Freshman QB Bolden getting extremely rare opportunity
Not even 83-year-old Joe Paterno was around the last time a true freshman started at quarterback to open a season for Penn State.
That last occurred 100 years ago, when Eugene "Shorty" Miller led the Nittany Lions at the beginning of the 1910 season, according to Lou Prato, author of "The Penn State Football Encyclopedia."
It's expected to finally happen again, as true freshman Robert Bolden is slated to start at quarterback in the Nittany Lions' season opener Saturday against Youngstown State.
"I really think that it shows Joe has changed," Prato said. "People don't realize he has changed slightly over the years. He used to be pretty set in his ways because he was very successful, just like a lot of people would be."
Miller, from Harrisburg, went on to start all four seasons at Penn State, missing just one game. In 1913, he rushed for 250 yards against Carnegie Tech — a Penn State single-game rushing record that lasted 68 years.
At 5-foot-5 and 145 pounds, Miller became known as the "Meteoric Midget." He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974, eight years after his death.
The only certainty surrounding Bolden and his 6-foot-3, 221-pound frame is that he never will share a nickname with Miller. On his weekly radio show, Paterno said it's likely Matt McGloin and Kevin Newsome will receive some playing time at quarterback Saturday.
"All of them have ability," the coach said. "... And it was a tough, tough decision and one that may change.
"The other kids are not gonna sit around and sulk. Hopefully, they'll say, 'Hey, I'm not sure, Paterno; he doesn't know what he's talking about,' and go after it."
Bolden will become the third true freshman quarterback to start a game for Paterno.
The last true freshman to start at quarterback for Penn State was Wally Richardson in the Nittany Lions' home opener against Temple on Sept. 12, 1992. Before Richardson, Tony Sacca started five games as a true freshman in 1988.
Penn State suffered injuries to its quarterbacks in both cases, leaving Paterno without a choice. This time, the decision was his.
And though the result surprised many, Paterno felt the nature of the position, like himself, has evolved over the years.
"I don't know if it's easier or harder," Paterno said. "They're better prepared. Most of the kids we need to come in early and wanna compete as freshman for starting jobs ... most of them have had really good experiences.
"You can turn the television on now and see high school games and see some of the better players in the country, and there are so many things that are going on these days that never used to happen 25, 30 years ago, such as summer camps, senior camps, places where a kid can go and work with somebody who may be an expert at that particular position."
Look no further than Daryll Clark, the man Bolden is replacing.
The two-time first-team All-Big Ten quarterback had the opportunity to teach Bolden at the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp in July 2009 in California.
"When I first saw him throw the ball, his mechanics were on point," Clark said. "He was very accurate with the football. I was very impressed.
"I was out there for four days, and I came back and told the players, 'Listen, once everything is said and done, Bolden will have a legitimate shot to prove himself.' "