April 19, 2010

Blue-White Countdown 2010: Quarterbacks

Sophomore Kevin Newsome (12) is Penn State's best dual-threat signal caller. But will one of the younger guys jump him on the depth chart this spring?
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6: Tight Ends
7: Wide Receivers
8. Running Backs

As if the Nittany Lions weren't already dealing with enough this spring, there's this little matter of finding a new starting quarterback to replace two-time All-Big Ten signal caller Daryll Clark. The 2010 Blue-White Game is just days away, so it's time to wrap up out countdown by breaking down the quarterbacks.


When the coaching staff went down to Texas in the summer of 2005, they brought back an offense that changed the face of Penn State football. Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, that change turned out to be the best offense to hit Happy Valley since Nebraska was handed the 1994 national title.

Michael Robinson, after spending his career at what seemed like every position except at quarterback, went on to become the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, while his Nittany Lions won its second Big Ten title since joining the conference. But was the spread offense here to stay? Or, was it a one-year wonder, a gimmick to produce immediate success with Robinson's abilities, but not a long-term solution?

Penn State fans found out, sometimes in viciously painful fashion, that the spread offense, with a mobile quarterback taking the snaps, was where the championship seasons came from. Following two moderately successful seasons with Anthony Morelli, a pro-style quarterback, Daryll Clark took over. The redshirt junior led the offense for two seasons that included another Big Ten championship--this time including the Rose Bowl trip--two consecutive 11-win seasons, and a New Years Day bowl win over Louisiana State. Clark also became the first Penn State quarterback to pass for 3,000 yards in a season.

The development of Penn State's version of the spread offense, the "Spread HD" as co-coordinator Jay Paterno labeled it, seemed to read a high-water mark in 2008. In 2009, the loss of a few key players, including heavy losses on the offensive line, were more to blame, instead of the scheme itself, on lower offensive output.

But now Clark is gone. The unquestioned leader of the offense for two of the most successful seasons in recent Nittany Lion football history has his eyes fixed on the NFL draft this week. Penn State fans, on the other hand, will have their eyes fixed on three terribly inexperienced quarterbacks, all bucking for the starting job this fall. Spring football is a time to build team cohesion. But if Penn State ends Saturday's Blue-White Game with the quarterback race just as foggy as it was going into the scrimmage, it could be a testy summer in Happy Valley.


Conventional wisdom has this year's quarterback race squarely in Kevin Newsome's hands. At least, it's his to lose until the fall, or unless he completely implodes during spring and summer practice. But even with all the shaky reports that came from last weekend's Coaches Clinic scrimmage, it's not as chaotic as the media has portrayed. Here are the five quarterback's on Penn State's spring roster:






High School


Paul Jones
McKees Rocks, Pa./Sto-Rox
Jason Ruscitto
Matthew McGloin
Scranton, Pa./West Scranton
Mike DeAntona
Kevin Newsome
Portsmouth, Va./Hargrave Military Academy
Robert Prunty
Shane McGregor
Ebensburg, Pa./Central Cambria
Ken Bussard
Garrett Venuto
Ithaca, N.Y./Ithaca
Ed Redmond

The rapidly growing controversy over Newsome is probably just the start. But we're not here to talk about that. Newsome has a very legitimate claim to the position, considering he's the only one to have played at all last year. Minuscule or not, the amount of action Newsome saw in 2009 is more than any other quarterback on the roster.

The true sophomore has a strong arm, though sometimes erratic. But Newsome can move better than any other Penn State quarterback.
“Then, later, he took off on a 25-scamper where he started left, slid right and headed up field, a half-step (OK, maybe a full step; no matter, he was fast) ahead of the Lion defense.”
Sounds awfully similar to a certain Big Ten champion Nittany Lion, no?

With two very highly touted quarterbacks on the roster, and another on the way this fall, is Matt McGloin (11) really the answer?

The problem with those who are calling for a challenger to Newsome is that it really only boils down to one other player, Matt McGloin. The redshirt sophomore looked good in last year's Blue-White Game, and out-performed Newsome in the Coaches Clinic scrimmage. Those close to the team will tell you that while McGloin isn't nearly as much of a runner as Newsome, the kid can use his legs to get out of trouble.

As the No. 2 quarterback right now, just as any backup quarterback for most teams would be during the regular season, McGloin is the name being called for most loudly by the message board hoards. I'd say those fans have a legitimate argument, if it wasn't for the other quarterback in the mix this spring, Paul Jones.

Jones is one of two very highly touted quarterbacks to sign with Penn State this off-season, the other being Robert Bolden. Bolden won't come to campus until summer, giving Jones the big edge between the two freshmen.

I am not very convinced that Jones will win the starting job, or even the second-team job by the fall. But there is just no way that McGloin will pass both Newsome and Jones on the depth chart before the season opener.

You never know. McGloin could be the biggest diamond in the rough this side of sixth-round draft pick Tom Brady. It's tough to really completely count anyone out of this race, particularly when it's still so early, and with no single player separating himself as the hands-down leader of the offense.

This year's quarterback battle alone is enough to watch the Blue-White Game.

Next: The Blue-White Game!

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