Image from Live.PSU.Edu

Penn State Quarterback Decision 2011

The Penn State opener is now less than a week away, and the starting quarterback for this year’s Nittany Lions has yet to be announced. I cannot recall another season during which Joe Paterno waited so close to game day to announce a starting quarterback, granted I have not been around that long. While the first game of the season is against lowly Indiana State and it will not matter who we have under center, whoever Paterno decides to go with will most likely also be starting against Alabama in week two. With what transpired in the bowl game against Florida and with Rob Bolden’s attempt to transfer this offseason, there is a lot of pressure on the coaching staff to go with the right quarterback right out of the gate.

Penn State’s decision to start Rob Bolden as a true freshman last year was looked upon very skeptically, and fans were quick to criticize the coaching staff when he did not live up to the lofty expectations. His confidence was surely shaken when he faced Alabama in just his second career college game, one that he was not battle tested for having played just Youngstown St. the week before. Bolden never really came into his own even in victories against Temple and Kent State, then the low point of the season came when the Nittany Lions were blown out at home by Illinois during which the season appeared to be a lost cause. Rob Bolden showed a lot of toughness and character in the next start against Minnesota, going 11 for 13 with 130 yards and a touchdown in what was by far his most impressive performance of the year. But the success was short lived when he was forced to leave the game due to injury; and while he technically was never relieved of his starting job, that was the last time Bolden saw the field in 2010.

Penn State Football JerseyMatt McGloin’s success story in 2010 was a very unlikely one, with the Scranton native actually sitting at third on the depth chart going into last season. But it didn’t take long for him to impress once he got on the field, instantly developing a relationship with wide out Derek Moye and connecting with him for two scores against Minnesota. He went on to lead Penn State to back to back home victories over rival Michigan and Northwestern, putting up 76 points in the process and rallying from 21 points down against the Wildcats. He even had the Nittany Lions up 14-3 on Ohio State up in the horseshoe, although the lead quickly disappeared once the second half begun. McGloin was able to salvage the season for Penn State by getting the team into a bowl game, something that appeared unlikely early on in the year. But the wheels fell off completely against Florida as he completed just 17 of 41 passes and threw five interceptions. It did not take long for Penn State fans to forget about his previous successes, and support quickly swung back the other way as calls for Bolden begun in the fourth quarter. The speed of the SEC defense was something McGloin was obviously not prepared for, and Bolden even in his youth looked much more accustomed to the speed when he faced Alabama earlier in the year.

McGloin made the most of his opportunity last year, and his confidence is what rejuvenated both the team and fans en route to an Outback Bowl appearance. But Joe Paterno’s denial of Rob Bolden’s request to transfer makes me believe that we will see the sophomore quarterback on the field for the majority of the season. Whether that means Bolden will be the starter on September 3rd remains unclear, but I do expect that he will be the one under center come September 10th.