Another Spring, Another Quarterback Competition: Is The Third Time a Charm?

Two time All-Big Ten quarterback Daryll Clark played his final game for Penn State on January 1, 2010. Immediately after, the Nittany Lions began searching for his replacement. Fast forward more than two years later, and Penn State is still unable to find stability, consistency, and quality play from the quarterback position.

Last season, much like 2010, Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin took most of the meaningful snaps and combined to throw 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, with a 48.6 completion percentage between the two of them. Ouch. Somehow, despite those ugly statistics, Penn State was able to win nine games as a top defense held opponents to 16.8 points per game and 11 points per game in the 9 wins. That is not likely to happen again.

The Nittany Lions will need better quarterback play if they hope to match last year’s win total. Whether they can get it remains a question, but this year’s quarterback battle looks to be the most interesting one yet. Rather than just two guys vying for the job, there are at least three, and there could be more before it’s all said and done. Below is a look at the candidates and why each may or may not be the guy to ultimately win the job.

Matt McGloin. Rob Bolden. Paul Jones. Shane McGregor. Garrett Venuto. Steven Bench.

Those are the six quarterbacks who will be on the roster during the spring and summer. Let’s eliminate Venuto off the bat (sorry Gary). Also, despite being awesome, Shane McGregor is out of the running as well. For the sake of sanity, I’m also going to remove Steven Bench since the incoming freshman will not be here for spring practice.

That leaves three candidates in McGloin, Bolden, and Jones. Later on in the post, you’ll meet a fourth, but we’ll break down these three first:

Matt McGloin (Senior)

Reasons He Should Start: Confidence, Experience, Luck, By default

Reason He May Not: Lack of potential

If there was a game tomorrow, McGloin would likely be the starter by default. He is the only quarterback on the roster to put up respectable numbers at the collegiate level and for some reason, things seem to go right with him on the field. The offensive line blocks better, broken plays turn into big games, and tipped passes turn into receptions rather than interceptions.

What could hurt McGloin is that many believe he has hit a plateau while the other quarterbacks have some untapped potential. The loss of Derek Moye will hurt the passing game overall, but will arguably affect McGloin in particular. Moye gave McGloin confidence to attempt throws he often would not to other receivers. Over the past two seasons, McGloin threw twenty two total touchdown passes, and ten of them went to Moye. The historic 409th win likely wouldn’t have happened if Moye doesn’t enter the game in the fourth quarter. It will be interesting to see how McGloin looks in the spring without his favorite target.

Rob Bolden (Junior)

Reasons He Should Start: Occasional Signs of Brilliance, Mobility, Untapped potential

Reasons He May Not: 2011 Regression, Lack of confidence

It was a bit of a struggle coming up with reasons Bolden should start. He was my guy last spring and summer. I was convinced that he had everything it took to turn into a stud. I was not the only one either.

Instead, we got two 2 touchdown passes, seven interceptions, and a 39.3 completion percentage. At times, Bolden looked lost, and it was fairly evident that his confidence was shaken. I tried to defend him as much as I could, saying that he needed a quarterbacks coach to really break him down and help him start over.

For all of the indecisiveness and turnovers, there was a beautiful deep ball or a nice play with his legs that showed glimpses talent and the reason many were so excited about the four-star recruit coming out of high-school. Bolden has a new quarterback coach in Charlie Fisher. The spring should give an indication of whether or not it pays off.

Paul Jones (Junior/Sophomore)

Reasons He Should Start: Talent, Arm strength

Reasons He May Not: Lack of experience, Academics

Many will tell you that they believe Jones is the most talented quarterback on the roster; however, the only evidence they can really provide is his five star rating out of high school and a two touchdown performance in the 2010 Blue-White Game. Jones red-shirted during the 2010 season and was academically ineligible this past season. As things stand now, he is eligible for spring practice. The two big questions are: Can Jones’ perceived ability make up for his lack of experience, and can he remain eligible for the fall semester? If the latter is the case, Jones could have a legitimate chance.

The Wildcard – Danny O’Brien (Junior)

Danny O’Brien is a former Maryland quarterback who was granted his release from the program and has two years of eligibility remaining. To make things simple, he is essentially the college football version of an NFL free agent, with one caveat: He must find a graduate program at whatever school he chooses that Maryland does not offer.

O’Brien has visited Penn State, and it appears that mutual interest exists. Many college football guys believe he will end up here, but Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Connecticut, and Mississippi are also possibilities. Despite having somewhat limited time to learn the system, O’Brien would not come to Penn State with the expectation of being a backup. He is legitimately talented, throwing 22 touchdown passes in 2010 and leading Maryland to a 9-4 record. This could potentially be the X-factor that shapes the Penn State quarterback landscape for the next two seasons.

At this point in time, I’m not ready to endorse anyone. Kickoff against Ohio is still 159 days away. The biggest thing to hope for is that someone stands out and allows Bill O’Brien, Fisher, and the rest of the staff to make a faster decision than what has taken place the past two years. As opposed to an announcement three days before kickoff or a dual quarterback system that carries on into October, a faster decision could give the starter a jolt of “you’re my guy” confidence.

Another year. Two familiar names along with a few more. Perhaps the third time is the charm.

Your ad blocker is on.

Please choose an option below.

Sign up for our e-mail newsletter:
Support quality journalism:
Purchase a Subscription!

About the Author

Drew Balis

Drew is a senior marketing major. This fall, he will be covering Penn State Football for Onward State. He is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and loves THON and Domonic Brown.

‘It Was A Pretty Memorable Experience’: Penn State Club Baseball Wins Back-To-Back National Titles

After winning the Club Baseball World Series in 2023, the team repeated in 2024.

Report: Penn State Hoops Finalizing December 21 Game Against Drexel

The game would take place at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, per Rocco Miller.

Former Four-Star Penn State Football Running Back Commit Alvin Henderson Flips To Auburn

Henderson was one of the top running backs in the class of 2025.

Other posts by Drew

McGloin Named NFL Rookie of the Week

The former Penn State record setting quarterback took home Pepsi Rookie of the Week honors following his impressive first NFL start that resulted in a 28-23 win for the Oakland Raiders on the road against the Houston Texans.

Will Adrian Amos Play Some Snaps at Linebacker?

Willis and Carson Talk Differences Between Butler and Roof