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Jay Paterno harkened back to a cantankerous junk dealer from a popular 1970s TV show in trying to describe his veteran quarterback’s relationship with his green backups.
Now starring as “Fred Sanford” from “Sanford and Son,” Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark!
“He’s the Redd Foxx character, constantly on the other guy’s case and grumping at them, the whole nine yards,” the position coach said about Clark. “Daryll is like a second coach to those guys.”
Clark has come full-circle in just a season. Last spring, he was competing against Pat Devlin for the Nittany Lions’ starting quarterback job.
One year and a Big Ten title later, he’s the unquestioned leader of the Penn State offense, so entrenched as the starter that Devlin transferred in December, even before the Nittany Lions traveled west for the Rose Bowl. Devlin will play this fall at Delaware.
The downside for Penn State is that leaves just true freshman Kevin Newsome and walk-on Matthew McGloin as the top backups to Clark, so there’s even more of an impetus to keep Clark healthy and in the lineup.
It’s also incumbent on Clark to help get his backups up to speed on learning the Spread HD offense during the offseason, heading into preseason practice in August. A confident Clark has embraced the need to mentor his backups, as well as the other responsibilities that come with leadership.
“Daryll felt that way last year,” said Jay Paterno, the son of the Hall of Fame head coach Joe Paterno. “I think he’s been able to assert himself more now because he’s the guy.”
It also will be important this summer for Clark to build rapport in unofficial workouts with his receiving corps. The terrific trio of Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood have left Happy Valley after four productive seasons.
That means those timing drills that quarterbacks and receivers often get together for on summer mornings gain even more importance as Clark tries to keep the offense humming at its Big Ten-best pace with likely new starters including Graham Zug and Derek Moye.
And that’s not even accounting for the three new starters that the Nittany Lions must break in on the offensive line, though Penn State will return 1,200-yard rusher Evan Royster at the top of a deep stable of running backs.
“We are a little inexperienced in some spots, but only repetition will change that. I am really excited about what we have in front of us,” Clark said.
“Someone asked me if this was a rebuilding year or a reloading year. I said this is a reloading year,” he added. “We aren’t rebuilding off of anything. We lost some seniors and whatnot, but the guys we need to step up, will step up — guarantee it.”
Strong words, though it’s a confident tone that Joe Paterno has come to expect from the personable Clark. The quarterback showed a penchant at times last season to let mistakes gnaw away at him for days, though he has said this spring he realizes he also needs to quickly move on from errors.
Clark often has been compared to 2005 quarterback Michael Robinson because of their outgoing demeanors and their ability to make big plays in the air or on the ground. Robinson, still popular around Happy Valley after leading the Nittany Lions to the Orange Bowl, served as a mentor to Clark, too.
JoePa thinks Clark has passed Robinson in at least one respect.
“Clark is a very strong leader. Clark has a very strong personality, even more outgoing and maybe a little more positive and confident than Michael was,” Paterno said. “He’s got great leadership abilities. He really does.”
It’s a compliment that gave Clark goosebumps after a reporter relayed the comments to the quarterback in the crowded Beaver Stadium media room, his last official responsibilities before putting spring practice behind him.
“It makes me feel really good. Really, really good, because of how much a leader that Michael was,” Clark said with a grin. “I appreciate that Joe!”