Penn State Nittany Lions: Rob Bolden
As we prepare for the faxes to roll in, especially from the Big Ten prospects in the ESPN 300, it's always interesting to take a look back at how the top Big Ten recruits from four years ago performed. There wasn't an ESPN 300 back in 2010, just an ESPN 150, which included 15 Big Ten players. Some became stars, some never got started and others haven't closed the book on their college careers.
Let's take a closer look (positions listed according to ESPN recruiting profiles):
- No. 12: Demar Dorsey, S, Michigan -- Although Dorsey signed with Michigan, he was denied admission to the school. He had a checkered past but reportedly was given no specific reason for the denial. Dorsey appeared headed to Louisville but never made it and played for Grand Rapids Community College in 2011. He planned to transfer to Hawaii in 2012 but never played for the Warriors.
- No. 42: William Gholston, DE, Michigan State -- Gholston played three seasons for the Spartans, recording 142 tackles, including 30 for loss and 10 sacks. He started 24 games and stood out in bowl wins against Georgia and TCU. After a big performance in the 2012 Outback Bowl, Gholston appeared on several preseason watch lists but underachieved at times during the 2012 campaign. He skipped his final season and was a fourth-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
- No. 56: Rod Smith, RB, Ohio State -- Smith redshirted the 2010 season and has been in a reserve role the past three seasons, playing briefly at linebacker in 2012. He has 83 career rushes for 448 yards and four touchdowns. Smith once again will compete for the starting job this fall.
- No. 66: Khairi Fortt, LB, Penn State -- He played two years for Penn State, recording 50 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, before transferring to Cal in 2012 when the NCAA imposed sanctions on PSU. Fortt sat out the 2012 season because of injury and had 64 tackles (3.5 for loss) in nine games last season before suffering an arm injury. He declared for the NFL draft last month.
- No. 70: Dakota Royer, DE, Penn State -- Royer didn't play at linebacker in his first two seasons, moved to tight end after spring ball in 2012 and moved back to linebacker early in camp. He then decided to walk away from football, remained on scholarship and graduated in May.
- No. 80: James Louis, WR, Ohio State -- Louis redshirted the 2010 season and then opted to transfer from Ohio State to Florida International. He never played for FIU and is no longer listed on the roster.
- No. 82: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa -- He appeared in every game during the past four years and started the past two-and-a-half seasons, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches as a senior in 2013. Fiedorowicz had 91 career receptions for 899 yards and 10 touchdowns, including six this past season.
- No. 88: Evan Hailes, DT, Penn State -- Hailes redshirted in 2010 and played two games in 2011, recording two tackles. A series of blood clots, which first surfaced in the spring of 2011, ended his career in 2012. He remained with the team in a coaching role.
- No. 112: Rob Bolden, QB, Penn State -- Bolden in 2010 became the first freshman quarterback in 100 years to start a season opener at Penn State. He made 16 starts in two years at Penn State but transferred to LSU after the NCAA imposed sanctions on the program in 2012. Bolden has yet to play for the Tigers and has one season left.
- No. 118: Miles Dieffenbach, C, Penn State -- Dieffenbach redshirted in 2010 and didn't play in 2011 before starting 23 games the past two seasons at left guard. He'll likely enter the 2014 campaign in the same spot.
- No. 128: Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan -- Gardner appeared in 12 games as a reserve quarterback in his first two seasons before alternating between wide receiver and quarterback in 2012, starting the final four games under center. He started 12 games at quarterback in 2013 and passed for 2,960 yards and 21 touchdowns, delivering several huge performances and also some duds. Gardner, who received a medical redshirt for the 2010 season, returns for his final year this fall.
- No. 131: Darryl Baldwin, DE, Ohio State -- Baldwin worked as a reserve defensive lineman in 2011 before moving to offense in the spring of 2012. He played mostly special teams in 2012 and backed up left tackle Jack Mewhort the past two years. Baldwin could move into a starting role in his final season.
