In college football the quarterback is more than just the most important position on the..."/> In college football the quarterback is more than just the most important position on the..."/> In college football the quarterback is more than just the most important position on the..."/>

2011 Penn State Position Previews: Quarterback

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In college football the quarterback is more than just the most important position on the field. Under center stands the face of the program, the big man on campus, the scapegoat for all failures and the hero of all triumphs. A team can have accomplished recruits at all the other positions on the field, but without a solid pass thrower, national title contention is but a day dream.

It’s said that a football team with two starting quarterbacks really has no starter at all. Although that’s not the most logical statement in the world, it almost rang true in Penn State’s case over the past year. Both Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin showed they could lead Penn State to victories during the 2010 season. Bolden has his 96-yard drive to defeat Temple early in the season, while McGloin was at the helm for an upset of Michigan and a thrilling come-from-behind win over Northwestern.

Having to choose between the guts and experience of McGloin and the youth and potential of Bolden wouldn’t normally be a bad thing, but Bolden’s attempt to leave the program following the Outback Bowl turned PSU’s quarterback decision into a quarterback crisis.

The decision of Bolden to transfer seemed questionable at the time. I understand he was upset at not getting another crack at the starting job, especially after McGloin threw pick after pick into the arms of Florida Gators on New Years Day. However, going into the 2010 season, I can’t imagine Bolden thinking he had a chance at the starting job. Back then, he had to figure he would maybe redshirt a year and get the job when Kevin Newsome was done with it.

So why try to leave the program after losing a job that probably never should have been his to begin with? I can only guess that Bolden was either so upset at not getting the job back that he wanted nothing more to do with Penn State or he figured he could never get the job back even after losing it in the first place because of an injury.

Whatever the reason, Joe Paterno’s refusal to let Bolden out of his scholarship says a lot about what the coaching staff thinks of Rob Bolden. If they didn’t think that Bolden was still the quarterback of the future, they probably would have let him walk and made do with McGloin and whomever else decided to stay. That’s why even though there is a quarterback “controversy” this summer, I’m confident that Bolden will get every opportunity and then some to win the job so that PSU can lock down their starter for the next three seasons.

For a true freshman who had just arrived on campus a month before the season started, Bolden seemed very competent throwing the ball last season. Although gifted with more athleticism than say, Anthony Morelli, Bolden rarely used his legs to bail himself out of difficult situations. Instead, he stayed calm, often hanging in the pocket until the last possible second before releasing the ball with a mammoth defender in his face.

Holding onto the ball and taking a huge hit is not really a good thing to do as a quarterback. In fact, this tendency may have led to Bolden’s injury in the Minnesota game. However, the desire of Bolden to stay in the pocket and scan the field instead of bolting at the first sign of trouble showed that he can be a successful pocket passer once he polishes his skills.

Last season, Rob Bolden completed 112 of 193 passes (58%) for a 7.05 yards per attempt average to go with five touchdowns and seven interceptions. Patrick did a great job chronicling the rising sophomore’s 2010 campaign, so if you want to know more, check it out.

After news of junior Kevin Newsome transferring and redshirt freshman Paul Jones being academically ineligible, that leaves Matt McGloin as the only other Nittany Lion with a real chance to sniff playing time at quarterback this season.


McGloin busted onto the scene by throwing a pair of touchdown passes to finish off Minnesota in the game that Bolden was forced to leave due to injury. The former walk-on followed that up with back-to-back 60% completion games against Michigan and Northwestern to get Penn State back into bowl game contention. Most curious was the Northwestern game because Bolden was declared fit to start, but was then lifted despite not doing anything terrible.

McGloin followed up his amazing second half versus Northwestern with an equally incredible first half at Ohio State. Somehow, he became the first Nittany Lion quarterback to ever throw for a touchdown pass in a Columbus road game. That led to an improbable 14-3 halftime lead for PSU, but it quickly evaporated as both McGloin and the Penn State defense suffered second half meltdowns in a 35-14 defeat.

After a win versus Indiana and a home loss to Michigan State to close out the regular season, McGloin had his chance to really make his mark on the PSU program in the Outback Bowl versus Florida. However, it did not seem that the gritty red-head was destined for greatness, as he tossed away chance after chance to win the game. McGloin finished 17 for 41 with one touchdown and five interceptions.

In 2010, McGloin was much more of a big play guy than Bolden. He only completed 55% of his passes, but threw for 7.2 yards per attempt with 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. His stats obviously looked much better before the Florida game, but it remains that McGloin only managed to work his magic against the Big Ten’s worst defenses.

Sure, Bolden would be hardly more effective against the likes of Ohio State, Michigan State and Florida, but young #1 still has the most upside of the two candidates, and he deserves the right in 2011 to show how much he’s grown.

Should both Bolden and McGloin be unfit to play, that leaves redshirt junior scout team quarterback Shane McGregor as the next in line to take snaps. McGregor seems like a really good guy, but I’m hoping he stays on the sidelines while Penn State is within 30 points of its opponent.