Three quarterbacks are vying to start for the Lions -- Kevin Newsome, Matt McGloin and Robert Bolden -- but none of them have started a collegiate game. Pictured above, Matt McGloin.
By Ron Musselman Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State opens its season Saturday with a home non-conference game against Division I-AA Youngstown State and the Nittany Lions, as of Monday, had not named a starting quarterback and team captains.
Coach Joe Paterno likely will announce them today during his first weekly news conference of the season.
Vying to replace former quarterback Daryll Clark, a two-year starter and last year's co-MVP in the Big Ten Conference, are sophomore Kevin Newsome, who has struggled in preseason camp; redshirt sophomore Matt McGloin, a former walk-on; and true freshman Robert Bolden, who has impressed many people in practice.
Paul Jones, a true freshman from Sto-Rox High School, was bumped from the race recently after being told he would redshirt.
Paterno has never opened with a true freshman quarterback in his 44 seasons, and he has never started a walk-on or former walk-on at the position to open a season.
So Newsome remains the front-runner to get the start Saturday, but Bolden is expected to see a lot of playing time.
"It helps leadership-wise if you know who your No. 1 quarterback is going to be," said right guard Stefen Wisniewski from Central Catholic High School. "But we don't know. ... We have to make sure we have the right guy.
"To have two guys, it would be different. I don't know if they're willing to try that or not."
"I've seen two-quarterback situations work, and I've seen them not work," said Todd Blackledge, ABC/ESPN analyst and former Penn State quarterback who led the Lions to their first national championship in 1982. "The biggest thing is that the guys involved have to handle it the right way."
Paterno, 83, the winningest coach in Division I history, needs six more victories for 400, which would put him in an exclusive club that includes Eddie Robinson and John Gagliardi.
Paterno has lost weight because of gastrointestinal issues, has cut back on his off-the-field commitments and could be forced to work some games from the press box this season. Many have speculated this year could be Paterno's last, although his contract doesn't expire until after the 2011 season.
"When I'm down and looking up, are they going to put 399 on top of me, or are they going to put 401?" he said. "Who the hell cares? I won't know."
Like Paterno, tailback Evan Royster also can reach a milestone this season. He needs 481 yards to become the school's all-time leading rusher. He also needs seven 100-yard rushing games to pass Curt Warner's school-record of 18.
"You're always looking for a back like the guys out there now, like the Mark Ingrams, who are taking over games," Royster said. "That's what I want to do."
For Royster to get the record, he will have to do so behind a reshuffled offensive line.
Wisniewski is back at guard where he began his career after being a first-team All-Big Ten center last season. Left tackle Lou Eliades started 13 games at right guard and left guard DeOn'tae Pannell made four starts at right tackle. And seldom-used fifth-year senior Doug Klopacz will be a first-time starter at center.
"I have been on the field for a lot of those yards Royster has," said Wisniewski, a three-year starter. "I'd love for him to get the record. It would mean a lot for the offensive line, too."
Key losses for Penn State, which is ranked No. 19 in The Associated Press preseason poll and No. 14 in the USA Today coaches' poll, include tight ends Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler, third-team All-American left tackle Dennis Landolt, linebackers Sean Lee, Josh Hull and NaVorro Bowman and first-team All-American defensive tackle Jared Odrick.
Odrick was a first-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins and Quarless, Shuler, Hull, Lee and Bowman also were drafted by NFL teams.
That is not good news for Penn State, which must play three preseason Top-10 teams on the road -- defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Alabama, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 9 Iowa.
The Lions are 51-13 since 2005 and have won four of their past five bowl games, but many believe this team could lose as many as four games.
"A lot of people say this is going to be our down year and we're young, but we're not going to accept that," said defensive tackle Devon Still, who is replacing Odrick. "We're going to go out there and prove everybody wrong."