IN FOCUS: Quarterbacks

With the departure of Daryll Clark, Penn State is working four quarterback prospects this preseason to find a replacement under center. Get an in-depth review of the position here.

Daryll Clark was Penn State's first two-time All-Big Ten quarterback. He piloted the Nittany Lions to back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time since 1985-86.

So replacing him is no small task.

The good news is that Penn State has four candidates vying for the job.

The bad news is, with limited experience between them and a season that features a road trip to Alabama in Week 2.

Here is an assessment of the four candidates vying for the starting job, all of whom have seen significant first-team work this preseason:

Kevin Newsome (6-foot-2, 225 pounds)

Areas of Strength:

  • Attitude: Said to be "infectious" with his upbeat attitude, Newsome is described as a "players' player" and a "natural leader."

  • Evasiveness: He's shown impressive ability to "use his legs to get out of trouble."

  • Size: He carries his weight well and has good size and strength, making him "tough to take down."

  • Footwork: He's been improving with a focused effort on "getting up on his toes to improve his drop-backs."

Areas of Improvement:

  • Mechanics: Although he's improved with his throwing motion, he "still displays an awkward release" causing his passes to "get away from him."

  • Progression: He does not always run through his series of targets. He has "gotten much better on check-downs" but "tends to lock onto guys at times."

  • Reads: While he has shown an ability to read defensive shifts and "find and hit a seam," he has been focused on improving on "moving with the pocket" as the offensive line shifts.

Assessment: With limited experience under center, Newsome was seen as the "guy to beat" coming out of the spring, with concerns around his throwing ability but excitement around his mobility. He is "well-liked by his teammates" and has a great attitude, but needs to work on "nailing the playbook" and "running through his progressions."

Matt McGloin (6-foot-1, 210 pounds)

Areas of Strength:

  • Reads: Observers like McGloin's "football IQ" and his ability to "see the field." "He's done pretty well anticipating routes, especially in the flat."

  • Progression: Said to be the most consistent at running through his progression, he "gets a peripheral view of things." As one observer said, "Matt moves his head to see the field, which is a simple concept, but not all that common with young QBs."

  • Mechanics: McGloin can "thread the needle" and "hit tight windows" out to 35 yards or so. Observers say he's had some nice deliveries in the short and intermediate game and has a "fluid motion."

  • Confidence: What McGloin lacks in athleticism he makes up for in confidence. "He's not cocky, but he's not intimidated by the other guys' resumes. He's a (former) walk-on, but he feels he earned his spot in the competition, which helps him a lot."

Areas of Improvement:

  • Strength: McGloin has good size, but is among the smallest of the four passers. "He's not as athletic and doesn't have the legs to get him out of breakdowns, but he anticipates miscues."

  • Athleticism: Although he has solid endurance, McGloin doesn't have the physique of the other three players. "He's just not blessed with the sheer size and strength the other guys have."

  • Delivery: McGloin has struggled with his deep passing game. "He has the release, but not the strength to get the ball out on a go-route consistently."

Assessment: McGloin's head for the game, grasp of the playbook and consistency have him in this race. He's "not a flashy quarterback," but "he's shown he can move the ball." The question is, according to one observer, "How versatile is he and can he adapt to defensive shifts?"

Paul Jones (6-foot-3, 240 pounds)

Areas of Strength:

  • Size: He has a big frame that observers feel provides him impressive power. He also is strong and "isn't afraid to improvise."

  • Attitude: Jones is said to not only be "a humble guy," but also a "coach-able" player who wants to improve his game and is "open to feedback."

  • Arm Strength: Said to have a "rifle" for an arm, Jones has a quick release and delivers the ball "with force," almost too much so sometimes. "He makes it tough for the receiver to get a handle on some of his passes, but it's their job to get it."

Areas of Improvement:

  • Playbook: Although Jones has been enrolled since January he is "still getting down the offensive sets." As one observer said, "It's a lot, especially for a freshman, but he keeps at it and is getting with it."

  • Awareness: Jones has adjusted well to the speed of the game, but "needs to be more aware of the pocket — when it's weakening or breaking down and who is in his space or breathing down his neck. He gets lost in the routes at times."

  • Progression: He has a tendency to lock onto his favorite targets or zone, but "the staff is on him. I mean they pound him to see the field and not ignore his weapons. Daryll Clark had the same issue when he got onto campus, only probably worse."

Assessment: Jones has the physical tools the coaches want in a helmsman: size, strength, power and aggression. He just needs time to pick up the playbook to get comfortable so that the basics are second nature, which will come with more and more reps and film sessions.

Robert Bolden (6-foot-4, 214 pounds)

Areas of Strength:

  • Size: Physically, Bolden is the tallest of the group and "looks the part." Observers feel he carries his weight well and has already added upward of 10 pounds since arriving on campus.

  • Delivery: Bolden has a "quick, sharp release" and has shown an ability to "hit receivers in stride for big pickups." One observer said his time at the Elite 11 camp in July 2009 "paid dividends." That's not to say he's been perfect, by any means, but "he doesn't look like a guy who just got here (on campus) 10 minutes ago."

  • Playbook: Both a strength and a weakness, Bolden is working the basic schemes of the offense, but "getting it quickly." According to one observer, "He's come a long way in a short time." He's reportedly spent a lot of time getting acquainted with the playbook and spends extra time taking in film.

  • Attitude: Bolden is "likable," and "heads down." Observers like the effort they have seen to not only "catch up quickly with the pack," but also that "he's elevating his game however he can."

Areas of Improvement:

  • Patience: Bolden "wants to make big plays to impress the coaches," but he forces things at times. "I haven't seen him make the same major mistake twice," one observer explained, "which is key. But he has to realize he doesn't have to rush things."

  • Playbook: Also listed as a strength for picking up the basics quickly, Bolden needs time to get comfortable with the offense, "which there may not be enough of to get the coaches comfortable with him as a starter early on."

  • Progression: Although he is said to be "way ahead of most freshmen at this stage," the coaches are having him focus on "seeing the routes develop." Observers like that he has shown ability to "look off a target."

Assessment: Bolden is "making this a tough race," since few, if anyone expected him to come in and compete so quickly. His athleticism, attitude and arm make him an intriguing prospect who "may just have the best overall package, minus the experience." The question comes down to whether Joe Paterno is willing to go against the PSU norm and give a true freshman the nod. "If he sees that this could be the close of his career he may just go all-in." Although another observer said, "I expect Newsome will be under center come the Youngstown State game."

State of the Position:

The offensive staff is hoping that it can narrow the field in short order. "It's going to come down to performance and who can pull it all together," one observer said. "This program's track record is to look to the veterans for quarterback position, but I am not sure we've had a true freshman come in an make an impression like Bolden."

The field of observers seems to be split on who will end up as the starter for the opener between Newsome, McGloin and Bolden with most anticipating a redshirt for Jones at this stage.

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