The saying goes, "It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks." So why would anyone expect the wily 84-year-old Joe Paterno to tip his hand on who his starting quarterback will be come Saturday's season opener against the Indiana State Sycamores?
Sure, Paterno has tweaked his coaching style a bit over the years, but this is one thing the old dog likely will never change. Quite frankly, he shouldn't have to.
Paterno said Tuesday that redshirt junior Matt McGloin and sophomore Rob Bolden will split time under center against Indiana State. And true to form, the coach said that both quarterbacks have performed well in summer practices and each deserves a chance to start.
But Paterno's indecision is a dangerous move that can only hurt the progress of this football team.
McGloin was a great story for the program last year - his breakout performance in a 41-31 win over Michigan was enough to shine a positive light on an otherwise disappointing season. He's got the heart that a coach wishes all his players would have. But he should not be the starting quarterback for the Nittany Lions.
Bolden is the future of the program, plain and simple. The highly-touted recruit has three years of eligibility left, including this season, which should not be wasted - as was the case for previous top-recruit quarterbacks.
We found out McGloin's limits last season against Ohio State and in the Outback Bowl versus Florida. It's time to put down the storybook down and get serious about being one of the nation's top collegiate football programs.
Bolden will still have his growing pains this year. And hopefully, he's a more mature player than he was reported to be last season - having another season under their belts should help many of the younger players. But, at this point, McGloin taking snaps can only hinder Bolden's growth.
Saturday's contest might be a "cupcake" matchup, but let's not forget who comes to Happy Valley on Sept. 10. Every snap until that point will be a valuable learning experience that must be used properly.
Penn State's schedule doesn't exactly qualify as "cupcake" this year. Although the Lions should be 3-1 (the loss coming to Alabama) to start the year, with a trio of home matchups and a virtual home game at Lincoln Financial Field against Temple on Sept. 17, they face a grueling new Big Ten schedule to finish out the season.
Iowa has had Penn State's number as of late, and a visit to Northwestern could easily be one of those trap games - the Wildcats are no longer the Big Ten's football punching bag. The season ends with the Lions hosting new conference member Nebraska, followed by trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin.
The final three games will ultimately decide whether the 2011 campaign was a success or a failure for Penn State.
Stephfon Green reportedly returned to the team in recent days after being dismissed earlier this month. It'll be interesting to see what Paterno does with the senior running back, but I can't imagine Green will see much of the field, at least not early in the season.
Silas Redd enters the season as the Lion's starting back, but questions remain as to whether the sophomore can handle the 18 to 25 carries per game that will be asked of him. Expect to hear Brandon Beachum's number called quite a bit early in the season as well.
A number of former Lions have made NFL headlines lately, led by Kerry Collins' retirement announcement in July and then his signing with the Indianapolis Colts last week. The Colts had to spend quite a pretty penny to lure the quarterback out of retirement - a nice final paycheck for Collins.
Stefen Wisniewski is the backup center on the Oakland Raiders' depth chart, and Bani Gbadyu joins him on the team as a No. 3 outside linebacker.
Cameron Wake anchors the Miami Dolphins' linebacker corps again this season, while second-year pro Mickey Shuler will back up at tight end. DE Jared Odrick may have to fight to see the field for the Dolphins.
Evan Royster faces an uphill battle in Washington, competing for preseason snaps in a crowded Redskins backfield. He may not make the final cut with Tim Hightower, Ryan Torain and fellow rookie Roy Helu ahead of him.
After being released from the Buffalo Bills in the offseason, Aaron Maybin will try to resurrect his career with the New York Jets, although he currently sits at the No. 3 weak side linebacker spot on the Jets' depth chart. I thought it a few years ago and I think it even more now: Maybin should have finished out his career at Penn State.
But for some players, the lure of the NFL and a big-money contract is too much to resist.
I can't open the season without at least touching on the debacle that is the Miami Hurricanes football program. Even if only a fraction of the violations, first reported by Yahoo! Sports' Charles Robinson, are true, it may be the final black eye the NCAA needs to finally clean up its act.
I don't believe athletes should be paid to come play football, or any sport, at a university. There needs to be some kind of amateur status remaining in collegiate athletics.
However, if a stipend on top of an athletic scholarship is needed to do away with the under-the-table deals that I'm sure the NCAA has turned a blind eye to for decades, then I'm all for it.
And I don't feel bad for the players who committed NCAA violations, no matter what their reason. Rules are rules, and whether players agree with them or not, they must be followed.
But I feel horrible for first-year Hurricanes coach Al Golden, who reportedly walked unknowingly into a buzz saw in Miami. Golden saved Temple's football program from extinction, worked hard to receive a head coaching position with a major college team and doesn't deserve to take any heat for past players' and coaches' mistakes.
If I were Golden, I would make this my only year at the helm of the Hurricanes. Heck, I probably would have resigned the minute I found out about the disaster I had walked in to.
With Paterno's contract expiring after this season, and the injuries mounting (never thought I would say that about a coach), wouldn't Golden be the perfect choice to succeed Joe in Happy Valley? Golden is a former Lion who would surely carry on Paterno's legacy and would continue to demand the high-quality character players we've come to expect at Penn State.
The phrase has probably lost all meaning by this point, but Paterno's got to step down sooner or later. Athletic Director Tim Curley better have Golden's number on speed dial.
Chris McFarland is news editor of The Sentinel. Contact him at email@example.com.