The big question facing the Penn State Nittany Lions this offseason did not involve Joe Paterno's health or the defense—it was whether sophomore Rob Bolden or junior Matt McGloin should start at quarterback.
After their game against Indiana State, neither Bolden nor McGloin established themselves as the deserving starting quarterback for the Nittany Lions. Both QBs bring a unique set of skills to the table that the other does not.
One of the big knocks on McGloin has been his inability to stretch the field with his arm strength. Bolden, on the other hand, has an absolute cannon and can make every throw he needs to.
McGloin may not take as many shots down field as Bolden, but if he has a window to throw the ball, he is able to get it there quickly and on the numbers. While Bolden’s accuracy isn’t as bad as his completion percentage would imply, it could certainly use improvement.
Bolden was the No. 2-rated dual threat quarterback in his class, and he may be the fastest QB in the Big Ten after Taylor Martinez and Denard Robinson. McGloin may not be the next Usain Bolt, but he can run if necessary.
One of the things that made McGloin so deadly last season was his ability to evade defenders inside and outside of the pocket to keep plays alive. Bolden's mobility may be just as good, but that dimension of his game has not been showcased as much as it has for McGloin.
Bolden’s mix of arm strength and running ability is reminiscent of Vince Young when he was in college. McGloin plays a much more conservative game: he often takes the safe route and throws it short instead of gambling and taking a shot down the field.
Both guys weigh about the same: Bolden is listed at 216 and McGloin at 211. However, Bolden gets the advantage because he is taller, longer and can see over Penn State’s line much easier.
McGloin’s biggest asset is the energy he brings to the field. You can see that he lets everything affect him, both good and bad. Bolden is much more composed and takes everything in stride, but the energy that McGloin brings is unparalleled.
While Bolden certainly is an intelligent guy, McGloin progresses through his reads and makes up his mind much sooner. Although, it must be noted that Bolden usually holds onto the ball longer because he looks to go deep, whereas McGloin is much more likely to check down or throw it short.
Last season, McGloin was the favorite among students up until his performance against Florida and the “Bolden wants to leave” saga. This season, it seems Bolden is the fan favorite, as evidenced by during Saturday’s Indiana State game.
During one possession in the second quarter, McGloin threw two incompletions and a sack that looked like a fumble (he was ruled down by contact and the play was upheld by the booth). As Penn State was punting, a chant for Bolden started up among part of the student section.
The QB battle at Penn State is a classic question of measurables vs. intangibles. All things that can be measured in a quarterback like size, strength and speed are in Rob Bolden’s favor. However, the things that aren’t mentioned on the stat sheet, like IQ and moxie, are in the favor of Matt McGloin.
While it can be argued that Bolden will get better in time because his ceiling is much higher than McGloin’s, Penn State needs the better quarterback right now. Whether that is Bolden or McGloin is the question that still has not been answered.