UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State sophomore quarterback Kevin Newsome has plenty of work to do to convince his teammates and coaches that he is the right man for the starting job.
Publicly, those inside the Nittany Lions' football program are saying all the right things about Newsome.
But, with spring drills set to start today, many of those same people have privately questioned whether he is the top candidate to lead Penn State's offense.
Newsome's competition will come from heralded recruit Paul Jones, a true freshman from Sto-Rox High School, and Matt McGloin, a redshirt sophomore and former walk-on. Robert Bolden, another true freshman in the 2010 recruiting class, will join the quarterback mix this summer, but he likely will end up a redshirt.
Many insiders believe that Jones has more upside than Newsome, who saw limited playing time as the backup to Big Ten Conference co-MVP Daryll Clark this past season.
Jones, 6 feet 3 and 220 pounds, graduated from high school in December, played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 9 in San Antonio and enrolled in classes at Penn State two days later.
Despite missing several games at Sto-Rox with an ankle injury in the fall, he passed for 1,667 yards and 16 touchdowns. Jones, who will be 18 in May, already has impressed his new teammates.
"He has a very strong arm, but he's still young and learning," wide receiver Curtis Drake said.
Jones and Bolden, who has not yet graduated from Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary's Prep, were both rated four-star prospects by Rivals.com. Newsome was ranked the No. 10 high school quarterback in the country by Scout.com in 2008.
One thing to keep in mind about Penn State's quarterback derby is that the most recent true freshman to start a game for coach Joe Paterno was Wally Richardson in 1992. He did so only because of injuries to Kerry Collins and John Sacca.
That's why many suspect Newsome -- ready or not -- will get the call over Jones for Penn State's Sept. 4 non-conference opener against Youngstown State at Beaver Stadium.
"We have a veteran receiving group, and a new quarterback, whoever it is, will be able to count on all of us," said wide receiver Derek Moye of Rochester.
Newsome, an early enrollee in January 2009, completed 8 of 11 passes for 66 yards a year ago and added 20 carries for 95 yards and two touchdowns. He was a U.S. Army All-American as a senior at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia.
Newsome, 6-2, 220, was one of eight true freshmen to see playing time for the Lions last season, but he did not attempt a pass in the final seven games.
Center Stefen Wisniewski believes Newsome has made a lot of progress since January.
"He's really dedicated himself this offseason," said Wisniewski, who is from Central Catholic.
McGloin, 6-2, 204, is entering his third season in the offense after serving as the No. 3 quarterback. The Scranton native appeared in three games last year, with two incompletions.
Bolden, 6-4, 206, was a three-year starter for St. Mary's and led his school to two appearances in the Division 3 state championship. He ended his career with more than 4,000 yards passing in a run-oriented offense.
Although Penn State returns seven starters on offense, the quarterback race will remain a hot topic long after the April 24 Blue-White game.
NOTE -- Former Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick is among eight players who have committed to attend the NFL draft next month in New York, according to NFL Network. He is projected as a first-round pick and was the Big Ten's defensive player of the year last season.
Ron Musselman: firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published March 26, 2010 4:45 AM