NITTANY NOTES: Passing Judgement

With spring drills wrapping up this week, we take an in-depth view of the quarterback race and where things appear to stand under center for Penn State.

THE LOWDOWN

There may be six quarterbacks on the roster, but the primary battle has been between two players — Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin. Bolden started eight games in 2010, becoming the first true freshman QB to open a season under Joe Paterno. Bolden was knocked out of the Minnesota game with a concussion, opening up the starting position for McGloin against Michigan.

From that point a debate swirled as whether Bolden or McGloin should start. Then came the Outback Bowl, in which McGloin threw five interceptions and Bolden never came off the pine.

The Bolden asked for a release, which was denied by the staff. So he is back for spring ball but has not definitively said he'll stay with the program after that.

The two quarterbacks essentially split reps in Drill 6, passing drills and scrimmages for most of the spring. However, through the late goings of the spring, a third player may have entered the race.

BY THE NUMBERS

In 10 games last season, Bolden went 112 of 193 (58 percent) for 1,360 yards with five touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was sacked seven times. Bolden had 30 carries for 11 yards and one touchdown.

In nine games, McGloin went 118 of 215 (54.9 percent) for 1,548 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was sacked three times. McGloin had 13 carries for six yards and two touchdowns

ASSESSMENTS

Rob Bolden, 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, No. 1

Bolden won the starting job in 2010, but was sidelined for a period with a concussion and ended up serving as a backup at the close of the season.

Arm: Bolden has good arm strength and can "deliver balls with ease." He's got "smooth" mechanics and is thought by some observers to have the "best arm of the group." The issue he has shown this spring is not using this to his advantage and "short-arming" passes at times. "He hasn't showcased his arm since he's been going for the intermediate flat and check-downs regularly."

Size: At 6-4, Bolden has the size and frame, although observers feel he could probably handlen additional weight. He is tall enough to "see the field" and recognize defensive shifts. He also "can be tough to bring down" on runs.

Mobility: Bolden has shown good footwork with drop-backs, although he has not been asked to run in designed sets too much this spring. He "has had some nice pick-ups" on breakdowns, particularly in the first spring scrimmage when the defense was collapsing the pocket with regularity. Bolden has shown mobility "getting out of the pocket" on roll-outs.

Poise: Bolden's shown poise previously, but this spring he has "rushed his game," as one observer noted. Part of this has been attributed to the new-look offensive line, but others feel that he's "not taking his time or letting things develop." Bolden is said to have good command of the huddle and is more vocal with the first team this spring.

Reads: Most feel that he has the mental grasp of the scheme and can see things, but "looks to get rid of the ball too quickly" and "forces passes" often. As one observer noted, "He's got to just calm down. He hits the check-down, which is a good skill, but he's got to run through the progression and see things open up.

Matt McGloin, 6-1, 210 pounds, No. 11

A former walk-on, McGloin took the reigns when Bolden was sidelined with a concussion and has had both highs and lows during his tenure under center.

Arm: McGloin has a "good intermediate arm," and "can hit guys in stride." However, his strength is limited. Observers feel that this was his deficiency against Florida. He made several throws which required a lot of velocity to "get into a tight space" and "Florida's speed closed quick and grab them." Some of his passes needed "to be launched to have a prayer."

Size: McGloin is the smallest of the leading quarterbacks this spring. Observers feel his size is fine, but he's not going to "be a big challenge to take down."

Mobility: McGloin also has not seen a significant amount of designed runs this spring, although most feel he has the speed "to be dangerous" and "freeze the defense" out of the backfield "if (the pocket) collapses." But it's unlikely that the staff will run him regularly in a designed fashion.

Poise: A lot has been made of McGloin's attitude and "moxie," and as one observer noted, "I mean he needs that right? He's the walk-on no one gave a shot. He's not the highly recruited five-star guy and he's not athletically blessed like some of these players, so he needs something that helps his game. So he believes in his abilities. Call it ego, call it confidence — whatever. But it's what helps his play." McGloin does have "good presence in the huddle," although "he may get on guys too much."

Reads: McGloin does "pretty good seeing opportunities" and he's made some nice plays when "a defensive back gets tripped up or (the defensive players) don't transition an assignment." He has to work on "understanding the limitations in his game compared to the opportunities he sees on the field."

Paul Jones, 6-3, 245 pounds, No. 13

A redshirt freshman who managed the scout team pocket last season, he saw mostly second-team reps early in the spring but recently has seen some first-team reps at the request of Joe Paterno.

Arm: Jones has good arm strength and has been working on his "follow-through delivery" and the overall "flow" of his mechanics. "He's got the power, he's got to direct it though."

Size: Jones is the biggest quarterback option PSU has. However, "he's put together and carries his size well." As another observer noted, "You'd think having that weight would hurt him, but it hasn't."

Mobility: Jones is another player who has not seen a lot of work on designed runs, but is said to be agile and can "lay a hit" with his sizable frame. "He's a handful, but he's not a guy you're going to run a ton."

Poise: Jones is "heads-down player," and has "done what [the coaches] have asked of him." During Saturday's scrimmage, Jones was said to be "surprised" to get the nod to take reps with the first-team, but "he got it done," throwing two touchdowns with an interception. Jones is not as dominant of a presence in the huddle, but "handles the offense well."

Reads: Jones has a "good eye" and runs through his progression, although he didn't do this on a few occasions with the first-team. He was working against the first-team defense, which is faster and more experienced.

OVERALL

The quarterback race is expected to go on well beyond the spring with no apparent leader having emerged at this stage. As one observer summarized it, "I am not going to guess who they go with, but I think it comes down to do you want the tried-and-true, know-what-you-get option or the high-risk, high-reward option which can have lapses, but can also tear open a game?"

A few observers feel that Bolden will ultimately get the nod, provided he stays in Happy Valley. "He (usually) gets the first series and I think (the staff) realizes they blew it by not giving him a shot [in the bowl] against Florida."

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