Big Ten: JayPa spring 10

Here's the second half of my interview with Penn State Nittany Lions quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno. For Part I, click here.

You've been in this system [Spread HD] now for a couple of years. You did some different things with Daryll [Clark] in Year 1 versus Year 2, so there's some adaptability, right?

Jay Paterno: Yes. When we go out Friday and Saturday to practice, they're not going to be able to handle everything that Daryll did, but you continue to build toward that. You have your base building blocks, things that are bread-and-butter plays for you, and things that they ran last fall, so you've just got to build off that. I think we'll see good progress as we go through spring with them. Just in looking at film with the guys, you could see toward the end of last year, we had one or two games left before the bowl, you could see both Matt and Kevin start to project, 'Hey, Daryll only has two or three more games.' As soon as he's done on Jan. 1 or whatever date we ended up playing, in their mind, they're thinking, 'I better start to ramp it up a little bit.' And they both did. They were starting to prep themselves last November and all of December. And we held four or five bowl practices where Daryll did very, very little and those guys ran the team. They ran the first team to get a feel for it. We started, in their mind, getting ready that way.

Robert [Bolden] is the other guy here, and he's not getting in until the fall. Do you have to wait and see how these three other guys do and then evaluate how he might fit in? Would you like to redshirt Paul or Robert? Is it too early to tell?

Jay Paterno: I don't think we'll know that until we get through August. We have 15 spring practices and 27, 28 in August before our first game. We'll probably go through all but seven or eight of those practices before we really make a decision, which is similar to what we did with Daryll and Pat Devlin. About a week and a half before the first game [in 2008], it became pretty evident who the guy was. At that point, we said, "OK, we're going to name our starter." I would imagine we're going to be in about the same timetable. It'll create a long summer for me because already it's been, "Hey, who's gonna start? Do you guys know who's gonna start yet?" That's the one difference. When you've got a starter returning, people leave you alone. But when you don't know, and you've got a bunch of young guys, everybody wants to know what's going on, and there's a lot of interest. Which is good. It's one of the things about being at Penn State that's great, there's always a lot of interest. But we won't know until August.

Would you be comfortable playing two quarterbacks?

JP: You'd like to have a lot of guys that are really good. We're going to have a handful of guys that are really top-level talent, it seems like. If we evaluated these guys well at all, we'll be in pretty good shape, talent-wise. You'd like to have a dominant guy, but if that's not the case, people forget that Chris Leak and [Tim] Tebow both played when Florida won the national championship a couple years ago. Leak was the guy, but Tebow came in. We've done it with Kevin Thompson and Rashard Casey back in '99, and we had a really good offensive football team that year doing that. Whether that's the case or not, who knows? That's something that down the road, it's going to sort itself out. Ideally, you'd like to have one guy, but sometimes you have different talents and you want to utilize them. But that'll be something that comes down the road.

And finally, Jay, you have experience elsewhere on the offense. How helpful will that be when you have a new starting quarterback? You have Evan [Royster] coming back, a lot of your wide receivers, too.


JP: We've been pretty fortunate in that in '05, we had Mike [Robinson] as a first-year starter at quarterback, but an experienced guy, a guy who had been around and knew the system. He was an experienced guy with young wideouts, so he was able to make sure in the huddle they knew what they were doing. And then Daryll's first year as a starter [2008], we had experienced wideouts, so he knew where they were going to be and could rely on them. And then Daryll's last year, in '09, you had an experienced quarterback with young wideouts, so he could get them going.

Now we've got experienced wideouts with a young quarterback. So we're fortunate in that there are people around him, whoever the starter is, that know what they're doing, that have been in a lot of tough games and know what's going on, and have talent. We have good talent at the skill positions, we've got speed, so it's a good situation for a young quarterback to step into. You have some guys you can trust and who can make plays for you. There's some experience in the offensive line that's back, too. If we had a whole new offensive line, new wideouts and a new running back and we were breaking in a new quarterback, I'd be more worried. But the fact that he's going to be surrounded by some guys that have played is going to be a big help, whoever [the starter] is.
When Penn State opens spring practice later Friday, only one position group will be in the spotlight. The Nittany Lions are looking for a quarterback after losing two-year starter and Big Ten co-MVP Daryll Clark, who set several team passing records and led Penn State to consecutive 11-win seasons in 2008 and 2009. There's a ton of youth and very little experience at the position, as sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin will try to hold off talented incoming recruits Paul Jones (already enrolled) and Robert Bolden. Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno will oversee the intriguing competition, and he took some time this week to talk about the personnel and his expectations for the spring.

