UNIVERSITY PARK — The soap opera is over.
First-year head coach Bill O’Brien put an end to any off-season drama when he named senior Matt McGloin the starting quarterback for the 2012 season. The announcement came during the Coaches vs. Cancer Golf Tournament, which was held recently at the Penn State Golf Courses.
McGloin beat out Paul Jones and Rob Bolden.
While the announcement shouldn’t come as a surprise, it is big news. Under late coach Joe Paterno and quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, a decision on the starting quarterback didn’t come until late in the summer. Sometimes, it didn’t come at all.
Clearly, O’Brien isn’t playing any games.
While some Penn State fans just don’t want to face facts, it’s clear that McGloin is the best of the bunch — right now. That’s not to say that Jones won’t be good someday. Chances are that Jones will make a fine starter down the road — just not this season.
In 2011, McGloin played in all 12 regular-season games for the Nittany Lions, throwing for 1,571 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions. He had the Lions at 9-1 until the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal got Paterno fired and sent the program into a tailspin that ended with a lopsided loss to Houston in the TicketCity Bowl.
Unlike the previous regime, O’Brien isn’t flinching when it comes to putting someone on the bench. Bolden — who threatened to transfer if he didn’t receive significant playing time — is now the No. 3 quarterback, sitting behind Jones on the depth chart.
The decision to go with McGloin — the team’s most experienced quarterback — was a no-brainer. O’Brien said as much when he announced the decision.
“He was the most consistent guy throughout the spring,” O’Brien said. “He has good command of the offense at this point.”
On a recent Coaches Caravan stop, O’Brien said that he planned to make a decision on the starting quarterback job by the end of May. He was a day off, announcing the decision on June 1.
The former walk-on has taken a beating from the fans, but he is clearly the best of the bunch. Over the course of three seasons, he’s completed 243 of 448 passes for 3,119 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, he is probably most remembered for his performance against Florida in the Outback Bowl, when he tossed five interceptions. However, Penn State still had a chance to win that game in the final moments until a McGloin pick was returned for a Florida touchdown.
There weren’t a whole lot of options other than McGloin.
Bolden has done nothing but regress since he arrived at University Park. He’s had plenty of chances, plenty of opportunities. He’s never capitalized and not once has made a “splash” play to make us doubt the decision.
Jones boasts lots of promise and a cannon for a right arm. He showed it off plenty of times in the Blue-White Game. However, he was academically ineligible last season and didn’t take a snap. It doesn’t matter that he’s been practicing non-stop. There’s a world of difference between throwing the ball in Holuba Hall and in front of 110,000 on an autumn Saturday.
You may not like McGloin, the former walk-on. But guess what? O’Brien does. And his opinion is the only one that matters.
“He’s a tough kid. He’s a competitive kid. He’s shown good leadership qualities. I just felt like he is the No. 1 quarterback,” O’Brien said.
OK, so McGloin struggled in the Outback Bowl. Big deal. He’s led the Lions to wins over Michigan, Illinois, Ohio State and Northwestern. He’s been called upon countless times to clean up Bolden’s mess.
He’s been there with the mop and roll of paper towels every single time.
In an interview posted on gopsusports.com, McGloin talked about earning the starting nod.
“It’s definitely beneficial for me,” McGloin said of the decision. “All of my focus over the next three months can be on the playbook, working on my mechanics, strength and conditioning and throwing with the guys.”
And if you think that the decision takes the pressure off McGloin, think again.
“It feels great,” he said. “But I also understand that I need to work harder than ever in getting ready for the season.”
All of a sudden, Sept. 1 doesn’t seem that far away.
Chris Morelli is an award-winning writer/editor who resides in Centre County and covers Penn State athletics for gantdaily.com. He’s also a regular on “Sports Central,” which airs on ESPN Radio in Altoona and State College. You can e-mail Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.