After reviewing the offensive line, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends over the past couple of weeks, we have finally come to the quarterbacks. I’m not sure I need to say much about the quarterback position in general, or the roller coaster that the spot has been for PSU over the last 10+ years.
When Bill O’Brien took over in January, he made no secret about the rigors of the quarterback position, and how much he asks of the guy he puts under center. He also promised a true competition for the starting spot, and that whoever won it, would be his guy. Matt McGloin, Rob Bolden, and Paul Jones entered Spring practice with the proverbial clean slate and equal time to impress O’Brien and new quarterback coach Charlie Fisher. None of the three were terribly impressive in the Blue-White scrimmage, but fan sentiment seemed to favor Jones, if for no other reason than we had all seen the other two options. Jones at least provided the raw talent, and the “can’t be worse” factor. However, on June 1st, McGloin was named PSU’s starter. By the time fall camp started, Bolden was in Baton Rouge, and when camp broke, freshman Steven Bench had supplanted Jones as the backup. By the time Big 10 season came around, Paul Jones had moved to tight end, and then left the program. It was clear that position was McGloin’s.
As with practically every other spot on the offense, it was very clear early how well McGloin had taken to O’Brien’s offense. Not only was he making all the throws, he showed a remarkable ability to get the Lions into the right play on many occasions. For a quarterback that was virtually forbidden making an audible at the line, McGloin relished the opportunity to change the play. When asked by the BTN crew during fall camp what his favorite part about the new offense was, McGloin told the gang “checking at the line and going downfield”. In essence, f*** it, going deep.
About the only weakness McGloin showed was with blitz recognition, and dealing with pressure. O’Brien and Fisher coached out many of the flaws in his game, but even when faced with heavy pressure and no chance to make a play, McGloin often sought to buy more time, ultimately costing the offense more yardage. In PSU’s two Big 10 losses, McGloin also threw costly interceptions, giving both Ohio State and Nebraska early 2nd half momentum. The Buckeyes took their interception back for 6, while Nebraska’s set up an offensive score. However, given where he was just a few months prior, the advances McGloin made were astonishing.
Heading into 2013, O’Brien will again have a major decision to make with his signal caller. Steven Bench is the only quarterback currently on the roster returning next season. JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson from California will be arriving on campus in January with 3 years of eligibility, and will be expected to challenge Bench for the starting spot in spring practice. Blue chip recruit Christian Hackenberg is also expected to sign with Penn State in February, and arrive on campus for the first summer session in June. With Ferguson’s arrival, the staff will have the option to potentially redshirt Hackenberg, and still have two scholarship QBs available.
With the steps McGloin took this season with just 10 months of coaching from O’Brien and Fisher, you can’t help but wonder how much better McGloin could be. His grasp of the offense, and close relationship with O’Brien had me wondering at times during the season if we might not see him back at PSU down the road as graduate assistant or assistant coach. With all that said, and with the record breaking season McGloin had, it’s hard to go any direction other than an A.
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