Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin will have their first chance to win over the masses Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State's Blue-White Game (ESPN2, 2 p.m. ET) marks the first public look at the Nittany Lions' quarterback competition, a race that players say remains very tight. A decision on Daryll Clark's successor won't be made until sometime in preseason camp, but Saturday's stadium scrimmage serves as an important platform for both Newsome and McGloin.
"They’re still young," wide receiver Graham Zug said. "They’ve hardly taken any snaps in a game, so it’s going to take a little time for them to get that experience. That’s why this Blue-White game will be important for them to get used to the crowd and everything."
Newsome backed up Clark last year, appearing in 10 games and completing 8 of 11 passes for 66 yards. McGloin, a former walk-on, played in two contests and went 0-for-2 on pass attempts.
Translation: both quarterbacks are totally unproven. But their teammates are seeing positive signs this spring, whether it's McGloin trusting his strong arm and making tough throws through small windows, or Newsome improving his timing with receivers and remaining a constant threat to take off and run.
"Kevin and Matt are kind of tied right now for the starting role," senior guard Stefen Wisniewski said. "Matt is really calm and confident in the pocket, he'll sit back there and deliver the ball. Newsome's been developing as well with his footwork and he can really make things happen with his feet."
Wisniewski acknowledged that it's different not hearing Clark's voice in the huddle. Clark not only set passing records at Penn State but served as a co-captain and commanded respect.
For Newsome and McGloin, owning the huddle has been a process. But they know they're not going it alone.
"That’s one thing we as receivers are working on with them," Zug said, "making them be leaders in the huddle even though they’re new quarterbacks. When they’re in the huddle, all the attention is on them. ... So if somebody is talking in the huddle when the quarterback is calling the play, we stop the play and command they pay attention to the quarterback. And we tell [the quarterbacks], 'Hey this is your huddle. You have to be the leader.'"
It has been a process, but the new quarterbacks aren't slowing down the pace this spring. Neither Newsome nor McGloin has been made available to reporters, but Zug said both quarterbacks are running the same plays and making the same reads that Clark did the last two seasons.
"Both of them are working on things a starting quarterback has to do," wideout Brett Brackett said. "To be honest, we haven’t really needed to show too much patience."
Although true freshman Paul Jones is also practicing this spring, Newsome and McGloin appear to be in a two-man race. The candidates differ in style, background and personality.
Newsome was a U.S. Army All-American who enrolled early last spring and served as Clark's protégé. He brings tremendous athleticism to the table but has worked on his passing and his mental approach this spring.
"This spring, he's done a great job shaking that young, silly attitude that he had and has done a good job commanding the huddle," Brackett said. "He's still a very silly guy, likes to joke around a little bit, but he's done a good job with getting that on-the-field seriousness."
McGloin, meanwhile, is all business, which Brackett attributes in part to McGloin's hometown of Scranton, Pa. Unlike Newsome, McGloin came to Penn State with little fanfare and only earned a scholarship before the 2009 season.
Some outsiders didn't consider McGloin a serious candidate for the top job, but he has made a good case this spring.
"He absolutely is right in there," Wisniewski said. "Our coaches don't care if he was a walk-on or scholarship [player] or whatever. If the kid can play, we'll put him in there."
Asked to identify areas for improvement, Zug said McGloin must continue to be smart but aggressive with his throws, trusting his arm to thread the needle. Newsome, meanwhile, needs to maintain his confidence through inevitable mistakes.
But even though there's youth at quarterback, Penn State hasn't adjusted its expectations on offense.
"This offense can be up there with how our offense has been the last few years, if not better," Brackett said. "We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of potential. Right now, we’re making strides."