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Blue-White Countdown: Quarterbacks

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WIll McGloin win Season Three of the Great Quarterback Debate?  (BSD/Mike Pettigano)
WIll McGloin win Season Three of the Great Quarterback Debate? (BSD/Mike Pettigano)

Here we go.

After Nittany Lion legend, fan favorite, and all-around good guy Daryll Clark graduated, leaving nearly every record shattered, Penn State quarterbacking looked to be in reasonably solid hands for the foreseeable future. Although Pat Devlin traded in his blue and white jersey for a blue and gold winged helmet (FCS version), Joe Paterno had recruited two elite level high school signal callers in the class of 2010 - Rob Bolden, a supposed "dual threat" prospect from Orchard Lake, Michigan, and Paul Jones, a more traditional pocket passer from McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. The year before, Paterno had recruited Kevin Newsome, a four-star dual threat quarterback from Chesapeake, Virginia, who served as Clark's backup during the 2009 season. It was assumed that Clark would tutor Newsome and hand him the keys to the offense as a sophomore. While Newsome ran the highly touted Spread HD playbook, Matt McGloin, a walk-on from Scranton, Pennsylvania, would provide sufficient depth for a season while one or both freshman redshirted, learned the offense, and prepared for the next several years.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Despite being the most likeable.person.ever, the Kevin Newsome experiment ended in a transfer to Temple. For the first two years of his Penn State career, Paul Jones struggled to stay academically eligible. That left Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin to battle to the death over the starting quarterback job.

That battle wasn't just waged by the two players on the practice field. The Bolden-McGloin debate has raged on for the past two years. In fact, the comments section of this very blog has often had one side or the other sounding like this . . .

Meanwhile, the ineptitude of the offense had every Nittany Lion fan doing this . . .

And though Bill O'Brien's hire may bring new optimism to the offense, the options for the Nittany Lions remain virtually the same. Welcome back, Penn Staters, to Season Three of the Great Quarterback Controversy.

More Blue-White Countdown 2012…
Special Teams (Mike) - 4.9.12
Defensive Backfield (Cari) - 4.10.12
Linebackers (Mike) - 4.11.12
Defensive Line (Jared) - 4.12.12
Offensive Line (Devon) - 4.16.12
Wide Receivers (Jeff) - 4.17.12
Tight Ends (Jeff) - 4.18.12
Running Backs (Mike) - 4.19.12
Quarterbacks (Adam) - 4.20.12

Projected Starter

#11 - Matt McGloin

As Devon Edwards reported on Wednesday in our Notes from Open Practice, "it's pretty much an inevitability that Matt McGloin will be your QB1, at least heading into the summer." The rising senior has routinely been noted as the most consistent of the competitors - whether that says more about McGloin's growth as a player or the inconsistencies of the others, I'll leave for you to judge. Although in his defense, McGloin has led more touchdown drives than any of his competitors, and the margin is pretty astounding (44 to 16).

McGloin's always been an interesting case study. He throws a beautiful deep ball, but has been a very streaky short-range passer. When he's in the groove, he'll hit 7 passes in a row and take the team right down the field. When he's not, the offense can seize up in an instant.

McGloin's best asset is his successful direction of the two-minute drill. That bodes well for a quarterback learning the system of a new coach that wants his players to "play fast." If McGloin can play within himself and stretch the field when he gets an open receiver deep, this offense will move well.

Of course, McGloin's biggest flaw is that he often fails to play within himself. He's willing to force the action and take some chances, which would be fine if he had the arm strength to get away with it. And though McGloin's arm isn't nearly as weak as his detractors want to claim it is, he still doesn't possess anywhere near the kind of cannon necessary to get away with the "gunslinger" mentality. If he tries and fails, you'll be seeing one of these guys . . .

In the Rearview Mirror

#1 - Rob Bolden

#7 - Paul Jones

Bolden and Jones were recruited in the same class, but their careers could not have taken different turns. Jones graduated high school early, enrolled in January 2010, and was expected to compete for the starting job with Newsome and McGloin. Unfortunately, academic issues prevented him from truly competing, and he redshirted after an eye-opening performance in the 2010 Blue-White Game that saw him complete five passes for 67 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Instead of contributing on the field, Jones ran the scout team and tried to stay eligible. He's reported to have the strongest arm on the team, and has, at points, been listed as the second team quarterback this spring. Assuming he remains eligible, Jones will continue to push for the starting job this summer.

Bolden, on the other hand, enrolled during the second summer session with most of the other freshman football players and immediately established himself as a viable candidate for the starting job. Almost everyone will tell you that Bolden "has all the tools" - he's tall, has a strong arm, has nice form on his passes, and generally looks the part of a power conference starter. He played well enough during his first summer on campus that Joe Paterno of all people named him the starting quarterback as a true freshman.

That season started out well enough, before a concussion against Minnesota sidelined him for the Michigan game. McGloin outperformed him during Paterno's 400th win, and Bolden didn't see the field for a meaningful down the rest of the year.

Bolden has been the subject of plenty of controversy. He threatened to transfer after his freshman year; Paterno challenged Bolden to win the job outright and denied that request. That led to a year of controversy where the Paternos continued to play Bolden despite his declining play throughout the year.

Bolden's statistics in the bowl game are a microcosm of his entire career. In place of an injured Matt McGloin, Bolden went 7 of 26 for 137 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown to Justin Brown. He also threw three interceptions. There's no question that Bolden is a talented player, but he struggles with accuracy on a pass-by-pass basis and takes far too many hits because he struggles to identify the blitz. With O'Brien's hire, Bolden essentially got the transfer he wanted without actually leaving the university. This is almost definitely Bolden's last chance to make any kind of noise as a Nittany Lion, and it will be interesting to see how he handles that kind of pressure.

See you this summer . . .

#? - Steven Bench

Bench is a Class of 2012 recruit out of Camilla, Georgia. Here's a bit from our resident recruiting expert, Jeff Junstrom:

Standing 6-3 and coming to Penn State somewhere in the 210-220 pound range, Bench was originally a Rice commitment, opting for the Owls in December. However, once O'Brien and Company moved in, they took a look at the depth chart (see below) and were determined to take a QB in the Class of 2012 (Skyler Mornhinweg had once been a '12 commitment, but flipped to Florida in the aftermath of The Thing).

Bench played high school football for the Cairo Syrupmakers (seriously), in addition to playing baseball down in Jawjuh. He is a two- (Scout) or three-star (247Sports, Rivals) prospect whose only other FBS offer came from the aforementioned Rice Owls.

However, that portion of southwestern Georgia isn't as heavily recruited as the more populous areas in and around Atlanta, so Bench didn't have the exposure that some other souther high school players see from college recruiters.

What he immediately brings to Penn State, without even looking beyond just his commitment, is some additional depth at a position that is shaky at best. Three scholarship quarterbacks are currently battling each other for the third straight year, and each have their own issues to deal with, along with transfer rumors that will swirl until September (and likely beyond). Bench provides some safety in numbers, and may arrive on campus this summer and immediately push the starters for first-team reps (it's unlikely, but still possible).

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