In the days and now weeks since the Blue-White game, we've been hammered with pieces from across the Penn State sphere speculating on how the quarterback situation might resolve itself. Any fans or media types with access to a computer have been tripping over themselves to make predictions and take their shot at screaming into the echo chamber.
Some will tell you there's no way former walk-on Matthew McGloin will be able to overcome the "highly recruited" trio of Kevin Newsome, Robert Bolden and Paul Jones to earn the job this time. Others will tell you McGloin will grab the spot because Jay Paterno and the coaching staff hopelessly wrecked said "highly recruited" trio.
Here are the facts. Joe Paterno has said he's "99% sure" the starter will be either McGloin or Bolden. Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, however, sang the praises of Newsome after the spring game. Both seem to believe Jones is still on the outside looking in.
Those are the only hints we've been given. That doesn't stop recruiting types from using star rankings and offer sheets over two years old as crutches for speculation, though, and so we hear about how talented the "highly recruited" trio is and how limited McGloin's ceiling is because he's a former walk-on.
That's all nonsense. Recruiting rankings are irrelevant at this point. So are physical tools. There's a mental side of the game that all three of the "highly recruited" quarterbacks have failed to grasp so far, and until one or more of them figure it out, bets on how this race will end are off.
Give Rob Bolden all the credit in the world. He thinks he deserves the starters job and he's competed hard for it over the course of the last year. You can see how good he might become one day simply by watching him carry himself of the football field. The inescapable truth about him, though, is that between his transfer drama in January and his "will-he-or-won't he" act during spring practice, he's been a me-first kind of football player lately. Of course, that's not always a bad thing, and as he matures, it could serve him well. However, right now that attitude is a distraction and it's not helping.
His star ranking and "highly recruited" status didn't come with his maturity level as a measurable. It was all about poise and physical tools. The evaluations may well be accurate in that department, but they don't tell the whole story. To be a true impact player early in your college career, you need the physical tools and the maturity level to play the position. It can't be one or the other. To this point, Bolden has only shown the former but also the seeming unwillingness to take "no" for and answer. That's why we're in this position today.
So, here's a crazy notion: Maybe Bolden isn't a true "five-star" quarterback. Maybe the recruiting services missed, or maybe they were just doing their jobs and ranking measureables while everyone else got caught up in believing his stars are the be-all, end-all in terms of where he should be in this race. As with most kids his age, Bolden still has some growing up to do. Maybe it's time we stopped ripping the staff for not coaching him properly or the man himself for the way he's acting and remember he's still a teenager. Maybe he just needs the time Michael Robinson, Anthony Morelli and Daryll Clark all got to grow before they started and led successful Penn State teams.
Will-be junior Kevin Newsome has also struggled with maturity issues. He didn't travel with the team to the Outback Bowl as he mulled over a possible transfer, and according to Joe Paterno, he's been "last player on, first player off" at practice.
Whether Joe was speaking generally about Newsome's career at Penn State or spring practice specifically, we don't know. To be fair, Jay Paterno was very pleased with Newsome in the spring, so maybe Newsome had a breakthrough, but still hasn't emerged from the head man's doghouse yet. We don't know.
Regardless, again, recruiting stars don't take immeasureables like work ethic and attitude into account. They can only take you so far, and until Newsome allows his maturity level to catch up with his skill, he's probably topped out as a camp arm.
Finally, there's Paul Jones. He's the big unknown because no one has really seen him play since the 2010 Blue-White game. He, too, is highly touted, but has also had some trouble adjusting. Why? Maybe he simply wasn't prepared for college.
Jones' alma mater Sto-Rox suspended 15 football players in the fall because they were unable to maintain a C in their core classes. That's a third of the football team unable to hold a passing grade at the high school level, let alone the college level. It's no wonder Jones has struggled academically and has had less time to devote to achieving his potential as a football player.
He's simply had more important things to take care of.
Say it with me now, star rankings don't take things like academics into account. They're based purely on measureables. Rivals and Scout had no way of knowing Jones' wasn't prepared for college coming out of high school for whatever reason. All they know is what's in the football scouting report. That's how they make their evaluations, and that's how you get "Five-star quarterback Paul Jones."
So, the next time someone tells you they know how the quarterback situation will play out or worse yet, how they think it should play out, beware. There are so many variables to this race that go beyond what we can see on the football field and trying to pretend we understand them is a fool's errand.
For that reason, don't expect "OMG quarterback, quarterback, quarterback" all offseason here at BSD. We're bored of it already and though it might do our traffic some favors to beat the topic to death, we'd probably fall asleep trying to make it happen.
It will be a long time before the staff has to make a decision on who will start at quarterback. Guys could transfer. Guys could mature over the summer. Any number of things could happen. No reason to play the speculation game now. Best just to let the summer happen and not get caught up on things like recruiting profiles that were never very important in the first place.