Blue White Roundtable: Alabama Week Edition
September 7, 2011 – | 1 Comment

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Thanks, Joe: Rob Bolden to Transfer

Submitted by on January 2, 201116 Comments

I wonder at what point Rob Bolden started to think about transferring. Was it before the Michigan game, when he was cleared to play by doctors, and practiced earlier in the week, but still saw a walk-on from Scranton get the start? Was it the next week, when Joe Paterno’s impossibly tight leash saw Bolden benched after just two drives, despite solid play? Was it in the second half against Michigan State, when Matt McGloin’s luck started to run out? Or did Bolden hold on to the idea that he might get a fair shot suspending his disbelief, until yesterday, when 5 interceptions and a 17 of 41 passing day didn’t loosen Matt McGloin’s grip on the first team QB position?

I can’t say when the seeds of discontent were planted, but it seems that now they’ve come up for harvest. This morning, David Jones reported secondhand information that Bolden sought to explore a transfer:

Very knowledgable sources within the Penn State program said Bolden’s father Robert was extremely displeased after the game and was indicating to friends that his son’s transfer out of PSU was likely.

It was easy enough to downplay those reports, but Sean Fitz at Lions247 got the real scoop, just minutes ago. There’s no polishing this turd.

Ït’s true, he’s looking to leave Penn State,”said Robert Bolden, Sr. on Sunday afternoon. “He’s notified the coaches, that’s as far as it’s gone so far. We’re waiting on the next step now.”

“They’re not looking for him to leave, they don’t want him to leave, but he no longer wants to play at Penn State. He’s not happy at Penn State currently. If it was up to me, he definitely [would leave], without a doubt. He’s definitely made it known that he does not want to be there anymore.”

Rob Bolden’s freshman campaign–what now seems certain to be his only in the Blue and White–was an up-and-down campaign. It began with Bolden becoming the first ever true freshman to start a season-opener for Penn State, against Youngstown State, and ended with him sitting on the bench, helmet in hand, as Matt McGloin threw a game-sealing pick-6 in the Outback Bowl. On the way there were speed bumps–struggles in losses against Alabama and Iowa, and there were successes–leading the Lions on a come-from-behind victory against Temple, guiding Penn State on a 99-yard drive to seal the win. The last time he saw significant playing time, Bolden was shredding the Minnesota defense to the tune of 11-13 for 130 yards and a touchdown before leaving with a concussion.

Bolden wasn’t always phenomenal, and the stats reflect his performance pretty adequately. Playing in 6 full games, and parts of 4 others, he completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,360 yards, with 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. As a starter, he went 3-3, losing to the aforementioned Crimson Tide and Hawkeyes, but also in a miserable all-around performance against Illinois. But through it all, he displayed all you could ask from a youngster who only had the 20 practices of summer to get prepared. He was thrown into the fire immediately, and showed flashes of brilliance. His suberb athleticism and elite arm strength allowed him to do things other quarterbacks physically couldn’t, his maturity and poise had him sticking in the pocket and taking big hits all in the name of supporting his team.

Bolden lacked one thing, and that was confidence. But, given his situation, who could’ve possibly done more? His physical tools were so great that he passed three other, more firmly entrenched and more experienced quarterbacks, but that didn’t make up for his lack of exposure, both to the Penn State playbook and the speed of major college football. Once he got out onto the field, Bolden was surrounded by catastrophe. He had an offensive line that didn’t give him any time to throw, and a run game that didn’t take the burden off of him. His receivers dropped passes, and he became too afraid to make a mistake, especially in the red zone. One can only wonder what the impact of the coaching staff was. Still, he showed so much capacity for greatness that it was hard not to believe that he’d blossom into a truly great one.

Though no passionate Penn State fan could fault Joe Paterno for giving Matt McGloin his chance, it’s impossible to feel as though Bolden got a fair shot. Yesterday, I opined that if I were Rob Bolden, I would’ve transferred too–watching McGloin struggle so mightily against a defense he could’ve shredded must’ve, quite rightly, pushed Bolden over the edge. Hearing his head coach gush over Paul Jones, who’s sitting out a redshirt year, couldn’t have given him the confidence that he’d ever even get the chance to reclaim his starting job.

When Pat Devlin left Penn State two years ago, there was significant backlash against Devlin–the feeling that he was being selfish abounded. And, in all fairness, it’s hard to dispute that. He lost the starting job to a 2-time all-conference quarterback, and, despite the fact that he would have been ordained as the starter as a senior, he chose to play two years at Delaware rather than one at Penn State.

But for Bolden, who lost his starting job only because of an injury, one gets the impression that it was his mishandling which has led to his departure. After both the Michigan State game and the bowl game, Joe Paterno expressed a lamentation, second-guessing himself for not putting Bolden in to give the offense a spark–the same spark McGloin supposedly brought when he was inserted into the huddle. Bolden, who still has a redshirt year available, will surely go to a major Division 1 program, perhaps one of those who so highly sought after him during his recruitment, like Oregon, Virginia Tech, or Nebraska. I’ll wish him the best of luck, at least unless he takes on his former team.

Now, Paul Jones, we’re counting on you to save us from two more years of Matt McGloin. And let’s hope you get a legitimate shot.

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