Penn State Football: 4 Key Factors Bill O'Brien Is Looking for in QB Battle
A new season means yet another new quarterback for Penn State football. But who will it be?
While Bill O’Brien made it clear he won’t have a starter at the end of spring camp, it’s easy to speculate as to what the pass-heavy coach will look for in a signal-caller.
Superb athleticism isn’t a dire must. Just look at Matt McGloin.
A crafty quarterback, McGloin didn’t possess any physical attributes that jumped off the charts.
But he developed into a cerebral player that made solid decisions most of the time.
With that considered, let’s see what O’Brien will be looking for out of his eventual starting quarterback.
Understanding the Offense
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Perhaps the biggest thing for a signal-caller is the most obvious one: know the offense.
And with the unique, pro-style offense O’Brien implements, communication and understanding the verbiage is key.
As this article by The Boston Globe points out, the New England Patriots' offense (and now the Penn State offense) relies on few words to organize plays and formations.
That being said, whoever steps up to become the starter for the Nittany Lions needs to know the terms and lingo of the offense like the backs of his hands.
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One of the most recognizable improvements McGloin had from 2011 to 2012 was his ability to make good decisions with the football.
After throwing for 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions last season, McGloin matched his picks total from the year before—in more than double the passing attempts.
O’Brien runs a high-efficiency passing attack that’s predicated on trust in the quarterback to do what’s right inside and outside the pocket.
It’s that split-second choice to check down to a tight end as opposed to throwing it downfield into coverage that separates a smart quarterback from a reckless one.
Generally speaking, any major conference starting quarterback needs to possess good decision-making skills in order to succeed.
And considering a player is probably going to throw more in O’Brien’s offense compared to the typical college offense, being a cerebral player is that much more vital.
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Going off the decision-making, a starting quarterback for O’Brien has to be confident in his awareness around the pocket.
While it’s something that is learned in time, having poise and comfort in between the tackles is crucial for a pocket passer’s success.
Just look at Tom Brady.
Even though O’Brien didn’t make him an All-Pro quarterback, Brady thrived in the system the former Patriots' offensive coordinator used.
Normally, Brady isn’t seen eating grass too much because he’s able to assess the defense, read potential blitzes and adjust accordingly.
And that’s just before the play.
After the ball is snapped, it is all about evaluating what’s in front and reacting.
Obviously it’s not an expectation for Penn State’s next starter to have the sort of pocket presence that Brady has.
But it is something that will help determine who earns first string and who keeps his face off of the ground.
Chemistry with Receivers
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An aspect of a quarterback’s achievement that often goes unnoticed is the bond between him and his fellow wideouts and tight ends.
Like any relationship, trust and understanding are key, and it’s no different for a thrower and his recipients.
Normally, repetition is what gradually gets players on the same page.
However, that implies work ethic and dedication on the end of not just the receivers, but primarily the quarterback.
And considering O’Brien enjoys using quick slants and other high percentage timing passes in the “NASCAR” offense, reliance on one another is necessary.