- No. 137: Corey Brown, WR, Ohio State -- After recording just 22 receptions in his first two seasons, Brown emerged as the Buckeyes' top option in the passing game as a junior and senior. He combined to record 123 catches for 1,440 yards and 13 touchdowns and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2013 from the coaches.
- No. 147: Andrew Rodriguez, G, Nebraska -- Rodriguez played mostly in a reserve role for his first three seasons and then started every game as a senior in 2013, alternating between right tackle and right guard for an injury-plagued Husker line. He earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors from both the coaches and the media.
- No. 148: C.J. Olaniyan, DE, Penn State -- After redshirting in 2010, Olaniyan recorded 18 tackles and a sack during his first two seasons. He started every game last fall at defensive end and led Penn State in both sacks (5) and forced fumbles (3), recording 11 tackles for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery. He'll enter his final season projected as a starter.
More misses than hits in the group, although several players still could finish their college careers as stars.
Since 1993, Penn State has played Indiana a total of 16 times. And, in those 16 contests, Penn State has come out on top 16 times.
"People keep saying it," Bolser said. "But we got different players; they got different players. Teams change throughout the years. It doesn't worry me or anything."
It's a streak the Nittany Lions don't seem as aware of -- but it's still one they obviously hope to keep intact. Offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach said he didn't know about the winning streak until somebody told him about it Monday.
"Yeah," Dieffenbach said. "We don't really talk about that at all."
And, over the next few seasons, one has to think this game will be Indiana's best chance at reversing that trend.
Penn State will have more scholarship players next season and even more the season after that. True freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg will gain further experience. The first-year starting cornerbacks will undoubtedly improve. And this team is bound to get better.
Indiana, on the other hand, hasn't won a conference title since 1967, two years before a man walked on the moon. The Hoosiers have swung between mediocrity and subpar performances for the last 20 years. And they've made just one bowl game since 1994. So it doesn't seem a stretch to project PSU as improving and Indiana as flat-lining.
But does Bolser also think this year will be the Hoosiers' best chance at winning for a while?
"Yeah, absolutely," he said, before quickly adding, "but I think that every year, no matter who we play."
Bolser, a redshirt senior, has watched the Nittany Lions beat the Hoosiers four times so far in his career. The closest contest came in 2011, in the midst of the Matt McGloin-Rob Bolden quarterback carousel, when Indiana lost 16-10. The three other contests were decided by double digits.
Saturday's matchup expects to be more high scoring and maybe even a bit closer. Penn State is favored by about a field goal, and the conference opener for both teams features a few uneven matchups.
Penn State's secondary hasn't been tested since a 34-31 loss to Central Florida -- and Indiana boasts the nation's eighth-best passing offense. On the flip side, Penn State's found a lot of success with its three-pronged running attack -- and the Hoosiers' run defense is allowing nearly 250 yards a game. (Only eight teams in all of college football are faring worse.)
"Every year is different," coach Bill O'Brien said, "so we'll see what happens this year. But we feel like we have focused players."
There's no telling right now where the four-star Hackenberg (Scout grade: 88) might end up. But here's what Big Ten history has to say:
Philip Nelson, Scout grade: 74
Freshman stats: 75-of-152 (49.3 percent) for 873 yards, eight TDs, eight INTs; 69 carries for 184 yards
Record as freshman starter: 2-5
Freshman synopsis: Nelson was expected to redshirt but, between injuries and inconsistent QB play, his number was called earlier. He started the last seven games and had limited success. But he showed some potential such as the Purdue win, where he completed 68 percent of his passes and threw three touchdowns.
College career & beyond: He started Week 1 and helped lead Minnesota to a 51-23 win over UNLV. He could be in line to become a four-year starter, and all eyes will be on whether he can guide Minnesota to back-to-back bowls.
