“I'm very confident in the abilities I bring to the table,” the senior quarterback said Wednesday afternoon in a conference call with reporters previewing Saturday's Blue-White Game. “I'm pretty proud of what I've done so far this spring. I think it's been very productive and I've gotten better. … I'm very confident that I can run this team and lead a successful offense.”
Clark is battling redshirt sophomore Pat Devlin for the starting spot vacated by the graduated Anthony Morelli. He's got a number of reasons to hope for the best. He has spent more time in Penn State's system than his rival, has more game experience and has played a key role in a significant victory, having rushed for 50 yards in the Nittany Lions' Alamo Bowl triumph over Texas A&M last December.
Whether that's enough to put him over the top is undetermined and will likely remain so until preseason practice gets under way. The Lions are taking a long look at Devlin, and the former Parade All-American said he believes he can make a case of his own.
“I have confidence in my abilities,” Devlin said. “We both have been playing real well this spring. It'll be up to the coaches to make that decision and up to us to play as hard as we can to help the coaches make that decision.”
The knock on Devlin, if there is one, is that he's a pocket passer and doesn't have the versatility that Clark brings to the offense. The knock on Clark has always been that he's not as effective with his arm as he is with his feet. Both players are eager to dispel those views.
“That's one thing I am trying to silence. I want to silence all the critics who think of me as a runner first,” Clark said. “I can run, don't get me wrong. And that's what [people] have seen in games. But I'm a passer before I'm a runner. Most of the plays I was [involved] in this past season were running plays. I think I had two or three pass plays in the heat of a game, not when the reserves were in. Come Saturday and hopefully the start of the season, that perception of me as just a runner will change.”
Meanwhile, teammates take exception to the portrayal of Devlin as lacking mobility. Said senior safety Anthony Scirrotto: “I'll tell you right now, they are both dual-threat quarterbacks in my eyes. … They're both doing well now fighting for the position and it's great to see that.”
At the Coaches Clinic Scrimmage last Saturday, Clark took his reps with the first-team offense, while Devlin led the second-team squad. Whether that's an accurate indication of where things stand is, at the moment, unclear, even to the participants. Said Devlin, “It hasn't been like that all spring. Me and Daryll had been splitting reps, and on Monday we went back to splitting reps. So I don't know what went on there.”
Devlin said it's hard to stay sharp while sitting out, adding that bad habits sometimes form while playing on the scout team as he did as a true freshman in 2006. But he has nevertheless impressed teammates with his presence in the huddle — receiver Deon Butler compared him to Brett Favre a few weeks ago — and he has seen significant action with the first-team offense this spring, the Coaches Clinic Scrimmage nothwithstanding. As far as he's concerned, the starting position is still there for the taking.
“I think it all comes down to whoever make the best reads, the right reads and is doing the right things with the football,” he said.
Pressed on whether he would consider transferring if he weren't named the starter, Devlin demurred. “As of right now, I haven't even thought about it,” he said. Clark has at least one season of eligibility remaining, possibly two, which means Devlin could potentially sit out until his senior year if Clark claims the position outright this season.
For now, both players are focused on finishing practice on a good note. Clark said he expects to be nervous on Saturday, but regardless of how it goes, he's satisfied with what he has accomplished this spring.
“I'm working hard, I'm getting better, I'm competing,” he said. “The rest is up to the coaches.”