As Penn State prepares to open spring practice on March 26 in Happy Valley, SB Nation Pittsburgh is breaking the roster down by position, taking a look at who the Nittany Lions have lost from last year's lineups, who they'll return and who they've added through the 2012 recruiting class. On the menu today: quarterbacks.
Leaving the roster
Matthew McGloin and Rob Bolden have shared the starting quarterback position for the past two years and will use the spring to battle for the job again after almost equally ineffective seasons. McGloin finished last season with the better numbers, racking up 1,571 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions, while Bolden ended the year with 685 yards, two touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Others Returning, Looking To Step Up
Former Sto-Rox signal-caller Paul Jones, who spent 2011 academically ineligible after a redshirt year in 2010, will return to the mix, too. Shane McGregor is a backup, and likely won't be a factor unless things go horribly, horribly wrong.
Steven Bench, recruited out of Bainbridge, Ga., joined the recruiting class late in the process as a target of the new coaching staff. A 6-foot-3, 205-pound prospect, the consensus three-star recruit threw for 11 touchdowns in his senior year. Coach Bill O'Brien praised Bench's decision-making upon signing the quarterback, but he's probably a little raw to have a serious shot to start right off the bat.
What To Look For In The Spring
Those expecting O'Brien to name a starter by the end of the spring will probably be pretty disappointed. For better or worse, all of these guys, including the non-starters, are beginning with a clean slate, and it's going to take some time for the new coach to get a read on who he wants filling the most important spot on the roster.
With that in mind, it's probably best to focus on how everyone responds to a fresh start.
Bolden didn't exactly get along with the last coaching staff. He attempted to transfer after 2010 and his confidence was pretty clearly shot in 2011 while constantly looking over his shoulder at at McGloin. Working with a new group could do wonders for his development and put him back on track to becoming the type of quarterback many hoped he'd become when he became the first freshman to start on opening day under Joe Paterno two years ago.
Jones, obviously, will be looking to emerge from the academic problems that have plagued him during his first two years on campus. He came to Happy Valley as a highly-touted recruit, but his physical gifts weren't enough to save him under the last regime. This could be his chance to re-emerge onto equal footing with McGloin and Bolden in competition for the job. Jones just needs to show the staff he can keep things together on the field and in the classroom, and he could breathe new life into the monotony this competition has become.
McGloin is probably looking to hit the restart button, too, after his 2011 ended with a concussion suffered in a locker room fight with teammate Curtis Drake before the TicketCity Bowl. If he can show the coaches his decision making has improved, he'll be a serious contender to win the job once and for all at the outset of his final season in Blue and White.
Overall, this position has been Penn State's biggest weak point over the past couple of years and with the same cast of characters returning, its problems won't be resolved with a few weeks of practice. This spring will be about building a new foundation on which whoever wins the job in the end can grow and improve on by the time fall rolls around. It's on these now veteran quarterbacks to make that new foundation a strong one.