Penn State, 2010
Rob Bolden, Scout grade: 81
Freshman stats: 112-of-193 (58 percent) for 1,360 yards, five TDs, seven INTs; 30 carries for minus-11 yards, one TD, one fumble lost
Record as freshman starter: 5-3
Freshman synopsis: Bolden became the first true freshman to start a PSU opener in 100 years. He impressed in Week 1 by dominating Youngstown State with 239 passing yards, two TDs and a pick -- but his season would falter afterward. He seemed to regress, and a quarterback battle with Matt McGloin lasted all season. (Actually, for two seasons.) PSU finished 7-6 and lost to Florida in the Outback Bowl. Bolden didn't play in the postseason.
College career & beyond: Bolden transferred to LSU last year but has yet to attempt a pass. He's not poised for any playing time, and rumors have continued to circulate that he's considering another transfer.
Tate Forcier, Scout grade: 81
Freshman stats: 165-of-281 (58.7 percent) for 2,050 yards, 13 TDs, 10 INTs; 118 carries for 240 yards, three TDs, four fumbles lost
Record as freshman starter: 5-7
Freshman synopsis: He got off to a solid 4-0 start and made his mark by throwing a last-second, game-winning TD against Notre Dame. ESPN analyst Matt Millen, echoing a shared sentiment of Forcier's bright future, called him the best QB in the B1G. But his career took a nosedive in Week 5. The Wolverines lost to Michigan State, 26-20, and Forcier would win just one more game -- against Delaware State -- the rest of the season. His early performance still helped him earn a spot on ESPN's All-Big Ten freshman team.
College career & beyond: He was briefly listed as the third-string QB at the start of the next season and saw limited time behind Denard Robinson. He hoped to transfer to Miami (Fla.) after a sophomore slump but ended up at San Jose State. He then withdrew from that school in January, 2012 because of poor academic standing.
Ohio State, 2008
Terrelle Pryor, Scout grade: 93
Freshman stats: 100-for-165 (60.6 percent) for 1,311 yards, 12 TDs, four INTs; 139 carries for 631 yards, six TDs, one fumble lost
Record as freshman starter: 8-1
Freshman synopsis: He came in as a consensus top-five national recruit, and he lived up to expectations. By Week 4, the dual-threat rookie supplanted Todd Boeckman -- a quarterback who took the Buckeyes to the national title game a year before -- and started the rest of the regular season. OSU finished 10-3 and lost the Fiesta Bowl to Texas. He was named Big Ten freshman of the year.
College career & beyond: He helped OSU earn three straight BCS berths before declaring early for the NFL's 2011 supplemental draft when it looked as if he'd be suspended. Oakland gave up a third-round pick for him, and he currently looks to be the backup. He has thrown for 155 yards so far in his NFL career.
Juice Williams, Scout grade: 82
Freshman stats: 103-for-261 (39.5 percent) for 1,489 yards, nine TDs, nine INTs; 154 carries for 576 yards, two TDs, six fumbles lost
Record as freshman starter: 1-8
Freshman synopsis: Williams got the nod in Week 4 and shocked the nation one week later at Michigan State. Coming in as huge underdogs -- about four touchdowns -- Illinois' Williams threw for 122 yards and rushed for 103 to upset the Spartans 23-20. Illinois dropped the last seven games and finished 2-10, but four losses were decided by one score. He was an honorable mention on The Sporting News' freshman All-American team.
College career & beyond: Williams' sophomore campaign was a memorable one, as he beat No. 1 Ohio State -- the Illini's first win over the top-ranked team in a little over a half-century -- and finished 9-4 with a season-ending loss in the Rose Bowl. That was the highlight of his career, however, as he won just eight games over the next two seasons.
Chad Henne, Scout grade: N/A
Freshman stats: 240-of-399 (60.2 percent) for 2,743 yards, 25 TDs, 12 INTs; 55 carries for minus-137 yards, two TDs, two fumbles lost
Record as freshman starter: 9-3
Freshman synopsis: The Pennsylvania native started Week 1 when a sore arm hindered Matt Gutierrez, and Henne never looked back. He picked up national headlines in October after back-to-back 300-yard games. Said Minnesota coach Glenn Mason: "If you didn't know he was a freshman, you wouldn't know he was a freshman." He tied Elvis Grbac's season record for touchdown passes with 25 and, unsurprisingly, made the All-American freshman team. He also led Michigan to the Rose Bowl, in which it lost to Texas, 38-37.
