At Penn State, as quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno likes to say, the most criticized player on campus is the starting quarterback. The most popular player is the backup quarterback.
The Nittany Lions will exit spring drills not knowing the identity of either player.
Sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin ran neck and neck throughout the entire spring, and neither player did much to separate himself during Penn State's Blue-White Game on April 24.
Head coach Joe Paterno, who will enter his 45th season at Penn State needing six wins to reach 400 for his career, says he has seen progress from both players but probably won't name a starter until close to when the season begins on Sept. 4.
"You've got to tie it in with what the rest of the football team can do offensively," Paterno said.
The starting offensive line could contain three seniors but most of them are playing a different position after some serious shuffling. There is talent at running back (Evan Royster and Stephfon Green) and wide receiver (Derek Moye and Graham Zug), but the Nittany Lions will need at least one of the quarterbacks -- true freshman Paul Jones, who threw a pair of touchdown passes in the spring game, is a third option -- to step to the front and deliver consistent play.NOTES, QUOTES
--Senior Stefen Wisniewski, a first-team All-Big Ten center last season, is moving back to right guard, where he started in 2008. He is expected to anchor an offensive line that has a lot of question marks heading into the summer.
--Tailback Evan Royster, who needs 482 yards to become Penn State's all-time leading rusher, decided to bypass the NFL Draft and return for his senior season. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder will likely be the centerpiece of an offense that will have a first-year starter at quarterback.
LT Quinn Barham -- The redshirt junior quietly toiled as a backup center and guard during his first three seasons at Penn State but leaves the spring as the front-runner to replace Dennis Landolt at left tackle. Barham must prove he can keep better pass-rushers away from his young quarterbacks.
RB Curtis Dukes -- The bruising 240-pound redshirt freshman could give Penn State a nice short-yardage option. He runs with power, picks his holes well and could see time at tailback or fullback.
CB Derrick Thomas -- The redshirt freshman made strides at a position that should afford ample opportunities for playing time. If Thomas, who has a nice mix of size, speed and aggression, continues to progress, he could find himself as the team's third corner or nickel back.
LB Gerald Hodges -- The converted safety, a true sophomore, had a terrific spring at weak-side linebacker and should challenge senior Bani Gbadyu for the starting job this fall.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's a lot of talent on this football team (but) we don't know where we're going yet." -- Penn State head coach Joe Paterno.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: The Nittany Lions are solid at almost every defensive position, and their running backs and wide receivers are as good as any in the Big Ten. However, there are serious questions on special teams, along the offensive line and especially at quarterback, and the first-team offense showed little cohesion in the spring game. A brutal schedule that includes road dates at Alabama, Iowa and Ohio State will force a young Penn State to grow up quickly.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Penn State boasted the Big Ten's top offense for the last two seasons under Daryll Clark, who was a fourth-year junior by the time he won the starting job. Now, the Nittany Lions will be led by either a true sophomore (Kevin Newsome) or a redshirt sophomore (Matt McGloin), neither of whom has played in a meaningful game situation. Veteran tailbacks Evan Royster and Stephfon Green and wideouts Derek Moye and Graham Zug will ease some of the growing pains, but the young quarterbacks and a far-from-settled offensive line make it doubtful Penn State can maintain the sort of production they managed under Clark.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: All three of Penn State's 2009 starting linebackers -- Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman and Josh Hull -- were selected in the NFL Draft, but Joe Paterno still feels good about that position. Junior Nathan Stupar and sophomores Michael Mauti (coming off an ACL injury) and Gerald Hodges give him reason to feel good. Ends Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore and tackles Ollie Ogbu and Devon Still should give the Nittany Lions a consistent push up front, and a more-experienced secondary led by cornerback D'Anton Lynn plans to be more aggressive this season.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Senior placekicker Collin Wagner is reliable from short to intermediate range, and there are plenty of weapons in the return game, but the rest of Penn State's special teams is unsettled. Incumbent punter Anthony Fera has no game experience at the position and spent most of the spring in the doghouse after receiving an underage drinking violation. The Nittany Lions' coverage units struggled last season, prompting Paterno to put more emphasis on personnel decisions and coaching responsibilities this year.
--S Drew Astorino was held out of spring drills after undergoing surgery on a shoulder injury early this winter, but Penn State expects to have him available this fall.
--LB Michael Mauti and DE Pete Massaro were held out of spring drills while recovering from ACL injuries but are expected to be ready this fall. RB Brandon Beachum, who tore his ACL late in the 2009 season, has made good progress but could still be redshirted in 2010.
--CB Chaz Powell, a starting wide receiver last season, emerged from spring drills as one of the second-team cornerbacks.
--FB Michael Zordich missed most of spring drills after receiving an underage drinking violation, his second in the past year.
Previous Report: 04/28/2010