How different will this spring be for you with so many young guys on the field?

Jay Paterno: Obviously, it's a lot different. You can't immediately do all the things we did last year with Daryll. We were able to do a lot from Day 1, so that makes it different. It's challenging, it's going to be a lot of fun, and it's why you coach. If this was the NFL, we'd have re-signed Daryll for five more years, and I'd have no worries this spring. But that's the difference between college and pro. We've got to move on.

What are your expectations, realistically, for these guys, and where would you like to see them at the end of the spring?

JP: It's hard to say where you want to see them. Kevin was the No. 2 guy last year, and McGloin was the No. 3 guy. So we had a package all year long that we would have played with if they had to play, if Daryll got hurt. So we have a launch point from that package to move on from there. And the things we had for them last year, there was enough variety -- formations, motions, things like that -- that we could have played a game and felt comfortable and we would have had enough to keep people off balance. So hopefully we can get those guys to move beyond that and be able to add some things and continue to grow. And I think they will be able to. The meetings we've had so far have gone really, really well. They're on top of what they need to know so far. I see a lot more maturity, a lot of intensity because all of a sudden, they're all in the mix. So it's been a good winter so far, and I'm hoping to see them build off what we did last year.

Were you hoping to get Kevin and maybe Matt into more games last year?

JP: You always wish you'd played the second guy and the third guy more than you did. There's really nobody in the country who would tell you differently. But we got them about as much playing time as we could, without jeopardizing the success of our team. People say, "Why didn't you play the second guy more often?" And the answer is, "Well, do you want us to stick him in there in the third quarter against LSU when we're in a tight game? When would you want to see him play?" It's one of those things that you always wish you'd played them a little bit more, but we did get Kevin a pretty good number of plays. He played more than people think. Obviously, he didn't start any games, but we got him some reps and he's been in games and he's comfortable going in there and running the huddle, things like that. So I don't think that'll be a problem.

Does Kevin have a bit of a leg up on the other guys, just because he's been out there more, or is everyone starting from square one?

JP: He would have a leg up, simply because he ran as our No. 2 last year. One of the things I do in the spring is I chart every pass they throw: why it was successful, why it wasn't. Sometimes, a play isn't successful because they were in the right defense. Sometimes, a kid drops the ball and that's not on the quarterback. We went through this with [Pat] Devlin and Clark, where we charted every pass, so on my computer I could pull up every pass we did. What they did last fall and where they came from in high school, none of that stuff matters. It's all going to be a matter of performance as we go forward. So [Newsome] would have a little bit of a leg up because he got more reps last spring and last fall than the other guys. But once we hit practice No. 1, it's not going to matter.

You've obviously seen these guys a lot more than we have on the outside. From a stylistic standpoint, are they very different? Are they similar? How will that affect what you do schematically?

JP: In terms of the difference in styles, Matt McGloin's probably more of a pocket guy than Kevin, just because that was the offense he ran in high school. Kevin was in more of a Wing-T, running, the same type of offense Michael Robinson ran in high school. Kevin, when he breaks contain, he does some really good things running the ball down the field. Matt is really comfortable sitting in the pocket and making the throws. We're getting Kevin to that point. That's going to be one thing we're going to work on, and with most young quarterbacks, that's the case. They have a tendency, when things break down, [to say] 'I better get out of here,' instead of staying in there like Daryll did for us so much. And then Paul, I haven't really seen Paul do anything live for us yet, so it's hard for me to really make any kind of judgment as to what he will be stylistically. He ran really well when we timed the guys. We did some winter conditioning, some things where they were running around and stuff. He moves really well, so he has the escapability that you want. And having had him in camp a year ago, we know he can throw.

How we are schematically, we start with the things that they handled last year and were comfortable with, and seemed to build from there. In the back of my mind, the ideal situation is they develop into all the things we want to do with them. But you're starting with the base point of what they could handle last fall, and you continue to build on that. If you get all the way to all the things you want to do, then great. If not, you've got to run with what they're best at doing. We're not going to be drastically different. We have a system that we're in now, and we're going to pretty much be in that system. We're not going to all of a sudden become three tight ends, two backs. We're not going to be running the wishbone.

Coming in Part II: Timetable for a decision on the starter, Bolden's outlook

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