by Mike Prince
This past Saturday, the first, second and third-string quarterbacks ran onto the field at Beaver Stadium all wearing the same red jerseys that come with the meaning, “do not hit.”
The color red – in this case – also had a different significance, being that each Nittany Lion quarterback was a target. While an “unhittable” target, they were the focus of the nearly 55,000 Penn State students, alumni and fans that were in attendance for the annual Blue-White scrimmage at State College.
And while five-star recruit Paul Jones may be third on the depth chart behind Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound true frosh has only thrown 11 fewer passes than the sophomore quarterbacks combined, both of which will most likely have to lose their positions as the team’s in the depth chart for the 2010 season – and beyond.
The Blue-White game is hardly a determination of what the exact depth chart will look like in the forthcoming season, but it certainly sets a precedent for discussion and majority opinion on which numbered jersey the fans would like to see behind center, come September.
For the players – especially the freshmen – it’s a chance to play in front of tens of thousands of people for the first time and take in the experience of what is NCAA Division One football.
“It was just a fun time,” Jones said. “It makes leaving high school early all worth it. I just had fun with the guys out there. I’m just taking it one day at a time and we’ll see what happens. I’m just going to take advantages of the opportunities that I have now. Coming from a small school, it was great playing in front of so many fans. It was different, but definitely good.”
Saturday was fun for the players – again, especially for the freshmen – but for the coaching staff, it was business as usual.
With legendary coach Joe Paterno doing his usual commentary in the booth during the spring game, Tom Bradley, Larry Johnson Sr. and company were on the field drawing up plays, taking notes and trying to figure out who belongs where on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
But Paterno still chimed in on his take on the current quarterback situation before the game.
“Some kids surprise you, some don’t,” Paterno said. “I’m anxious to see what (McGloin and Newsome) do today before a crowd. Neither one of them have been in a game, really. But I think they both will have a chance to work with both teams.”
Maybe Paul Jones didn’t get the memo that he wasn’t supposed to play like a number-one quarterback.
Paterno is certainly one to never even mention the word “controversy,” but Jones’ performance in the Blue-White game could very well spark one within the Penn State football world.
Jones came in and played with consistency and heart that you might not see in a friendly scrimmage. Late in the second quarter, with 1:14 remaining, Jones hit redshirt freshman wide receiver Shawney Kersey in the left corner of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown. With the same exact time remaining in the third, Jones threw another touchdown – to the same receiver – for the same amount of yards – in almost the same exact spot of the end zone.
It wasn’t a replay. It was just yet another perfectly thrown ball by the true freshman quarterback that left high school early and is doing things in Beaver Stadium that nobody should be doing at such a young age.
Jones completed 5 of 8 passes for 67 yards and the two touchdowns, while leading the Blue Team to a 17-3 win.
After the game, McGloin, who was 10 of 23 for 110 yards, with two interceptions, said: “I’m glad we don’t have a settled quarterback situation right now because it’s going to make me push harder every day.”
Others on the team aren’t worried.
The running back situation isn’t the worst for Penn State right now. Between the highly-touted Evan Royster (who did not play on Saturday), the speedy Stephfon Green, the monster Curtis Dukes and the talented, yet injury-recovering Brandon Beachum, if the passing game doesn’t work out, there are many options.
And that list doesn’t even include Silas Redd – the fourth-highest rated running back to come out of high school this year, who still is unsure of whether or not he will be redshirted this year.
“It was a little nerve-wracking being out there and hopefully, if I don’t get redshirted, I just make plays any way I can,” the 5-10, 200-pound running back said. “Whether it’s on special teams or on carries, I’ll do whatever I can. I always wanted to come to Penn State, so to just be on the team is good enough. Playing time is just a bonus for me.
“I think the quarterbacks did well today. I think they all did pretty well and I think the whole team played well today. I’m not worried about who they go with.”
Chestnut Hill Academy product and redshirt junior Tyler Ahrenhold said of the quarterback situation: “From McGloin, to Newsome, to Jones to some of the younger guys – I think they’re all good quarterbacks. Whoever (the coaches) pick will do a fine job. But right now, it’s up in the air. I don’t even know if the coaches know who will be doing what. But everyone’s real supportive of each other and in each other’s ears. I know whoever gets picked, everybody is going to be 100 percent behind them, no matter what.”
Newsome, who completed 5 of 12 passes, simply said: “I would rate my performance as I’ve got a lot of work to do. I have a lot of work to do. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
If Jones keeps up what he did on Saturday throughout spring practice, McGloin and Newsome will most certainly have their work cut out for them.
Either way, with three quarterbacks who have never played an important snap on a college football field up until this point, the Nittany Lions – as a team – have a whole hell of a lot of work to do.
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