Since BSD's blog-birth in 2006, the Nittany Lions have seen their fair share of starting quarterbacks. From Daryll Clark beating out highly-recruited Pat Devlin, to the saga that was Matt McGloin and Robert Bolden, to a five-star freshman taking the reins, Penn State fans have seen a little bit of everything at quarterback.
Although the quarterbacks of the previous decade may not have put up Baylor or Oregon type numbers, Penn State has had some pretty solid quarterback play the previous decade. Let's take a look back at who had the best season, taking into account hype, expectations, and of course, the stats.
3. Daryll Clark (2008)
The Numbers: 192-for-321, 2592 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, 6 interceptions
Daryll Clark shocked much of the Penn State fan base when he was named the starting quarterback over the highly-touted redshirt sophomore Pat Devlin. But any questions or concerns were quickly put to rest as Clark led the Nittany Lions to a number of dominant victories, averaging just a hair under 50 points per game through the first five games of the season. He continued his stellar player throughout the rest of the year, helping Penn State to its second Big Ten championship in four years, and its first Rose Bowl berth since 1994.
While Clark stepping up and relishing the starting role was impressive, he was also surrounded by one of the most talented offenses in Penn State history. Three wide receivers who had four years of experience, a running back who was coming off a strong freshman season, and a veteran offensive line, anchored by A.Q. Shipley and Rich Ohrnberger. Not to take away the accolades Clark accomplished, but he was stepping into a comfy role.
2. Christian Hackenberg (2013)
The Numbers: 231-for-392, 2955 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
After Jake Waters spurned Penn State for Kansas State, it created an opening for the five-star wonderkid Christian Hackenberg to earn the starting spot day one in Happy Valley. While another JUCO, Tyler Ferguson, ended up a Nittany Lion in place of Waters, it appeared that it was now going to be Hackenberg's job to lose.
Hackenberg went onto be named the starter, and besides for one series in the first game, was Penn State's quarterback for the rest of the year. The freshman got off to a strong start, impressing in the first five games before leading the Nittany Lions to a four-overtime, come from behind victory over an undefeated Michigan squad that served as Hackenberg's coming out party to the nation. But if that game was the coming out party, then the Wisconsin game was a fitting encore. In the final game of the season, Hackenberg put on his greatest performance, throwing for over 300 yards with four touchdowns, knocking off a BCS Bowl-caliber Badgers team.
Hackenberg's freshman year wasn't without its struggles. But just like his career in general, it's more important to look at the greater picture. In came an immensely talented quarterback with a NFL pedigree, but truthfully speaking, probably would have been best served to redshirt. Instead, he was thrown into the fire, and no matter what rating scale is being used, passed with flying colors. Of course he had a strong offensive line and Allen Robinson to bail him out at wide receiver, but what Hackenberg did as a freshman in a complex offense can't be denied as impressive.
1. Matt McGloin (2012)
The Numbers: 270-for-446, 3271 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 5 interceptions
With Bill O'Brien taking over as head coach, Matt McGloin was given new life after a rough couple seasons under the tutelage of Jay Paterno. Following spring practices, the Scranton gunslinger was named the Nittany Lions' starting quarterback. Once the season started, he didn't disappoint. The once erratic quarterback who threw five interceptions in one game now showed great decision-making, limiting his interceptions to just four throughout the entire season. Four-touchdown games against Navy and Indiana highlighted McGloin's season, but it was a victory against Wisconsin on his "Senior Day" that capped off his magical year.
Although McGloin had the best statistical season out of every quarterback in the last decade, it was everything else that earned him the top spot as most impressive. Everybody knows of the hardships Penn State faced going into the 2012 season and the role McGloin's leadership played, so there's really no need to delve into that any further. What people tend to forget was just how uninspiring McGloin's play was prior to 2012. No matter what side you were on in the McGloin v. Bolden debates, it's hard to argue that McGloin could have been seen as anything other than a mediocre quarterback heading into his final season. Add in an extremely unproven supporting class -- from his wide receivers (Allen Robinson and Brandon Moseby-Felder), to tight ends (Jesse James, Kyle Carter, and Matt Lehman), to his running backs (Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak), to his offensive line (Matt Stankiewitch was the only returning starter) -- and nobody could have seen the season McGloin had coming.
While the offensive line end up gelling, and Allen Robinson and the other offensive weapons proved their worth, McGloin's jump from his junior to senior season is as uncommon as it comes in college football today. O'Brien played a big part in that too, but not even the staunchest OB supporter would have seen McGloin's play improving to that level. For that, McGloin gets the top spot on our list.