College career & beyond: Henne's college career saw its ups and downs, but he's still at -- or near -- the top of most Michigan passing records. He went 0-4 against Ohio State, but UM still finished in the top 25 in three of his four seasons. Miami selected him the second round of the 2008 NFL draft, and he's now the backup QB on Jacksonville.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Four months ago, Christian Hackenberg was kicking up sand near the dugout as part of the Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy baseball team.
He was finding free time, between baseball and classwork, to break out flash cards and study the Penn State playbook -- names of plays and formations on one side and blank on the other, so he could scribble what they looked like. He'd catch himself daydreaming about running through that Beaver Stadium tunnel and launching touchdown passes behind a cheering crowd.
Now? All that studying, dreaming and summer training has culminated in what he's waited to achieve since Feb. 29, 2012, the day he committed to the Nittany Lions: According to sources, he is the starting quarterback at Penn State.
Hackenberg's father had initially weighed the value of a redshirt, but that was before the senior high school season of ESPN's top-rated passer. And a lot has changed in Happy Valley since then. Sophomore Steven Bench, who some expected to be a short-term Band-Aid, transferred to South Florida upon learning he wouldn't receive first-team reps in the preseason. Then juco quarterback Tyler Ferguson missed about a month of voluntary workouts for personal reasons.
Ferguson still held the edge early in camp. But Hackenberg, perhaps the biggest-name quarterback to ever sign a Penn State letter of intent, quickly caught up and impressed the coaching staff. A week into camp, head coach Bill O'Brien said the race became "very even." Less than three weeks later, Hackenberg pulled ahead. He'll be the second PSU true freshman in the last 100 years to be the starting quarterback.
"Christian has come in here and really done a nice job," O'Brien said early on at camp. "He's attentive. He must be staying up late at night studying the playbook because he's come from Day 1 to Day 2 to Day 3 and improved. And he asks great questions in the meetings."
Hackenberg's strong arm dazzled onlookers at last year's Elite 11 and the Under Armour All-America Game, and the baby-faced quarterback already shows more ability to stretch the field than his predecessor, Matt McGloin. During part of an open practice two weeks ago, some reporters muttered "woah" when Hackenberg zipped a pass against his body to the opposite sideline -- right at the receiver's numbers.
Between his arm, accuracy and size -- he is 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds -- Hackenberg's potential and raw ability have never really come into question. Talent is oozing from the aw-shucks kid whose father attended high school in Pennsylvania.
Recruiting analysts, opposing players, college coaches and former quarterbacks have thrown almost as much praise Hackenberg's way as they did to O'Brien after an emotional, 8-4 first season. Said Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer: "Christian is a kid you build a program around."
But potential and high accolades don't always translate to success -- at least not immediately. Former No. 1-rated QB Matt Stafford struggled as a freshman at Georgia and threw 13 interceptions and seven touchdowns. Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen threw seven scores to six interceptions. USC's Matt Barkley had a 15:14 ratio of TDs to interceptions in his first season. ESPN rated each the No. 1 quarterback in his respective class, and all are in the NFL.
So what does that mean for Hackenberg? That future greatness does not necessarily equate to immediate success. Opposing high school coaches have said Hackenberg struggled diagnosing disguised coverages, and the schemes and talent of Big Ten defenses will obviously lie in stark contrast to those Hackenberg saw in high school.
McGloin didn't have the strongest arm but he was a great decision-maker, throwing 24 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2012. Hackenberg is not expected to top those numbers this year, but he is expected to show promise.
The Nittany Lions have had their fair share of busts and underachieving quarterbacks over the years -- Rob Bolden, Paul Jones, Anthony Morelli and Kevin Newsome, to name a few -- but this Lions group also has something different nowadays, namely O'Brien and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher.
