Penn State going to play 2 QBs this season
UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State didn't unveil its new football jerseys at a gathering that attracted almost 200 media members Thursday. More than a few players, however, sported hair that spilled onto their ample shoulders, a sight that would have been as unthinkable a year ago as names on the backs of Penn State's jerseys.
With all of the change that is taking place under first-year coach Bill O'Brien, one thing will remain in place — at least for this season — and it may not make Nittany Lions fans happy.
O'Brien said two quarterbacks will play this season, with Sto-Rox's Paul Jones slated to take snaps even though fifth-year starter Matt McGloin is entrenched as the starter.
“He's an instinctive player, he's a playmaker, he's progressed and so he'll definitely see time,” O'Brien said of Jones.
Penn State alternated quarterbacks in 2010-11, and it didn't have much success. Its passing game ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten.
But unlike the previous seasons in which neither McGloin nor the recently departed Rob Bolden seized the starting job, there appears to be a better defined division of labor at quarterback.
McGloin is the clear starter, and he will open under center Sept. 1 when Penn State hosts Ohio in the season opener. McGloin ceding snaps isn't an indictment of the former walk-on as much as it is a nod to physical skills that made Jones a highly coveted recruit out of high school.
“He's kind of the X-factor, (and) maybe it's the ‘it' factor,” quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher said. “Faster than you think for a guy his size. He's got one of those arms that the ball comes out fast, maybe a little similar to (Jay) Cutler, who we had at Vanderbilt when I was there.”
Big applies to the 6-foot-3, 248-pounder's right arm as well as his build, and the only area in which Jones is noticeably lacking is experience.
He has yet to suit for up for a game because of academic issues that led to his redshirting as a freshman and sitting out last year. He has since shored up his academics, and Jones showed coaches enough during the spring that they have concluded they have to find ways to get the McKees Rocks native on the field.
Not that Jones turned cartwheels on the plush Beaver Stadium grass when told about O'Brien's declaration that he will play.
“I don't really care unless it happens,” Jones said. “Not saying I don't believe it or anything, but when I'm on the practice field, I'm not worried about guarantees.”
The redshirt sophomore should complement McGloin and give Penn State a run-pass option when he's in the game. The trick will be striking a balance between getting one of the team's better playmakers on the field without undercutting McGloin.
“It's probably not quite as easy at quarterback to do that because of the uniqueness of the position and the leadership and all of those things that go into it so you pick your spot, but we know he can help us,” Fisher said. “Just like the fans, we're excited to see what Paul Jones can do to help our team.”
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.