Penn State is down another quarterback after coach Bill O’Brien said Wednesday that backup Paul Jones had left the team for personal reasons.
The rocket-armed sophomore, once a highly touted recruit, had slipped behind true freshman Steven Bench to third string. Senior Matt McGloin is the entrenched starter.
O’Brien still sought to keep Jones involved and had him practicing at tight end the last several weeks. He played sparingly the last two games, getting his first career reception Sept. 15 against Navy for seven yards.
Jones also had one rush for minus-7 yards in last week’s 24-13 win over Temple.
Jones is the second quarterback to leave Penn State this year. Rob Bolden left over the summer, about two months after O’Brien tabbed McGloin the starter. Bolden is now at LSU.
O’Brien replaced the late Joe Paterno in January and installed a new offense based on the high-powered passing attack he coordinated at his previous job with the NFL’s New England Patriots. Jones and Bolden were once top prospects recruited by Paterno.
Both quarterbacks were beaten out for the starting job by McGloin, the top passer in the Big Ten (251 yards per game) headed into conference play. The Nittany Lions (2-2) visit Illinois (2-2) on Saturday.
O’Brien, who was the position coach for Pro Bowl quarterback Tom Brady, said there would still be a package of plays for Jones at quarterback when he announced the move to tight end several weeks ago.
The departure is the latest on a Penn State roster that has taken a big hit this year. Jones is the third player to leave the team since the season started, after receiver Shawney Kersey and backup kicker Matt Marcincin, a walk-on. Both also left for personal reasons.
Nine players left before the preseason started in August after the NCAA slammed Penn State with strict sanctions for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Tailback Silas Redd was the most notable player to take advantage of an exception to leave immediately to play for another school and went to Southern California.
Bolden was also allowed to transfer right away, but had been granted permission to talk to other schools before the sanctions were announced July 23.
The NCAA waiver allows any Nittany Lions to consider other schools for an immediate transfer until the start of the 2013 preseason, meaning Jones could hook on with another FBS school right away next season. Players aren’t allowed to leave Penn State this season once they enter a game.