O'Brien molded McGloin, a former walk-on, into a player the Big Ten blog thought deserved consideration for the Davey O'Brien Award. What can he do with the best true freshman quarterback prospect in the nation, one who turned down teams such as Alabama, Florida and Georgia?
We'll start to see at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Whatever the answer is, the quarterback will face the same challenge on Saturday by making his first career start. We can't peer into the future to see what the end result will be. (Hey, as Bill O'Brien likes to say, we're no genies.)
But we can look back to see how the last five Penn State quarterbacks fared in their first career starts. Here they are:
Matt McGloin, redshirt sophomore
vs. Michigan on Oct. 30, 2010
Outcome: PSU 41-31
Stats: 17-of-28 for 250 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions
Synopsis: After Rob Bolden suffered a head injury against Minnesota the week before, McGloin became the next man up. He was the first former walk-on to ever start under Joe Paterno.
After holding on to a 14-10 lead late in the second quarter, McGloin led PSU on two touchdown drives to give the Lions a 28-10 advantage by halftime. Said Paterno after the game: "That's about as well as we can play."
vs. Youngstown State on Sept. 4, 2010
Outcome: PSU 44-14
Stats: 20-of-29 for 239 yards, two touchdowns, one interception
Synopsis: He was the first true freshman in a century to start an opener for Penn State, and he fared relatively well against lesser competition.
PSU started off slow and led just 16-7 at halftime, but Bolden was able to get some breathing room when Chaz Powell returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Bolden didn't get much help from the running game -- Evan Royster had 40 yards on 11 carries -- but PSU dominated after the touchdown return.
Daryll Clark, redshirt junior
vs. Coastal Carolina on Aug. 30, 2008
Outcome: PSU 66-10
Stats: 11-of-14 for 146 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions
Synopsis: Penn State performed as expected against an FCS cupcake and didn't even really need to pass. PSU rushed for 334 yards and led 38-0 by halftime.
Pat Devlin and Paul Cianciolo played later in the game because, well, there was really no reason for Clark to risk injury. Clark said this afterward: "When you first start, you want everything to go right. I don't think I got touched today."
Anthony Morelli, junior
vs. Akron on Sept. 2, 2006
Outcome: PSU 34-16
Stats: 16-of-32 for 206 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions
Synopsis: Morelli started off hot and drove the Lions to a score on their first drive, on a 42-yard touchdown pass to Deon Butler. He was 7-of-10 passing for 110 yards and two scores on just his first three drives -- and he was the first PSU quarterback since joining the Big Ten to throw three TDs in his first career start.
Said Akron coach J.D. Brookhart: "That kid can throw from one half to the other, 20 yards deep. You won't see a better arm this year."
Michael Robinson, redshirt sophomore
vs. Wisconsin on Oct. 4, 2003
Outcome: Wisconsin 30-23
Stats: 22-of-43 for 379 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions; nine carries for 19 yards
Synopsis: Robinson stepped up when Zack Mills went down the week before with a sprained left knee, and he performed admirably. Although PSU didn't win, Robinson guided PSU on touchdown drives of 74, 80 and 70 yards. And, at the time, only one other PSU quarterback (Mills) had thrown for more yards in a game.
Robinson said this to the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Before the game, I kind of thought they would blitz me a little more, because that's what you usually do to a guy making his first start. You kind of want to get in his head a little bit. They played back and basically told me, 'Look, if you're going to beat us, you're going to have to throw the ball.' And I think we did a pretty good job."
He received an offer after an impressive performance at Saturday's advanced skills camp, and NittanyNation recently caught up with him to ask about PSU and his recruitment.
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In a stunning bit of spring news, Penn State announced Wednesday that sophomore quarterback Steven Bench is transferring.
It's a shocking development since Bench was competing for the starting job and entered spring practice with the upper hand on the position as the Nittany Lions' only returning scholarship quarterback. No reason was given for Bench's decision.
Soon after the announcement, Bench tweeted: "I've decided to leave Penn State and go to a school that will give me the opportunity to compete for the QB spot and reach my full potential."
