The quarterback who was supposed to lead the Nittany Lions against the defending National Champions on September 11th checked into his dorm ten days ago and began preparations for his senior year.
The problem for Joe Paterno is that Pat Devlin checked into a dorm at the University of Delaware.
For a coach who loves the comfort of an experienced quarterback, the 2010 season dawns as a very uncomfortable one for Paterno and his very young Lions.
Through spring drills, the summer and the beginning of fall camp the race to be the starting QB in Happy Valley has been a four horse race with Kevin Newsome, Matt McGloin, Paul Jones and Robert Bolden.
None had much or any experience but all had taken turns showing abilities that pointed to them being the man come September 4th.
Late on Wednesday, Paterno reduced the race to three horses with the announcement that Jones would red shirt in 2010. Jones, who had missed almost half of his senior year at Sto-Rox High School in Pittsburgh because of an ankle injury, issued a terse “No comment” to reporters shortly afterward.
Of the three remaining, Newsome is the only QB who has taken a snap in a college game. He mopped up for Darryl Clark last year showing great mobility but a decided difficulty throwing the ball. That problem popped up again in the spring and was especially evident in the Blue-White game. Newsome’s arm is what has made this a competition at all.
Matt McGloin was largely overlooked headed into the spring and even into the fall but has opened some eyes with his leadership abilities and his feel for the pocket. He does not possess the greatest of arms nor is he very mobile but remember that Joe Paterno once won a National Championship with John Schaffer under center. Schaffer would not remind you of Vince Young in any way, shape or form.
Jones had been the favorite for Western Pennsylvania fans. While not as mobile as Newsome he has a rocket launcher of an arm that has been compared to a couple of other kids who found their way out of Western PA and onto a bigger football stage: Dan Marino and Jim Kelly. That Jones is the first one out of the race is somewhat of a surprise until you hear a couple of people inside the program who say that his only good practice of the spring was the Blue-White game.
Bolden is the real question mark here. He arrived out of Michigan this fall having gone the traditional high school route and not seeking early admission to Penn State or attending spring drills. He did not make a big splash in the days leading up to National Letter of Intent Day nor has much been seen or written about him since. He is said to have an arm at least the equal of anyone else in camp and better touch in his passing game than all.
Paterno still really has a week to let this sort itself out before he really has to name a starter for the Youngstown State game at Beaver Stadium. It’s likely that even then whoever does not start is going to see playing time in that game.
Joe hates playing “musical quarterbacks” as well (it's one of the reasons that Devin quit the team right before the 2009 Rose Bowl and transferred). Joe would rather pick one guy and make that decision stick for the balance of the season. But that supposes that one of these players steps up and grabs the job.
So far nothing even close to that has occurred.
The race is down to three and has yet to be won. Someone is going to have to lead the Lions out of the tunnel this year. Trouble is that your best guess at the moment is at least as good as Joe Paterno’s.