BATON ROUGE, La. -- The natural reaction to Rob Bolden's transfer from Penn State is that of someone abandoning a sinking ship. With the sanctions handed down in State College, Pa., last month, it's understandable that any Nittany Lion would want to get out of town.
But that's not the case with Bolden, who completed his transfer to LSU just in time for the start of the Tigers' fall camp. Although the timing coincided with the fallout from Penn State's Jerry Sandusky scandal, a change of scenery is something the junior has been seeking for quite some time now.
"I tried to leave after my freshman year, and [former Penn State coach Joe Paterno] declined the release for whatever reason, and I just continued to play after that," Bolden said. "I was planning on transferring regardless of whatever all happened."
It's one thing that Bolden was looking for something different. How he wound up in the remote territory of Baton Rouge, La., and SEC country, is another matter entirely. For offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa, that allure was the appeal of the LSU juggernaut that Les Miles has built.
"I think he was looking for a change before that scandal ever broke -- I don't think he was comfortable in that system," Studrawa said. "He wanted to go somewhere where he thought he could win a national championship. He wanted to go somewhere where he thought he could compete for a starting position ... It was an opportunity to go somewhere ready to win, in a program that's winning. And I think that was big for him and his dad both."
Bolden endured his fair share of difficulty under center in Happy Valley. After a promising start as the first true freshman to start a season opener in a century, Bolden tailed off. He completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for more than 1,300 yards and five scores in his freshman season, but those numbers dipped to an awful 39 percent for 685 yards in 2011. He also had a 2:7 touchdown to interception ratio.
"It's been really tough -- ups and downs and everything -- but it comes with just playing ball," Bolden said. "You're going to have that stuff. You're going to have your ups, you're going to have your downs, you've just got to go with it."
Still, the Tigers' confidence in Bolden's longterm future seems resolute. While both Miles and Studrawa stressed that the junior is far from ready for live action, Bolden presents himself as a tall triggerman with gobs of potential in LSU's revamped passing attack. That fact goes against the conventional label for the Orchard Lake, Mich., native, who is often considered a running quarterback.
"He thinks he's a throwing quarterback, he wants to run the ball -- he wants to do both those things," Studrawa said. "He doesn't label himself either one, and he's doing a great job learning our play action stuff ... He's trying to learn the system, and after that we can worry about fitting him into places where he can benefit."
When Bolden might contribute is a murkier subject. With a wealth of information being dumped on him, and an entrenched starter in Zach Mettenberger, it doesn't seem likely Bolden will see much meaningful action in 2012. But it certainly creates an interesting situation for the future, when both Bolden and Mettenberger -- should he remain in school -- will be seniors together.
"That's something that's going to come in time, but we're optimistic he's going to come in here and give us a very competitive quarterback," Miles said. "When that will be, I'm not ready to say."
That's not exactly a vote of confidence from the head man, but Bolden said he's undeterred. After his bumpy ride with the Nittany Lions, Bolden said there isn't an obstacle that can be thrown at him that will slow him down. With the whirlwind of transferring behind him the Tigers' newest player can settle into his new environment, where he said his teammates have been welcoming to a man -- particularly Mettenberger himself.
"He's been great -- he's been the biggest guy helping me out with this offense," Bolden said. "Any questions or anything that I have, I can come to him and he's been helping me out with it."
With that support system in place, Bolden said he's ready to turn away from off field story lines and focus on what he can control -- his own place.
"I think it's on me. The faster I pick these things up and the faster I can display what I've learned on the field, the faster I'll be on the field, I believe," Bolden said.