"I have been meeting with all the players this week with my evaluation of where they are at related to football and academics and to discuss what they need to work on this summer," Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said in a statement released by the school. "After meeting with Steven, he informed me he wants to play elsewhere. We want what is best for Steven. I want to thank him for his contributions to the program. We wish Steven the best in the future and will assist him anyway we can."
O'Brien had said that Bench and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson were even in the quarterback competition after spring practice concluded last week. Both players had similar stats in Penn State's spring game.
"I think both guys did some really good things," O'Brien said after the game. "I've said that all spring. I'd say, no, I'm not any closer as I sit here right now. Eventually, I'll have to make a decision.”
So what changed for Bench, who appeared in two games last year as Matt McGloin's backup? Was it clear to him that he'd fallen behind in the quarterback race? Or was he nudged out the door for some reason? (For what it's worth, Bench tweeted, "What did I do to deserve this?" earlier on Wednesday, though we've seen with college athletes and Twitter that it's often dangerous to read too much -- or anything -- into a single tweet.) A team spokesman said the move was not related to academics and was Bench's decision.
We'll wait for answers as to why Bench is leaving State College. For now, we know that Ferguson is the starting quarterback, and that the possibility of redshirting incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg has grown much slimmer. O'Brien might not have choice but to play Hackenberg right away, as the only other quarterbacks on the depth chart are walk-ons D.J. Crook and Austin Whipple. But it's going to be tough for any young quarterback to master O'Brien's system in such a short period of time.
Ferguson will be given every chance now to prove he can handle the job. Bench, meanwhile, will join Rob Bolden and Paul Jones as once-promising quarterbacks who have left Penn State in the past year.
UPDATE: It appears Bench decided to transfer after learning that Ferguson had won the job. While he told NittanyNation's Josh Moer that the decision wasn't totally based on falling to No. 2 on the depth chart, he also said the following about his meeting with O'Brien:
"It's out of my control, but I wasn't happy with it," he said. "I'm a competitor, so I'm not going to agree with that decision. But, at the same time, it's his decision and it's out of my control. I feel that it kind of left me no choice. I don't want to back anyone up. I want to play. I came here to play football."
For every hit, there's a miss. So, NittanyNation decided to take a look at five big-name recruits -- from the 2006 class and on -- that never were. Here they are:
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Without the specter of the sanctions, this class would be even better. But how does it rank now compared to past Penn State classes? Is this class just as good, or has it noticeably slid a little?
NittanyNation takes a look back at the last four classes and sees how 2013 stacks up.
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Offensive guard John Urschel rubbed his chin and just smiled at the questions Saturday afternoon.
How could Penn State lose 10 offensive starters in one offseason and somehow average 10 points more every game? How could Penn State set several offensive records Saturday with so many new starters?
Urschel, a man who often responds to news conference questions with, "Let me ponder that for a moment," didn't hesitate. He just smiled and said two words after the Nittany Lions toppled Indiana 45-22.
He didn't need to say anymore. He didn't elaborate, didn't shrug. There was no more to add. O'Brien's been the coach this Penn State team has needed -- not just to bring the team together after the Jerry Sandusky scandal or past the sanctions. But to update an inefficient offense that seemed about as cutting-edge as a disco ball.
Penn State's just always been an old, throwback run-first team. Since the very beginning of its 126-year history.
Seven years before the topic of a forward pass was even broached -- before Penn State was known as the Nittany Lions -- Penn State ran. They ran when football first appeared live on fuzzy televisions. And they even ran the last time they had a first-round NFL quarterback in Kerry Collins.
They ran and ran until now. Until the Bill O'Brien era and the era of weekly changes.
O'Brien's taken Allen Robinson, an offensive afterthought who finished with three catches last season, into the record books with the most catches by a PSU player in a single season. He's taken last year's third-string fullback, Zach Zwinak, and helped him become a player who could finish the season with more rushing yards than USC transfer Silas Redd.
And he's coached up Matt McGloin, who spent more time fuming on the sideline last season than behind center. McGloin also sent the record books back to the printing press by passing for more yards in a season (3,066) and the most career touchdowns (45) than any other Penn State quarterback.
