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Penn State Football: Steven Bench Must Wait to Make Pitch for Starting Quarterback Job

by on March 23, 2012 6:00 AM

Penn State will open spring practice Monday with three quarterbacks vying for the starting position.

But while Matt McGloin, Rob Bolden and Paul Jones split reps, a fourth candidate will be standing on a baseball mound in Georgia, twirling an 85 m.p.h. fastball, change-up and curveball.

“I throw the football way harder,” Steven Bench said by phone earlier this week, driving between classes in his 2007 black Chevy Silverado truck.

If he’s lucky, Bench won’t hear about Penn State when he’s on the baseball diamond. Because it won’t be about how an open competition at quarterback awaits him when he enrolls in the summer. It won’t be about his future teammates thanks to an impressive start to the recruiting Class of 2013.

It won’t be about anything that is good about Penn State.

“People are yelling Sandusky jokes from the stands and from dugouts,” Bench said, referring to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal that has rocked Penn State.

He could’ve enrolled early and be completely gone from the ridicule — not to mention get as much exposure to the new offensive coaching staff he must wow to be named the starter Sept. 1 against Ohio. But after discussion with family, Bench opted to enjoy his senior year of high school, regardless of the negative comments shot his way when he’s in the stretch.

He’s currently taking four courses that will count toward college credit, enabling him to get ahead in the coursework. He said he has no plans on redshirting, but that decision ultimately rests with coach Bill O’Brien.

“I did not look at playing time,” Bench said when asked about his take on Penn State’s muddy quarterback situation, which has produced average play — at best — the last two seasons.

“I’m gonna go in there and work hard, work hard until I am the starter. I am gonna try and start this year.”

Like all the quarterbacks, Bench received O’Brien’s 15-to-20-page manual, emblazoned with a New England Patriots logo on the cover.

He hasn’t received the full playbook, but Bench has the list of formations, cadences and base defense.

“It’s a lot of stuff,” said Bench, also a third baseman for Cairo High School, in a thick Southern accent. “All it tells me is this offense is wide open.”

Bench will get a sneak peek of that pro-style offense when he visits Penn State on April 4-6. He’ll return two weeks later for the Blue-White Game, when he will stay with McGloin, as he did on his official visit in late January.

It was around that time Bench de-committed from Rice, a decision that came only after his high school quarterbacks coach sent his tape to O’Brien immediately after he was hired Jan. 6.

“It’s the longest of shots,” Bench’s high school coach told him.

“Yeah, go ahead and send it. The worst he can say is no,” Bench said.

On National Signing Day, O’Brien hopped on a conference call with the Penn State media. On it, he talked about another contender to be the first starting quarterback of the Bill O’Brien era.

“We felt like his accuracy and decision-making will fit what we're trying to do very well,” O’Brien said. “His leadership skills came across when he came on his official visit. We're thrilled to have him on-board and looking forward to working with him.”

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Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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