3-way PSU QB race heads into offseason
New coach, same uncertainty behind center at Penn State.
Bill O’Brien heads into the offseason hoping to narrow the field
in the three-man race for the starting quarterback job to two.
The quarterback questions aren’t new in Happy Valley. O’Brien’s
predecessor, the late Joe Paterno, had open competitions for the
starting job entering the previous two seasons – and Penn State
ended both those campaigns near the bottom of the Big Ten in
scoring and total offense.
But there are several new wrinkles this year in a spring already
chock-full of changes for the Nittany Lions.
First, O’Brien is installing a new offense based on the
high-octane attack he oversaw as offensive coordinator of the New
England Patriots. It’s taken a while for the skill position players
– let alone the quarterbacks – to pick up the schemes just
three-plus months after O’Brien was hired for the job.
And O’Brien revealed after Saturday’s Blue-White game that he
ran just 10 percent of the offensive playbook.
”This whole spring has been a challenge to us as an offense,
coming together learning new plays,” quarterback Matt McGloin
said. ”One thing we can focus on this summer is being
McGloin began the last two seasons behind Rob Bolden at
quarterback, before overtaking Bolden by season’s end.
They’re both in the mix again this spring. But another major
difference his year is a third candidate getting first-team reps.
Paul Jones is a promising western Pennsylvania product who had to
overcome academic issues for much of his first two seasons at Penn
State, including his redshirt freshman campaign in 2011.
Primarily a pocket passer, McGloin has a swagger that seemed to
endear himself to his teammates the last two seasons. Bolden is
more mobile but has had issues with consistency and pocket
O’Brien will be watching a lot of film this offseason in hopes
of determining whether he can at least narrow the field from three
to two. A starter likely won’t be named until just before the
season opener Sept. 1 against Ohio.
O’Brien and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher also fully
understand they’ve given the players a lot to study in a short
amount of time.
”They knew coming in they were going to have to learn things,
grasp things and work at it,” Fisher said Saturday. ”It’s just 15
days in and obviously there’s a big growth period that will take
place during the summer.
”We’ve still got time ahead of us.”
McGloin finished 6 of 13 passing for 105 yards on Saturday,
while Jones was 6 of 15 for 113 yards. Both McGloin and Jones each
threw for a touchdown and an interception.
Bolden was the only quarterback among the top three candidates
to complete at least 50 percent of his passes at 7 of 14 for 78
yards. But Bolden threw three interceptions and didn’t pass for a
”Any free time has to be put in to learning this stuff. Just
throwing routes and learning concepts, sitting down with your
coach,” Bolden said. ”Anything you can to get yourself ahead you
do it. If you don’t, you will be stuck.”
Jones lacks game experience. But if Saturday’s game was any
indication, he also might have the strongest arm – he rocketed a
couple throws roughly 50 yards downfield that went long of
And 50 yards is easy. One practice this spring, O’Brien told
Jones that Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett had the
strongest arm the coach had seen with a pass of 72 yards.
Determined to impress, Jones fell just short throwing into the
”I threw 70. We didn’t have the best Saturday morning weather
that day,” Jones joked.
Academic issues forced Jones to stay home for the trip to the
TicketCity Bowl on Jan. 2 in Dallas. Houston beat the Nittany
Lions, 30-14, but Jones said being left back hurt.
This spring, O’Brien has praised Jones for his academics.
”I’m doing really (well) with my school work. I never had
problems with academics before,” Jones said. ”It was a real