"[O’Brien] and Coach [Charlie] Fisher have done a great job of teaching me how to play quarterback the correct way," McGloin said. "They've been doing such a good job of it. They have so much experience that it can't help but rub off on you."
Read between the lines there. McGloin never ever said the same of Jay Paterno, whose legacy of PSU quarterbacks seems to be that a majority regressed (See: Bolden, Robert and Morelli, Anthony). Jay Paterno knew McGloin for four seasons before he was dismissed from his coaching post -- but he never saw enough of the signal-caller to name him the indisputable starter.
O'Brien needed one spring.
The dimple-chinned coach smiled Saturday when he recalled the first time he knew McGloin was something special. He asked McGloin to draw up a play -- the read, the coverage, the protections. Everything.
McGloin strolled up to the white board and, O'Brien said, completed everything in about three seconds.
"It was Gun Trips Right 64 Special H-Sneak, I'll never forget that," O'Brien said. "And it was bang -- and I just knew at that point we had a kid who was working out, who wanted to be the starting quarterback."
The outspoken McGloin thought Robinson didn't get a fair shake last season. And it's clear -- by the benching of Bill Belton -- that O'Brien doesn't mind re-evaluating talent on a weekly basis. He's taken last year's scraps and turned them into star performers, coveted by every Big Ten team.
McGloin passed for 395 yards against Indiana, and Robinson caught 10 passes for 197 yards. With the old staff, those two could still be riding the bench right now. At best, those stats might be spread over two or three games. But O'Brien has taken a group of unwanteds -- a group with a strong bond fighting to rebuild the university's reputation -- and turned them into something drawing praise and respect from every corner of the country.
Urschel wasn't asked what Penn State's recipe to future success might be. But his past answer would fit just fine right here.
Robinson was a backup wideout, an offensive afterthought, during the TicketCity Bowl. If he tried to envision his future with Penn State, broken records and national honors likely weren't on his mind.
But that dynamic quickly changed with Bill O'Brien's pass-first offense. Robinson said Wednesday he wasn't surprised -- even though he was one season removed from three receptions -- that he needed just one more catch to break Penn State's single-season receptions record.
"With the offense that Coach O'Brien has us running and stuff, I knew once the season was starting, I was going to be in position to make big plays," Robinson said. "This was really one of my goals, to be able to have as many catches as I do now. So it's not too surprising."
The sophomore wideout has already tied Penn State's single-season receptions record (63) with two PSU greats, Bobby Engram and O.J. McDuffie. One more catch Saturday, and Robinson will send those record books back to the printing press.
Robinson didn't flip to Page 75 of the glossy football guide to view those records, nor did he set out to figure whether he was close. As chatter intensified on Twitter and fans picked up on the potential record, Robinson couldn't ignore it. He realized relatively early he could set this record -- even if his teammates weren't quite as aware.
"Nah, I wasn't aware of that," linebacker Glenn Carson said earlier this week. "I just know that Allen's been playing great ball and really helping the team on offense this year. But, no, I wasn't aware of that -- and that's great news. Good for him."
Quarterback Paul Jones, who left the Penn State football team for personal reasons in September, announced on Twitter he planned to transfer to FCS school Robert Morris.
Colonials spokesman Spencer Kowitz acknowledged the university was recruiting Jones but said his transfer was not yet official. Jones could not immediately be reached for comment.
Jones expressed reservations early in the season when Bill O'Brien demoted him to the third string and moved his primary position to tight end. Jones told the media he moved past the switch but ultimately left the team a few weeks later.
Robert Morris, which is about 12 miles from Jones' Sto-Rox High School, is 4-6 this season. Its starting quarterback, Jeff Sinclair, will graduate -- so Jones would be expected to compete for the starting job.
Jones, a redshirt sophomore, leaves Penn State without attempting a single pass. Academic issues kept him on the sideline his first two seasons, and he leaves with one career catch for seven yards and one run for minus-7 yards.
