The staff treated its two top quarterbacks very differently in Saturday's Coaches Clinic Scrimmage. Matt McGloin ran far more plays from the shotgun and only faced the second-team defense. Kevin Newsome spent much more time under center and only played against the first-team defense.
That allowed McGloin to forge a serious statistical edge, completing 8 of 17 passes for 118 yards to Newsome's 3-of-9 showing (for 38 yards).
Yet it was also a clear sign of which way the staff was leaning as it worked to settle this quarterback battle -- toward Newsome.
By making Newsome work primarily under center, the coaches were forcing him out of his comfort zone. Newsome starred as a running quarterback in high school and is closer in style to Michael Robinson than Daryll Clark, which is to say his running skills are more polished than his throwing skills.
He proved that (again) in the scrimmage by running for an early first down and later avoiding the blitz and darting up the middle for a 26-yard gain. So we know what he can do as a running QB.
But throwing is another matter.
We've admittedly not seen a whole lot of Newsome in this area -- Saturday was the first time the media had the chance to catch him in live action this spring (we suspect another reason the staff limited his sets is because it is paranoid spies were watching) -- but to say he was all over the place would be an understatement. In Drill 6 and the scrimmage, he really struggled with his touch on short to intermediate routes.
McGloin appeared to be much further along as a passer, especially in terms of being comfortable in the pocket. Yet he doesn't have a set of wheels like Newsome. And with a rebuilt offensive line, that's going to work against him. It would be easy to see opposing defenses blitzing McGloin like crazy to disrupt the PSU offense. The Nittany Lion defensive coaches did it with some success Saturday.
Newsome can keep defenses honest with his legs, much like Robinson did. Blitz, and they may be burned for a big run. Use the safeties for double teams on the wideouts instead of in run support, and he can make them pay.
But that is all contingent on Newsome developing better passing skills to prevent defenses from stacking eight and nine men in the box to mitigate his running talent. And it sure looks like the staff is putting him through a crash course to develop those skills.
As talented as Penn State is at wideout and as athletic as Newsome is, he won't have to be the second-coming of Dan Marino for the offense to be effective. He merely has to hammer down his consistency and not make a lot of mistakes while throwing the ball.
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