James Franklin didn’t wait long after landing in Florida to unleash some significant injury news for Penn State.
Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens didn’t make the trip to Orlando for the 73rd annual Citrus Bowl due to a recent surgery, Penn State’s head coach confirmed Wednesday after the team flight landed in the Sunshine State.
Freshman Sean Clifford likely will back up starter Trace McSorley when No. 12 Penn State faces No. 14 Kentucky at Camping World Stadium on New Year’s Day.
“Tommy had an injury about the midpoint of the season that you guys weren’t aware of,” Franklin said. “We had a lot of discussions about, ‘When’s the right time to have the surgery?’ But Tommy’s parents and the staff decided the best time to have the surgery would be once his academics were finished up and he got through the season.
“This will allow him, hopefully, to be full-go for spring ball.”
Franklin didn’t disclose the nature of Stevens’ surgery or when he suffered the injury, but the junior did participate in each of the last six games. Stevens is the favorite in what is expected to be a tightly contested battle with Clifford for the starting quarterback position in 2019.
Though Stevens will watch the game from home, Franklin said he was pleased both with how the rest of the Nittany Lions came out of bowl practices health-wise and how players finished the semester academically. He didn’t say he expected any player beside Stevens to miss the game.
Stevens returned to Penn State for the 2018 season despite considering a transfer, but he battled injury throughout the campaign. He missed the first four games in September with a foot injury, and he wound up playing in seven games. He threw for 110 yards and a touchdown and also ran for 118 and two more scores.