Penn State quarterbacks a work in progress

Posted: April 21, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Even with a new head coach replacing an icon who called the shots for 46 years, Penn State's annual Blue-White Game didn't show people much that was different.

Bill O'Brien, the successor to Joe Paterno, kept his new offense, based on much of what he led as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, under wraps. Asked how much of the offense he showed to the estimated Beaver Stadium crowd of 60,000, he replied, "10 percent."

And the three quarterbacks battling for the No. 1 job showed the same-old same-old this overcast day.

Matt McGloin, the incumbent, did well when he stayed within himself but threw an interception when he tried to force the football into a tight spot.

Rob Bolden, the only quarterback who completed at least half his passes, still threw a couple of one-hoppers and three picks, and sometimes looked frozen in the pocket trying to find a receiver.

Paul Jones exhibited the arm to throw the football into another area code even when his receivers stay in the 814. But anyone who can uncork a 55-yard pass with just the flick of his wrist is worth watching.

The defense, representing the Blue team, recorded enough interceptions (five) and sacks (eight) to come up with a 77-65 victory over the offense (White) under a special scoring system. But the quarterbacks, who were the biggest part of the show, remain a work in progress and will give O'Brien a lot to think about between now and the start of preseason camp.

"I feel pretty good where we're at quarterback-wise," O'Brien said. "I really have to watch the film. It's hard to see from the sideline but all three of those guys made some plays today.

"I have to reiterate, all three of these guys, we've asked a lot of them. We've asked them to learn a system that's totally different from anything they've ever learned, and that takes time. Different guys learn at different rates and some guys get it right away, other guys get it the next day, other guys get it two days from now.

"So we have to let it soak in a little bit, let it soak for ourselves as a staff. We'll make a decision headed into training camp on who we're going with, or who the top two are."

O'Brien promised an equal number of snaps for the QB's and succeeded with the help of quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher, who called plays on the field. McGloin and Jones ran 22 plays each, and Bolden got 21. McGloin led his unit to two touchdowns, Jones one plus a field goal, and fourth-stringer Shane McGregor (11 plays) one TD.

The quarterbacks completed 23 of 48 passes for 343 yards, even though McGloin said they ran only "four or five" passing plays the whole day.

After the game, Fisher said McGloin had a fine last two weeks of practice, that he appreciated the ability of Jones to improvise and extend a play, and that Bolden "made some throws" but has to "continue to work . . . grasp the offense and what we're trying to do."

Bolden, who like the other quarterbacks was made available to the media for the first time this spring after the game, indicated the uncertainty isn't much different from the last two seasons.

"It doesn't bother me no more. I've been doing it forever," he said with a smile.

"It's wide-open. We all have our skill sets, what we're good at, what we need to work on. Based off that, it's up to you really. What you're not good at, you've got to work on it. That's what the summertime is all about, getting out on the field, running routes with your guys."

McGloin said "you have to like" the uncertainty.

"I like it," he said. "I need to do it. It'll only make me a better quarterback especially when you have guys like Rob and Paul out here.

As for Jones, who sat out his first season as a redshirt and second because of academics, he is a favorite of O'Brien because "we both have a unique sense of humor," the coach said.

Jones said he's fine with the uncertain status at the position.

"It's only April, a lot of things can happen," he said. "We'll see how training camp goes and what we're looking at Sept. 1."

See you then.


Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com or follow him on Twitter @joejulesinq

 

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