You thought the quarterback
controversycompetition between Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin in 2008 was pretty intense? You ain't seen nothing yet. Somewhere between four to six players will be fighting to stick their hand under Stefen Wisniewski's butt and take that first snap against Indiana State next September. The contenders will include a couple true freshmen, a redshirt walkon sophomore that earned himself a scholarship, a journeyman wide receiver that started out as a quarterback, and a speedy true sophomore that played sparingly at wide receiver in 2009, but starred as a quarterback in high school and had more touchdown passes this year than the true freshman quarterback that served as Daryll Clark's backup.
You have to figure Kevin Newsome has the inside track to take over for Daryll Clark. He served as the primary backup all season, but he saw very little playing time and had more rushing attempts (20) than pass attempts (11). Newsome didn't exactly tear it up in his 11 pass attempts, but he didn't suck either completing 8 of them for 66 yards. He had no interceptions or touchdowns, but then by the time he saw the field the game was well in hand and Paterno had called off the dogs. So we never really got to see what he could do.
At one point this season after watching Newsome play I commented he reminded me a lot of Michael Robinson. Like Robinson, his throwing mechanics leave much to be desired, but he's an electrifying runner. He has tremendous burst seemingly going from stand still to top speed in two steps. He's a big, physical player that hits a hole hard and lowers his shoulder to get that extra yard. It doesn't hurt that he wears Robinson's old number 12 either.
If you believe in the Paterno Doctrine, Newsome will take over as the starter next year simply for no other reason than he was the backup this year and now it's his turn. That may be the case, and if it is, the race for the backup spot will be even more entertaining.
Redshirt sophomore Matt McGloin brings the most experience. 2010 will be his third year in the program, and he has always earned high praise from Paterno. The ultimate vindication came when he earned a scholarship prior to the 2009 season as a reward for his hard work. Observers rave about his mechanics and decision making, but there are questions about his arm strength and size (6-1, 204 lbs). And McGloin is more of a pure pocket passer. This is certainly not a bad thing as Penn State has succeeded with pocket passers before, but in 2004 Penn State made the transition to the spread offense. Michael Robinson and Daryll Clark thrived in the offense, but Anthony Morelli, who was strictly a pocket passer, struggled to run the offense effectively. If Penn State is committed to the Spread HD and using mobile quarterbacks that can run the zone read, wildcat, and roll out of the pocket, McGloin may find himself on the outside looking in.
True freshman Paul Jones may prove to be Newsome's biggest competition. Jones is enrolling this month which will allow him to compete in spring practice and learn the offense. Jones sat out a good portion of his senior year of high school with an ankle injury and only played in nine games. But he still threw for 1600 yards and 16 touchdowns. He may remind a lot of Penn State fans of Daryll Clark. He's an imposing physical specimen that is capable of running when he has to, but he prefers to beat you with his arm. He's excellent at throwing on the run and uses his feet more to create space and buy time than to pick up big chunks of yards like Newsome.
The other true freshman, Robert Bolden, may get a look, but he will be at a disadvantage to Jones since he will not enroll until June. Bolden is more of a running threat and regarded as more athletic than Jones. Though his senior passing stats don't jump out at you (1,013 yds, 7 TD, 8 INT), he has an absolute cannon of an arm and drew the raves of scouts on the camp trail. Due to the fact his skill set is similar to Newsome and he is not enrolling in January like Jones, I suspect we will see Bolden wear the redshirt in 2010 to create some separation with Newsome.
Two other names to consider are Curtis Drake and Brett Brackett. Both are currently listed as wide receivers, but Drake starred as a quarterback in high school and Brackett started his Penn State career at quarterback. I don't think they are serious contenders, but Paterno mentioned their names after the Capital One Bowl, so you have to figure they will get a look in the spring.
So pick your camp and strap yourself in. It's going to be a pretty tumultuous eight months.