With a crowd swarming around him, Rob Bolden got another taste of what it's like to be an LSU signal-caller.
The transfer from Penn State readily admitted what offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa had said earlier – that Bolden is nowhere close to ready to step in and run the Tigers' offense yet.
"I've got a playbook ahead of me," Bolden said, looking a bit overwhelmed by the media attention. "Just being here for a few days and being thrown out to the wolves – that's how I'm learning right now."
Earlier during Media Day, Studrawa said "He has a long way to go and we have thrown a bunch at him. When you throw in the stuff for the veterans, you throw as much as they can swallow, so we aren't slowing down at all, and every day we're working on something new. Right now, though, he is swimming and not anywhere near that position, but that's why you have 29 practices. We have to get him to learn our system and get comfortable with things we do and then branch out and find a certain package for him."
Something new and different. And that's exactly what Bolden was after.
The story of his departure from Penn State and arrival at LSU has been well documented. LSU coach Les Miles said shortly after Bolden's arrival that he had contacted LSU well before the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal reached a zenith.
On Tuesday, Bolden reiterated that his interest in the Tigers – who recruited him coming out of Orchard Lake, Mich. – had been around before the waters got choppy off the field in Happy Valley.
As a true freshman in 2010, Bolden became the first freshman to start at quarterback for Penn State in 100 years. His numbers weren't great (he wound up throwing for only 1,360 yards, 5 TDs and 7 interceptions in eight starts), and he was never the same after an injury.
Bolden asked for a transfer after that first season, but the late Joe Paterno denied the request.
Back for his sophomore season last fall, Bolden again got a chance to start eight games but passed for 685 yards, 2 TDs and 7 picks. While the Sandusky story raged around the program, Bolden began exploring exit strategies.
"I think he was looking for a change before everything even happened," Studrawa said. "After talking with Rob and his father, he was not comfortable in the system there even before the scandal broke. He wanted to go somewhere where he could win a national championship and compete for a starting position."
|LSU quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe (left) and Rob Bolden have a relationship that dates back to the recruiting process.|
"A brand new start is exactly what I need," Bolden said. "Being here with brand-new people, new food, new weather – everything. It's all great, and I'm just taking it all in.
"It really is a dream come true. I never really even dreamed that I'd have a chance to come here after being up there. Obviously I was looking to leave, and LSU popped right into the script. It was just like a movie."
Right now, though, the plot is very fluid.
In practice so far, Bolden has looked the part of a Division I quarterback, with solid mechanics and a strong arm.
But he still has a lot to learn, from cadence, wording and simple things like where he needs to turn on running plays and which routes receivers are running.
For now, Bolden is third on the depth chart behind starter Zach Mettenberger and redshirt freshman Stephen Rivers. Whether he can swap places with Rivers – which makes sense when you consider his 16 games as a starter, most of that against Big Ten competition – remains a work in progress.
"I do have a long way to go," Bolden said. "The faster I pick those things up and display what I have learned, the quicker the coaches will have confidence in me. They're evaluating. I'm just competing and doing everything I can to learn the offense."
There is a familiar touchstone to aid in that process.
When Bolden was starring at St, Mary Prep in the Detroit area, Louisville was one of the big-name programs that spent a lot of time recruiting him. The Cardinals coach at the time was Steve Kragthorpe.
"He was a guy who could really throw the football," Kragthorpe said. "Good athlete, good worker, good student. I really liked him as a quarterback. I told him I think it was destiny that we both ended up here and not at Louisville. He was a guy I really liked coming out and I think he will continue to grow.
"He's got a lot on his plate right now, getting here as later as he did. But he's got a great presence about him, and when he's on the field, he's a guy who wants to take ownership. I have a lot of respect for him. He's swimming upstream in the Mississippi River with a lot of logs coming at him."
There are 3-plus weeks left before the season begins and Bolden could get a chance to start rewriting the next chapter of his football story.
That's plenty of time to get the former 4-star QB acclimated and trained and he's ready to embrace the challenge.
"I've been through a lot and experienced a lot of situations and I need to rely on that," Bolden said. "I knew this was going to be different and he a hard transition, so all I can do is work hard and learn as much as possible."