STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien isn't handling Penn State's quarterbacks with kid gloves. The three players vying for the starting job aren't spending much time in the shallow end this spring.
"We've thrown everything at them," O'Brien told ESPN. com on Monday.
While there have been expected growing pains, O'Brien saw encouraging signs in Friday's scrimmage.
"It wasn't perfect," he said. "We threw interceptions, we fumbled the ball, we've got a long way to go. But you can just tell certain things were clicking. That was pretty cool to see."
O'Brien is pleased with the performances of Matthew McGloin, Rob Bolden and Paul Jones through the first six spring practices. McGloin and Bolden have shared time as the starter the past two seasons, while Jones is very much in the mix after academic troubles sidelined him in 2010 and 2011.
O'Brien doesn't expect to name a starter before the end of the spring -- he'd like to make a decision 2-3 weeks before the season opener -- but he will reduce the pool from three to two in the next two weeks.
"One guy will have a decent day and the next day, a different guy will have a better day," O'Brien said. "But we give them a lot of reps, so they all have their chances."
Here's what O'Brien had to say about all three candidates:
McGloin: "He's a bright guy who understands our offense right now. He's doing a decent job of operating the huddle and things like this."
Bolden: "He's another bright guy who is doing a good job of understanding the offense. He's a guy that has a great many tools."
Jones: "He's picking it up and shows flashes of being a really good quarterback. When guys ask good questions, which Paul does, Paul asks a lot of good questions, you understand that they are getting it, to a certain degree. They all have good questions."
"It's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out," O'Brien added.
Penn State fans shouldn't expect too many clues in the Blue-White Game -- "I'm certainly not going to show a whole lot in that game," O'Brien said with a smile -- but the situation is gradually taking shape.
While much of the attention is on the quarterbacks, O'Brien is especially excited about the men lining up in front of them. Penn State's offensive line, a group that has underachieved at times since the 2008 season, has stood out early in spring drills.
The Lions return only one starter up front in center Matt Stankiewitch.
"I've been pleasantly surprised with the offensive line," O'Brien said. "They play well together, they play hard, they're smart. It's not easy to play offensive line in this system. There's a lot of communication. I've been pleased with how they've played."