Penn State Football: Quarterback Rob Bolden Motivated By Article About Tom Brady
On Super Bowl Sunday, Penn State’s new head coach, Bill O’Brien, was in Indianapolis, coaching New England quarterback Tom Brady and guiding the Patriots' offense.
Meanwhile, more than 300 miles away near Detroit, Don Buchanan was clipping out an article about Brady that appeared in the Detroit Free Press.
The article detailed Brady’s struggles as a college quarterback at the University of Michigan, where he split time with Drew Henson.
Buchanan mailed the clipping off to University Park, Pa., to Rob Bolden, who played quarterback in high school under Buchanan at St. Mary’s Prep in Orchard Lake, Mich.
“Use this as motivation,” Buchanan wrote in a note to the Penn State junior quarterback. “Here’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL right now and he didn’t have it easy in college. He went through all sorts of trials and hardships and was thinking about leaving Michigan.
“If you want something to happen, you have to work harder,” Buchanan’s letter continued. “You can’t go and just do the average thing. You have to work harder.”
The reason for the note and clipping in this saga about O’Brien’s old and new quarterbacks?
As he prepares to enter his third season as a Nittany Lion, Bolden’s career hasn’t exactly been letter perfect.
In fact, the last time most people saw Bolden, it was in an appearance that he most likely wants to forget. He played dreadfully on Jan. 2 against Houston in the TicketCity Bowl, where his passes bounced off the turf at the Cotton Bowl with alarming regularity.
Bolden completed just 7-of-26 passes for 137 yards, tossed three interceptions and threw his first touchdown pass in more than three months as emotionless Penn State suffered a lopsided 30-14 loss to the Cougars.
Tom Bradley was the Nittany Lions’ interim head coach then, and Bolden was the emergency starter against Houston after Matt McGloin, now a fifth-year senior, suffered a seizure and concussion in a mid-December scuffle with wide receiver Curtis Drake.
Four days after the bowl game, O’Brien was hired as Penn State’s coach, replacing Hall of Famer Joe Paterno.
In March, O’Brien threw open the quarterback competition, with Bolden, McGloin and redshirt sophomore Paul Jones all taking snaps with the No. 1 offense this spring.
“Rob has been very quiet and very focused this spring,” Buchanan said. “Rob and Matt are in a competition and they’re both working hard. They’re both getting opportunities. Paul is getting some opportunities, too.
“It’s an open competition, which for Rob, is fine. He believes competition’s good and the best quarterback will come out of it, and he’s hoping it will be him.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how things progress. The one thing I do know about Rob is he will work hard and give it his best shot going forward and compete hard.”
Buchanan visited Bolden and another St Mary’s graduate – sophomore wide receiver Allen Robinson – a week ago.
Buchanan was invited to sit in on Penn State’s quarterbacks meeting and team meeting. He came away impressed with O’Brien, as well as quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher.
“I like how Coach O’Brien is doing things,” Buchanan said. “Every time the quarterbacks are going through a drill or throwing a pass, he’s critiquing them and he’s telling them what they did right or how they can do it better. He’s really teaching and coaching out there, working as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen.
“He was going through some film and he was showing [clips] of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, and some of the plays that correspond to what they’re putting in at Penn State.”
That’s all good. But exactly where Bolden fits into O’Brien’s pro-style offense still is up for debate.
Bolden has made 16 career starts – the Nittany Lions are 11-5 in those games – and the once-heralded four-star recruit has split the quarterback duties with McGloin, a former walk-on, the past two seasons.
But it appears that Bolden is running out of options.
If McGloin or Jones wins the starting job, will Bolden transfer to another school? Remember, he threatened to do so after his freshman season, only to have his request denied after meeting with Paterno.
“I have no idea [on the possibility of a transfer],” Buchanan said. “We didn’t go there at all. All we talked about was what he wants to do to get ready to compete for the starting job at Penn State.
“I think he’s sold on Penn State. He’s getting a great education there. He’s learning a lot from a pro-style coach. Those are all good things for any quarterback.”
The knock on Bolden, who is 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, is that he has not made much progress since 2010, when he became the first freshman quarterback to start an opener for Penn State in a century.
His numbers aren’t pretty, either.
He completed just 39.3 percent of his passes last season and has thrown just seven touchdown passes and 14 interceptions since arriving in Happy Valley two years ago.
Bolden also is 0-4 against Top 25-ranked teams.
The quarterback seems determined to better that lopsided record. Buchanan gave Robinson a ride home to Michigan for Easter weekend. Bolden was supposed to go, too, but changed his mind at the last minute.
“Rob decided to remain at school and work on learning more of the offense and his playbook,” Buchanan said.
Ultimately, Bolden’s execution on the field will determine whether he has a future at Penn State.
- Penn State Football Transfer Talk: What Danny, Davey and Bill O’Brien All Have in Common - March 28, 2012