Penn State's QB question still unanswered

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Joe Paterno has to choose between Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin to lead his Penn State team in 2011.

In a repeat of the 2010 season, Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin are again competing for the Penn State Nittany Lions starting quarterback job. Last season, Bolden became the first true freshman quarterback to start a season opener during Joe Paterno’s reign as head coach. After starting the first seven games, Bolden was pulled midway through the October 23 game against Minnesota in favor of McGloin. Paterno has yet to designate a starter for his 46th season in Happy Valley. So who would give Penn State the best chance to win the Big Ten Conference title?

Bolden is portrayed as a dual-threat quarterback, theoretically providing the Nittany Lions with more options. Bolden, at 6-foot-4 and 211 pounds, should provide a running threat, something Penn State could use after losing Evan Royster, the school’s all-time leading rusher. Last year, however, Bolden didn’t exhibit the running skills he displayed in high school. He averaged 8.22 rush yards per game (excluding sack yards) and had a net total of minus-11 yards on 30 attempts.

In fact, McGloin and Bolden played similarly last year, both demonstrating questionable decision-making and throwing a high number of interceptions. Their efficiency ratings, a statistic that takes into account a quarterback’s total yards, touchdowns, completion percentage, interceptions and attempts, were comparable and placed them in the middle of the pack for all FBS quarterbacks. McGloin particularly struggled in the Outback Bowl, throwing five interceptions and completing 41.5 percent of his passes in a loss to the Florida Gators.

Not That Different
McGloin vs. Bolden, 2010 Season

Barring the return of Bolden’s rushing prowess, what does each offer Penn State? McGloin was more effective against the blitz in 2010. His 131.1 pass efficiency rating against the blitz outperformed Bolden’s 100.5 rating, and more than half of Bolden’s seven interceptions came when facing five or more pass rushers. Additionally McGloin had the better performance in the spring game (five-for-10, 109 yards, one touchdown), whereas Bolden did not complete one pass in five attempts and threw an interception.

Although McGloin was better against the blitz, Bolden showed an aptitude for the deep ball. On passes of 25 yards-or-more, Bolden completed 44 percent of his passes. McGloin struggled with his long ball, completing 8 of 31 (26 percent) with two interceptions.

So who should be Penn State’s starting quarterback in its opener against the Indiana State Sycamores? Does Penn State rely on Bolden’s potential as a rushing quarterback to supplement its inexperienced run game? Or do the Nittany Lions trust that McGloin’s bowl game performance against a Florida defense that was ranked fifth in the country in interceptions was an aberration? The only thing that is clear is that there is no obvious answer to Penn State’s quarterback question.