3-way PSU QB race heads into offseason

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 23, 2012
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 consistent.'' 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 presence. 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 score. ''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 receivers. 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 wind. ''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 humbling experience.''
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