UNIVERSITY PARK - It's now officially, for the first time, Matt McGloin's job to lose.
No more sharing. No more looking over his shoulder to see if the coaches want to give someone else a shot that he hasn't really earned. No more handling the situation with kid gloves.
Bill O'Brien has made his decision - the only decision he could have made, really - and he made it early.
"Matt McGloin will be our starting quarterback," O'Brien declared Friday, three months before Penn State's season opener.
McGloin, a senior, spent the past two seasons outplaying Rob Bolden every step of the way, yet for some reason, the previous coaching staff kept the competition open long after it actually had been decided on the field.
O'Brien needed only 15 practices during spring drills to size up the quarterbacks, and McGloin is the frontrunner in his eyes.
"He was our most consistent guy throughout the spring. He has good command of the offense at this point and is a tough kid," O'Brien said before playing golf in Penn State's Coaches vs. Cancer fundraising event. "He's a competitive kid, shows good leadership qualities, and I just felt like he's the No. 1 quarterback."
The backup is redshirt sophomore Paul Jones, O'Brien said, while the junior Bolden has dropped to No. 3 on the depth chart.
O'Brien ran through a number of factors that separated McGloin in the competition.
"Completion percentage, getting us in and out of the right plays, getting us into the right play, out of a bad play, knowledge of the offense, being prepared in meetings, cut down on his interceptions as spring ball went on, completed about 65 to 70 percent of his passes in the spring, ran some of our situational stuff pretty well. You need me to keep going? Just did a very good job of being consistent," O'Brien said.
The coach noted there are several benefits to naming a starter now, as opposed to letting it linger into the fall.
"When we go into training camp, you've got to make sure that one guy is getting the bulk of the reps," O'Brien said. "You don't have time to give three guys equal reps. So that's number one.
"And then in the summertime, without the coaches being around, you have to have leaders on both sides of the ball, and Matt obviously being the quarterback is a leader on the offensive side of the ball. ... So that goes into the decision-making process, too. But 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 ready to play."
McGloin now has the benefit of knowing he's the top guy and can prepare himself mentally for that during the summer and preseason. That's a luxury he didn't have the past two years when he competed with Bolden, who won the starting job to open each season before ultimately getting beaten out by McGloin.
"It's definitely beneficial for me," McGloin said in a story posted at gopsusports.com. "All of my focus over the next three months can be on the playbook, working on my mechanics, strength and conditioning and throwing with the guys.
"It feels great, but I also understand that I need to work harder than ever in getting ready for the season."
The competition isn't over, and Jones still could push McGloin in training camp and when the season rolls around.
"He had a consistent spring," O'Brien said of Jones. "I thought he got better throughout the spring. Every practice he got a little bit better. I thought he did some decent things in the last two practices - the day before the spring game and I thought he made some plays in the spring game. And so, over 15 practices I thought he improved and that's what separated him."
There had been reports that Bolden was considering a transfer, but that didn't happen.
"He's here. He's on the football team," O'Brien said. "He's here for the summer, and he's working out and going to class. So he's here."
O'Brien said he feels good about the two backup quarterbacks, although he stopped himself when discussing one aspect of their games.
"They have good, they have decent command of the offense," he said, "and they're competitive. They both have interesting qualities, and we'll see how they do in training camp. They won't get as many reps as they did in the spring."
O'Brien plans to release a depth chart for the entire team Tuesday, and he said, "There won't be too many surprises there, I'm sure."
Junior cornerback Curtis Drake is no longer a member of the football team, O'Brien said. The coach was short and to the point when asked if there's any chance Drake would be back or if he would discuss why, saying simply, "No" to both questions.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Friday that it was an academic issue with Drake and not behavior issues.
Drake and McGloin were involved in a fight after a practice in December leading up to the TicketCity Bowl. Drake did not make the bowl trip, while McGloin suffered a concussion and could not play in the game.
Drake, a receiver before switching to cornerback this spring, has broken his left leg twice and missed the entire 2010 season, plus he's had several off-the-field issues. He caught only five passes and had five carries in 2011.
Drake told the Inquirer he plans to have his left leg examined, and if it's healthy, he plans to transfer to a Division I-AA school so he can play right away. If the leg isn't fully healthy, he will transfer to a Division I school and sit out a year to rehab.
News and notes
O'Brien said, "I stand behind Devon Smith" and noted, "there's two sides to every story" when asked about the receiver's legal issues. Smith is charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia and waived his preliminary hearing. "If I have to make a discipline decision with Devon Smith, I'll keep it between Devon and I," O'Brien said. "But at this point, I'm going to let the legal process kind of play out there and see what happens." ... RB Curtis Dukes was not with the team during the spring because of academic issues. "He's got to have a good summer academically," O'Brien said when asked if Dukes will be available this fall.