Penn State's QB Candidates: Why Spread HD's Success Helps Pick Winner

Kevin PaulSenior Analyst IAugust 18, 2010

Will Kevin Newsome hold off the former walk-on and two incoming freshmen for the Penn State starting QB job?
Will Kevin Newsome hold off the former walk-on and two incoming freshmen for the Penn State starting QB job?Hunter Martin/Getty Images

The biggest question mark on Penn State’s campus this time of the year is usually which flavor of ice cream to have from The Creamery.

But instead of downing two scoops of Peachy Paterno, the head honcho for the Nittany Lions has to be feeling far from peachy, with still no decision on a starting quarterback and just over two weeks to go before the season opener versus Youngstown State.

Still, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of options at the quarterback position for Penn State. In fact, this is arguably the most talented bunch in years.

With four talented candidates still in play, it’s not the lack of options that’s the issue—and there are a few other factors that can clear this thing right up—and push Penn State towards a “Decision” that would make LeBron James jealous.

First, let’s take a look at the candidates:

Kevin Newsome (6’ 3” 217 lb., Chatham, VA, Sophomore)

He’s the most “experienced” of the bunch, but still only managed limited action in 2009, going 8-11 for 66 yards. Newsome is mobile and elusive—listed with an unofficial 40-time of 4.57 (via While he was a highly touted four-star prospect, Newsome is still an inexperienced QB who failed to seize the job during the Blue-White spring game. 

In fact, while Newsome showed his speed and mobility, he was painfully erratic when passing the ball—particularly downfield, where he missed multiple targets by 10-plus yards.

Matthew McGloin (6’1” 209 lb., Scranton, PA, Sophomore)

McGloin is the feel-good story of the group, starting off as a walk-on and continuing to work hard and move his way up the team’s depth chart. He’s known for being poised and comfortable in the pocket, but certainly isn’t known for his mobility. McGloin was also known for being an accurate and smart passer, though he threw two picks and didn’t play well during the spring game.

Robert Bolden (6’4” 195 lb., Orchard Lake, MI, Freshman)

Bolden was’s second ranked quarterback of the 2010 class, and is considered a dual-threat with a very strong arm and tons of speed—listed with an unofficial 40-time of 4.5 per Rivals. Certainly, he was the last one to get started at PSU, as freshman Paul Jones reported early. Still, many have raved about the performance of Bolden throughout team scrimmages and practices, and some have made comparisons of him to Terrelle Pryor.

Paul Jones (6’ 3” 226 lb., McKees Rocks, PA Freshman)

Jones is another true freshman—and like Bolden, a four-star prospect, according to Listed as the eighth best QB at his position, Jones does not have the speed and mobility that Bolden or Newsome has, but he does possess a strong arm—and made the only two touchdown passes during the Blue-White game in the spring.

Now that your memories are fresh on the quarterbacks, here are some open-ended questions about the QB decision—from inexperience, to the Spread HD offense, to mobility, and past successes.

First, there’s experience. Since there are no seasoned veterans at the QB position, the job has become very much up for grabs. It’s no secret that in the past, Joe Paterno and Penn State have avoided thrusting a true freshman into the starting quarterback job. 

Heck, years ago, no freshmen were put into a starting role—that is, until JoePa had his hand forced when Justin King and Derrick Williams came to town. Since then, a number of freshmen have earned starting roles, but never at quarterback. Zack Mills did eventually start as a freshman, but only after a struggling Matt Seneca was injured.  Now is as good a time as any for Paterno and PSU to consider putting one of their talented freshmen into the mix.

Second, there’s Penn State’s “Spread HD” offense, which has had a great deal of success over the last few years. However, it must be pointed out that the most successful seasons under Penn State’s offense were when the Nittany Lions featured a solid and talented quarterback who did more than just pass and make solid decisions, but was very mobile.

Look at Penn State’s three best seasons over the last decade: 2005 (11-1), 2008 (11-2), and 2009 (11-2), which featured mobile quarterbacks Michael Robinson and Daryll Clark. The 2006 and 2007 teams featured QB Anthony Morelli—a pocket passer, where the Nittany Lions showed a dropoff, losing four games during each season.

One could even go back to the 2002 team—which finished 9-4—and featured a mobile tandem of Zack Mills and Michael Robinson running the offense.

Therefore, scratch McGloin and Jones from the list for now—that is, if you want to maximize the Spread HD success and compliment the talented wide receivers and running game featuring stars such as WR Derek Moye and RB Evan Royster.

Just like that, the list has already been cut in half, leaving sophomore Kevin Newsome and talented freshman Robert Bolden to take over the starting role in 2010.

Listen, the doorway was open for Newsome. He was the backup to Daryll Clark last year, and the man leading the offense during the Blue-White game in April. To this point, he hasn’t seized the job away from anyone else.

While Bolden has been drawing rave reviews from a number of different people who have recently seen him, including Dave Revsine of the Big Ten Network—who had great things to say about Bolden on Twitter.

On top of that, Bolden also received more glowing reviews via Bob Flounders at The Patriot-News. Included in the praise, Flounders called Bolden “an impressive specimen, at 6-4, 208 pounds,” which shows that the kid has bulked up already. That is, if the earlier Rivals report card was accurate.

In the end, the decision comes back to Paterno and the coaching staff. 

Are the leaders of Penn State football willing to place the keys to the potent Spread HD offense in the hands of a true freshman?

Certainly, plenty of teams have done so in the past and still had success. Take the USC Trojans with Matt Barkley and the Ohio State Buckeyes with Terrelle Pryor. 

The more and more you hear about Robert Bolden, the more it appears that he may be the next one in line, if he gets the chance.


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