Clark looking to help Penn St. win in 2009

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Fans craned their heads and waited before a basketball game to catch a glimpse of Penn State football players showing off their 2008 Big Ten championship trophy.

Daryll Clark took it all in stride, posing for pictures and signing autographs with a smile, but the quarterback has already started thinking about next season.

With so much to work on this offseason, it wasn’t hard for Clark to forget about the loss to Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl as soon as he returned to Happy Valley.

“I made a commitment,” Clark said before Penn State’s basketball win over Iowa this past weekend. “If we happen to make it back to the Rose Bowl next year, which is the national championship, that it’s a different result.”

Games are still about eight months away, so there’s not much need for game-planning or film-watching these days. Spring practice doesn’t start until late March.

Winter is a time for working out and, perhaps, sorting out who will be the Nittany Lions’ next set of leaders.

That will be important at Penn State, given the loss of key seniors like receivers Derrick Williams and Deon Butler, and center A.Q. Shipley, who are out of eligibility and likely headed to the NFL.

With an outgoing, confident demeanor and hard-nosed playing style, Clark should be able to handle the extra leadership burden that will be thrust on his shoulders.

When asked if he thought the 2009 team will be “his team” or “his offense,” Clark said simply: “Yeah, I’d say that.”

“I’ve done a good job of keeping everyone together,” Clark said. “Everyone is ready to work.”

Teammates have said that Clark can have a commanding presence in the huddle. The quarterback backed it up on the field, exceeding prognosticators’ expectations in his first year as a starter by completing 60 percent of his passes and throwing for 2,592 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also ran for 10 scores.

“You never really reach a peak. I feel I need to work on everything that a quarterback has to have in order to be successful in the Big Ten,” Clark said.

The onus also will be on underclassmen to help lead, Clark said. Two rising juniors, 1,000-yard rusher Evan Royster and guard Stefen Wisniewski, may be counted on to be more vocal.

Clark, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, already has started on one of his other jobs this year: grooming incoming freshman Kevin Newsome, a highly rated quarterback recruit. Newsome, who has enrolled at Penn State and can participate in spring practice, most likely will be Clark’s top backup next season and is the favorite to take over as starter in 2010.

Clark and Newsome are the only two quarterbacks currently on scholarship at Penn State.

Pat Devlin, the backup to Clark for most of 2008, transferred three weeks before the Rose Bowl. Devlin, who played well in limited duty, has reportedly decided to transfer to FCS school Delaware. Delaware spokesman Scott Selheimer said yesterday that Devlin has yet to enroll at the school.