BEAVERTON, Ore. — Sean Clifford is going to spend his week at Nike’s world headquarters trying to get better as a quarterback, but he’s also the lone Penn State commit at the premier summer camp and will be working to convince other elite prospects to join him in Happy Valley.
He could have company as soon as Thursday. Matt Dotson, the nation’s No. 9-ranked tight end, will announce his commitment, and Penn State is one of the two favorites along with Michigan State. While Clifford will seek out some of the nation’s elite talents for a word about the virtues of Penn State this week in Oregon, his dialogue with Dotson has been ongoing for a long time.
“Dotson has made up his mind. I know he has,” Clifford told SEC Country. “He won’t tell me, which is fair. I’m fully with him, whatever he decides. We’ve been friends forever.
“He knows what we could be, and I’ve pitched it to him. Hopefully he decides to join me.”
Clifford and Dotson are both from Cincinnati, and have been friends since playing on an AAU basketball team together in the seventh grade. Dotson hauled in a few passes Wednesday from Clifford during the first day of practices at the Elite 11 quarterback camp, which is part of the five-day event known as The Opening.
They are also on the same 7-on-7 team for the event, Mach Speed, and will compete together this weekend. Will they continue to connect on the football field for years to come? Dotson will let everyone know Thursday.
“We talk about how great it would be if we end up in the same system and how it would work,” Dotson said. “He hasn’t been pressuring to me, because he knows that I won’t be pressured into a decision. It’s very relaxed.”
While Dotson is deciding Thursday, Clifford’s work at the invite-only camp is just beginning. He plans to talk with a trio of Pennsylvania prospects, defensive back Lamont Wade from Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia-area cousins D’Andre Swift, a running back, and Mark Webb, a wide receiver, about joining him at Penn State.
One of the nation’s top 10 pro-style quarterbacks has other players on his wish list as well, including wide receiver K.J. Hamler from Michigan. For Clifford, part of becoming a future leader of the Nittany Lions program starts now.
“Coach [James] Franklin has told me I need to kind of take the Penn State flag and parade around with different guys,” Clifford said. “I’m willing to do that and it is fun.
“There’s so many guys here. If I didn’t take advantage of this time, it would be a wrong decision on my part.”
While there are quarterbacks committed to many of the nation’s elite college football programs in attendance at the Elite 11 finals, Clifford’s situation is unique. He’s been committed to Penn State for nearly a year (it will be a full year next week), and despite that, it still comes with negative reactions based on the child abuse scandal involving longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky that rocked the campus, the community and the college football world.
“I’ll get it all the time,” Clifford said. “That was an awful thing. I’m not going to say anything Penn State did with that was right, but what I think they did do right was getting rid of everyone who was apart of it and starting fresh with a whole new staff. I loved how the whole school wrapped its arms around the football team and didn’t let everything fall apart. I wouldn’t all be there if it all fell apart. I think we’re going in the right direction.”
His response highlights a maturity that could be a key asset for Clifford if he is able to help the football program and the university continue to move forward. Dotson sees reasons for why Clifford could be just the guy to do that in the near future.
“He’s really smart. He’s an intellectual quarterback and I really appreciate that,” Dotson said. “He’s really good at knowing where to put the ball in different situations. If the defender is on my back, he’s going to put it where only I can get it. That’s always good.”