STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Greetings from blustery Happy Valley, where I'll be spending the next day or so visiting with the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Much like my last stop (Ohio State), Penn State is one of the Big Ten's more intriguing teams this spring. The biggest reason: a quarterback competition featuring Rob Bolden, Matt McGloin, Paul Jones and Kevin Newsome. Coach Joe Paterno said last week that Bolden and McGloin, who split the starts in 2010, are ahead of the other two, but no clear-cut No. 1 has emerged.
The subplot is Bolden's future. The rising sophomore wanted to leave Penn State after the bowl game and has kept the door open for a possible departure. What will it take to keep Bolden in Happy Valley? A promise of more playing time? The starting job? McGloin isn't the type of guy to back down from a challenge, and he'll keep pushing Bolden in practice.
Other items that interest me:
Line play: Penn State needs upgrades on both sides of the ball, particularly on defense. A historically superb defensive line took a step back in 2010, and there's not much depth at defensive end right now because of injuries. I like Penn State's potential at defensive tackle with Devon Still and others, but who will rush the passer this fall? Flipping to offense, Penn State loses standout Stefen Wisniewski, who started at both guard and center during his terrific career. Who takes charge of this group? Can it get back near its 2008 form?
Skill position competitions: There's a lot to like about what Penn State returns at positions like wide receiver, running back and defensive back. Derek Moye is a bona fide All-Big Ten candidate at receiver, but who will emerge as the No. 2 and No. 3 options? I loved what I saw from Silas Redd at running back last season, and it'll be interesting to see if he can take another step in 2011. Penn State boasts the Big Ten's most experienced secondary, highlighted by cornerback D'Anton Lynn and safety Nick Sukay, but young players are pushing the veterans this spring.
JoePa and the coaching staff: Paterno's coaching future is always a hot topic around here as he enters the final year of the contract extension he received following the 2008 season. Also, several of his assistants were in the mix for other jobs during the offseason, particularly longtime defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. What's the short-term future of this staff? How pivotal is this season to get Penn State back among the Big Ten's elite?
Should be a fun time in one of my favorite Big Ten towns. Check back for more on Penn State the next few days.