Mon Jul 11 07:33am EDT
Rob Bolden hasn't been on campus even a full year yet, but already he's worn many hats at Penn State — from fourth-string freshman to improbable opening day starter to injured backup to disgruntled transfer risk. Now, after six months with one foot out the door, he's decided to stick around to try on another one: Mature, hardworking team leader. From the York (Pa.) Daily News:
"I'm totally different," said Bolden, who became the first true freshman quarterback to start a season opener under Joe Paterno last September. "I felt like I was good coming out of high school and right now I feel like I have an opportunity.
"I'm watching film and getting better with those things. I feel like I've gotten a lot smarter. I feel like my arm's a lot stronger. I'm a completely different guy from last year."
For more than four months, including spring workouts and the Blue-White Game, Bolden pondered his future and whether he wanted to stay at Penn State. At some point this summer he made up his mind, though he couldn't recall a key decision-making moment or influence.
He said fans and teammates have supported him through everything.
"It hasn't been tough at all. I'm not worried about that at all," he said. "I'm here taking classes, having fun, getting with my guys on the team. I'm taking it in stride and trying to get better, getting my game up anyway possible. I'm in the film room just about every day. I've watched every game from last year three or four times, trying to pick everybody's brain so I can be better in the future."
That's a sharp turn for a guy who would have been on the first bus out of town in January if his transfer request hadn't been rejected by Paterno, who admitted that Bolden probably should have replaced Matt McGloin at some point during McGloin's five-interception meltdown against Florida in the Outback Bowl and managed to talk the younger QB into putting off his decision to stay or go until the end of spring practice. It's also good news for Penn State, if for no other reason than simple math: Bolden is a viable body at a position in desperate need of them.
For now, the hype stops there. Bolden finished his debut season as the least efficient passer among regular Big Ten starters, largely thanks to dreadful efforts in losses to Alabama, Iowa and Illinois; the Nittany Lions combined for 19 points and a single touchdown in those games and ranked dead last in the conference in both total and scoring offense before a concussion took Bolden out of the lineup at Minnesota. Before the bowl game, it looked like McGloin had seized the starting job for good, and the pecking order remains an open question after a soggy, inept spring game.
Still, Bolden is probably Penn State's most talented QB, and — third-stringer Kevin Newsome's burgeoning hip hop career notwithstanding — certainly has the brightest future. With the growing pains behind him and a new outlook, he gives PSU the best chance to exploit the disarray at Ohio State in pursuit of a Leaders Division title. At the very least, he keeps the offense from being permanently tethered to the uninspiring McGloin, or from enduring another round of growing pains under redshirt freshman Paul Jones. There aren't any ideal options here. But under the circumstances, the ones involving Bolden's continued presence are as close as the Lions are going to get.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.