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With Waters out of the mix, McGloin believes Bench will be ready to take over as PSU's starting QB

December 13, 2012 - Cory Giger
Standout junior college quarterback Jake Waters chose Kansas State over Penn State, which is great news for Steven Bench, who backed up Matt McGloin this past season as a true freshman.

"I have no doubt that he's ready to take over and fill that position," McGloin said of Bench.

"Now for Steve, he has the whole spring to be the guy and to get his mind in the playbook and to assume that leadership role," McGloin added.

Penn State still is expected to try and land a JUCO quarterback who can enroll in January -- that could come Friday when Tyler Ferguson from College of Sequoias in California announces his decision -- but for now, Bench is the only scholarship signal caller on the roster.

Ferguson, if he picks PSU, would challenge Bench for the starting job, but he's not the caliber of prospect that Waters is, plus Bench has the advantage of having played in Bill O'Brien's system for a year. (See below for the chances of incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg, who won't arrive until the summer.)

"He definitely has the ability to perform well at the Division I level," McGloin said of Bench, whom he practiced alongside all season. "You have to remember he's only an 18-year-old kid, and the fact that he's a young 18. He didn't turn 18 until the summer, so he's got a lot of growing up to do, got a lot of maturing to do.

"But luckily for him, the junior college quarterback decided to go to Kansas State, and now Steven has potentially January until the end of June to be the only quarterback on that roster. So it's in his hands right now, and it's essentially his job to lose."

McGloin enjoyed a record-setting senior season in O'Brien's offense, so Bench was able to see first-hand what the starting quarterback needs to do to be successful. Bench appeared in just two games (Virginia and Iowa), completing 2-of-8 passes for 12 yards and rushing three times for 18 yards.

"He's starting to finally, toward the end here, realize how it works and how a Division I football program works," McGloin said. "I hope he's learned something from me, if anything, just how to be a leader and how to put the time and effort and the work in."

Here are some other thoughts from McGloin on Bench and the PSU offense:

Q: How is Bench with arm strength, footwork and other mechanics?

A: His footwork has improved greatly under Coach O'Brien and Coach Fisher. He's got the arm strength, he throws a good deep ball, he throws a good out route. But at times he does tend to lower his elbow a bit and bring it down a little too far, but I have no doubt that he'll correct that over the spring. ... When you drop your elbow like that, the ball tends to sail on you a lot of times, you're not as accurate as you could be with keeping it high. But he's gotten more and more consistent with keeping [the elbow] higher.

Q: Who works specifically with quarterbacks on things like that, Bill O'Brien or is it mostly Charlie Fisher?

A: Coach Fisher is our day-to-day guy in terms of our mechanics, footwork, reading coverages, things like that, going over the playbook. But I mean, Coach O'Brien definitely oversees everything, and he does look more at the quarterbacks than any other position.

Q: How much did Bench make strides in his leadership as the season went on?

A: Yeah, it's tough. You've still got to remind yourself he's still a young kid, it's exciting for him to even be out there, besides getting playing time as he did a few times this year. He was just excited to be out there. But toward the end of the season he started to settle down and get more comfortable in that quarterback spot. As the season went on we tried to get him more reps as we can and get him in and out of practice a lot more to get him prepared for the winter and the spring.

Q: How is Bench's football IQ, and how smart does a quarterback have to be to run O'Brien's system?

A: Coach O'Brien isn't going to let anybody just play that position. You have to be an intelligent person, you have to have a feel for the game and you have to know the playbook inside and out. Steven comes from a coaching family -- his father was a high school coach for a very long time -- so he knows what to do, he knows what the coaches expect out of them. So as long as he continues to progress as a quarterback and really get into the playbook, I think he should be all right.

Q: How tough would it be for a quarterback, like Christian Hackenberg, to learn O'Brien's offense so quickly in two or three months after arriving on campus in the summer and being prepared for the start of the season?

A: It's just me speaking, but I don't think it's gonna happen. It's a difficult playbook, man, and I'm sure you know how Coach O'Brien is, I'm aware of the type of speed he likes to play at and how he likes to run his plays and he likes to use different formations and different protections. He wants the quarterback to be the guy out there. He wants you to be able to check us in and out of different types of plays. So you're talking about a kid coming in at the end of June, early July and potentially playing in seven or eight weeks, it's a difficult situation for him to be put in. But if he studies and prepares well -- I've never met him before, I'm not sure what type of kid he is -- if he's willing to put the work in, we'll see what happens.

Q: What was it like for you the first time you got O'Brien's playbook and how complex was it to learn?

A: It was difficult. I had trouble even saying the plays out. You have to put the time and the effort in. I remember nights when I would just stand in my room in front of the mirror and just practice saying the plays. Then the following day you'd go out there and you're starting to get more comfortable. And people see that. The coaches see it, the players see it, and like hey, McGloin's really got command of the huddle, he really knows this playbook inside and out. Fortunately for me, that's always been my strong point is just having a mental advantage over other players, and that's what made me win the job and what made Paul [Jones] and Rob [Bolden] end up transferring.

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