He enrolled in Penn State as a high-end three-star quarterback whom ESPN ranked No. 33 at this position. He's the fourth Penn State quarterback to transfer in four years, following Pat Devlin, Kevin Newsome and Rob Bolden.
We've taken a look at their playing time and stats -- and have tried to answer whether each player is better off with the move. We're not talking bowl games or individual priorities here; we're strictly answering whether the exposure/playing time is better on the new squad.
(Derrick Thomas and Devon Smith are not included because they left the team in June, a month before the sanctions hit.) QB Rob Bolden, junior, LSU
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He didn't point out his conference-leading nine touchdown passes or argue how the Nittany Lions are spending more time in opponent territory than in the locker room. No, he just stifled a laugh.
Despite four new starters on the offensive line, starting four different tailbacks in four weeks and watching three wideouts leave since the spring, this offense has transformed from a run-up-the-middle slumber party to one where adjectives such as "exciting" and "high-powered" are no longer used ironically.
Former quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno struggled building offensive foundations with four- and-five star talent (Kevin Newsome, Paul Jones, Rob Bolden). But Bill O'Brien and Charlie Fisher have molded an above-average Big Ten quarterback out of a former walk-on.
Penn State's leading receiver, Allen Robinson, was a third-string afterthought last season. Zach Zwinak was the third-string fullback. Against Temple, the two led the team in rushing and receiving.
O'Brien has taken a patchwork offense and stitched it into something that's attracted the top high school offensive talent in the country.
"I'm looking forward to working with that system," said ESPN's No. 1-rated passer, Christian Hackenberg (Fork Union, Va./Fork Union).
McGloin boasts one more yard passing right now than USC's Matt Barkley. No one is saying McGloin's the better signal-caller, but no one thought he'd be ahead of Barkley at this point either. Penn State's offense still has a long way to go before it can call itself one of the best in the Big Ten, but the fact it somehow seems improved is a feat in itself.
The Lions averaged less than 20 points a game last season with stars like Silas Redd, Justin Brown and Derek Moye. Through four games -- against three teams that played in bowls last season -- Penn State's put up an average of 22 points on the scoreboard and left a lot more points on the field.
Against Temple, Penn State's first eight drives entered opponent territory. Against Virginia, the Lions drove close enough to attempt five field goals.
They've been close to scoring, breaking out of mediocrity, and they're getting closer every game.
So, near the end of McGloin's teleconference call Wednesday afternoon, the quarterback wasn't in the mood to discuss whether this offense was better. He admitted the passing game struggled in the past and labeled it "successful" this season ... but he wasn't answering that question.
"Come on, dude, asking stuff like that," he said with a laugh. "All right, we're done here."
"He definitely should've played a lot more last year," McGloin said. "He's a great athlete, a great player, a great person. I think the coaches last year didn't give him the opportunity he deserved.
"He didn't get discouraged. He kept working his tail off ... and hopefully he's going to be one of the best wideouts this place has seen."
The 6-foot-3 sophomore has already garnered national attention by amassing 24 catches for 322 yards and four touchdowns. He was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list on Tuesday, and he's currently on pace to shatter just about every PSU single-season receiving record.
Robinson, a soft-spoken player, deflected any talk Wednesday about whether he should have played last year. He said all the right things about his three-reception rookie season: He needed to remain patient, there was more depth back then, he probably would have played this year even with the old staff, etc.
But it's clear he made an instant impact on the new staff. He was listed as a third-string replacement last November but, three months after arriving on campus, receivers coach Stan Hixon noticed his work ethic.
He called Robinson the most improved receiver shortly after April's Blue-White Game. "He's really shown what he can do early," Hixon said at the time.
Robinson acknowledged he's uncertain whether his gaudy numbers would persist -- but he didn't seem to mind if those stats do drop off.
"I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing," he said. "I'm not really concerned because, if I'm not getting the ball as much as I have been, then a lot of the other guys will be stepping up and becoming open."
The Early Offer: March 5
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35