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Penn State Football: A Year Later, It’s About McGinn and Not McGloin

by on May 31, 2013 6:00 AM

A year of Fridays has passed since Bill O’Brien made Matt McGloin his starting quarterback.

On June 1 of last year, O’Brien gathered his team members in town for a meeting in Lasch Building. With McGloin in attendance, O’Brien informed the players that the fifth-year senior from Scranton would be their No. 1 QB.

Then, later in the day, the Nittany Lion head coach told the same thing to a pack of reporters prior to playing in the annual Coaches vs. Cancer golf tournament at the Penn State golf courses.

O’Brien, just five months into what would become the toughest job in American sports, made the biggest decision of his short head coaching career. It turned out to be wildly successful. Then – and once the season finally started.

At that time, the specter of NCAA penalties was certainly there. But O’Brien – like everyone else – didn’t expect the draconian measures that were announced 53 days later on July 23, 2012.

Prior to that, O’Brien knew that there would be some sort of penalties imposed, but didn’t know what – or when. Only why...well, sort of. It was definitely on his mind as he headed off in early July on a New England vacation. But in an abstract, albeit eyes-wide-open, way. By then, he had already preliminary game plans for the season’s first two contests, against Ohio University and Virginia. And he knew that Silas Redd was going to be his offensive go-to guy, that he had an experienced wide receiver and punt returner in Justin Brown, and that Anthony Fera made the Lions’ special teams possibly even special.

Now, if only McGloin would pan out, O’Brien had to be saying. Football was still going to be primarily about football. And the McGloin decision – which was actually made and shared with McGloin himself in the immediate days after the Blue-White Game – was a big check off of O’Brien’s to-do list.

"When you go into training camp you have to make sure that one guy is getting the bulk of the reps," O'Brien said exactly a year ago. “You don't have time to give three guys equal reps. Also, in the summertime when the coaches aren't allowed to be around, you need to have leaders on both sides of the ball. Matt, being a quarterback, is a leader on the offensive side of the ball...Mostly, it's because you have to get one guy ready to play. You can't get three guys ready to play. And it's really hard to get two guys ready to play. So you have to have a starter, and then you go from there."

It is now a year later.

O’Brien will once again be hitting the links today, playing with basketball coach Patrick Chambers. And before he tees off, O’Brien will once again talk with the press, as he’s already done nearly two dozen times in 2013. Compared to last year, this time it will be different. Very different.

Off the field, there has been the conviction of heinous pedophile Jerry  Sandusky, Freeh, the NCAA sanctions, the dissolution of The Second Mile, charges against Graham Spanier, court dates and delays, and lawsuits, lawsuits and more lawsuits.

On the field, O’Brien and the Nittany Lions have an 8-4 in-your-face record to their credit, a 2012 season that earned O’Brien several coach of the year honors and the football team national respect.

But the coach and the football program have lost nearly a score of players through various and assorted means (at the hands of the mercilessly mean NCAA). They’re down to about 67 scholarships, the depth chart has thinned considerably, as has attendance in Beaver Stadium. Thirty-one seniors are departed, run-ons are the watchword and there’s no starting quarterback.

Here’s the linguistical difference, with a slightly off-kilter homonym:

Last year at this time, everyone was talking about Matt McGloin, Penn State’s new starting quarterback. This week, we saw and heard and read about Dan McGinn, The Paterno Family PR Guy, part of a troika that appeared on television Wednesday with late-to-the party Bob Costas.

Today, on the golf course O’Brien will face the inevitable questions about the Paterno lawsuit (a “no comment” for sure), as well about Christian Hackenberg and Tyler Ferguson. Which one will be Penn State’s next quarterback?

There will be no McGloin-like edict.

Neither quarterback was on Penn State’s campus last June 1. And neither was the challenge that O’Brien and his players now face.

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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