QB McGloin set to lead Penn State’s new offense

June 1 was a pretty significant day in the life of Matt

McGloin.

That was the day that new Penn State coach Bill O’Brien decided

that McGloin, a former walk-on, was to be the next starting

quarterback for the Nittany Lions and was going to help usher in

this new era of football here under center – and under the

spotlight.

Indeed, O’Brien, a former offensive coordinator for the New

England Patriots, wanted just one player to run his NFL-type

strategy, and McGloin grasped the playbook faster and with more

success than Paul Jones and Rob Bolden.

So, McGloin grabbed the title, and will soon lead the Nittany

Lions into preseason camp with a new offense and a new outlook.

”It was a load off my mind. You don’t have to worry about

looking over your shoulder every two seconds, seeing where you

stand,” McGloin said. ”Last year, it was `If I don’t practice

well Tuesday or Wednesday, I didn’t know if I was going to play on

Saturday.’ … Now that I’m the guy, I know I have to work harder

than ever to maintain that position and to prove everybody

wrong.”

Still under the cloud of scrutiny and turmoil associated with

the abuse scandal, Penn State opens the season on Sept. 1 vs. Ohio,

and on that day at Beaver Stadium, McGloin will officially begin

his quest in front of the nation. The challenge for the senior is

to help change an offense that ranked 10th in the conference last

season (342.4 yards per game). He also needs to show that O’Brien

made the right call.

As for now, though, it’s so far, so good … especially in the

eyes of his teammates.

The response from the players, in fact, has been ”tremendous”

McGloin said. The quarterback took on the role of organizing 7-on-7

drills this summer, and said he’s working around everyone’s class

schedules so he can put in extra time throwing to his wide

receivers at night.

McGloin completed just 54 percent of his passes last season, and

missed the TicketCity Bowl vs. Houston – a 30-14 loss – after

sustaining a concussion in a locker-room scuffle with a teammate.

The other player involved in the scuffle, Curtis Drake, was

dismissed from the team this summer.

In O’Brien’s offense, the tight ends are expected to be more

involved and running back Silas Redd will have the opportunity to

catch more balls out of the backfield. McGloin’s improved accuracy

caught O’Brien’s eye this spring when the quarterback said he

limited his turnovers over and completed 70 percent of his passes.

And that percentage might just stick during the season, as those

safety-option dump-offs to Redd could increase – especially early

on as the offense continues to mesh.

”In terms of (reading) coverages, defensive fronts, things like

that, I’m light years ahead of where I was. It’s scary,” McGloin

said. ”I’ve really made strides in recognizing defenses and

blitzes and getting in and out of plays and changing

protections.”

His teammates are relieved to have just one quarterback going

through first-team drills. Nine out of the 12 first-team

repetitions will go to McGloin throughout preseason camp, a

reassuring fact for both McGloin and Redd.

”We know we have a sense of the identity of the offense now,

and who is going to be leading us,” said Redd, who anticipates

20-plus carries per game. ”He knows that the offense has more than

enough ability.”

The offensive transition has gone ”a lot smoother” this summer

than it did in the spring, Redd added. He said players now

understand where they need to be, McGloin knows what audibles to

call, and the offense can continue adding new wrinkles along the

way, as a result.

Just how much trickery – a traditional staple in the New England

offense – can fans expect to see from Penn State this season?

”You guys,” Redd said with a chuckle, ”are just going to have

to wait and see.”

One thing is for sure. O’Brien made it clear from the day he

tagged McGloin as the starter that anything can change as he

progresses through the depth chart. Jones and Bolden are slated to

back up McGloin and dual-threat freshman quarterback Steven Bench

arrived on campus in June. McGloin knows he must produce … or

else.

McGloin said he watched Bench throw a few times and was pleased

with the progress the newcomer is making. However, McGloin is

champing at the bit for camp to start, so he can prove that he is

the best option under center for the Nittany Lions.

The depth at quarterback is great and all for the future of this

embattled program. But he still wants to be No. 1.

”This is the most excited I’ve been for a camp so far,”

McGloin said. ”Don’t get me wrong. I definitely love to compete

and love the challenge. But you’re the No. 1 guy. … What I’m

going to focus on now, in camp, is earning their respect and trying

to become the best leader I can be.”

He’s off to a good start.