ORLANDO, Fla. - It's been well documented that Friday's Capital One Bowl against LSU is Daryll Clark's last chance to be Penn State's winning quarterback against a top-flight opponent.
Clark has bristled in the last couple of weeks about legacy questions when, absent new storylines, his performance in the Nittany Lions' losses the last couple of years, twice to Iowa and this year to Ohio State, has been dissected.
As is the case at many high-profile programs, the starting quarterback is sometimes more appreciated after he's gone.
That may be true with Clark, who was clearly an upgrade, as a quarterback and definitely as a leader, over Anthony Morelli, and he heads into the Cap One 21-4 as a starter.
Will the 2010 offensive trigger be as good? Here's a better question: Who will it be?
The bowl preparation period is often a time for untested upstarts to make an early impression.
That may not be the case with Kevin Newsome. Despite being the No. 2 quarterback all year, no one seems willing to even call him a frontrunner for the job.
Two years ago, when he was poised to take over for Morelli, Clark saw an expanded role against Texas A&M, and his running added a decisive spark in the Alamo Bowl.
Unless he's bluffing, which wouldn't be a shock, Joe Paterno has approached the vacancy Clark will leave after this game in opposite fashion.
"Two different tales," he said. "There's a tale of a kid [Clark] that's [in 2007] been around us long enough to know what's going to happen, and another kid [Newsome] that's really just learning. He's a true freshman even though he came in January."
A rugged 220-pounder, Newsome completed 8-of-11 late-game passes and, like Clark early in his career, has shown some strong running potential, averaging 4.8 yards on 21 attempts this season.
He will be in a mix that includes sophomore walk-on Matt McGloin and incoming freshmen Paul Jones, who is enrolling in January, and Robert Bolden.
"We're really not looking to next year," offensive coordinator Galen Hall said Wednesday. "I think Kevin has a great future in front of him. Matt McGloin can throw the football. They both have a good future. I can't say who would be the guy."
Clark couldn't, either.
"I feel the quarterback position is up in the air," he said. "Kevin has done a good job in practice, and Matt McGloin has done a tremendous job. Nobody talks about him."
No matter the choice, the Lions' offense is likely to look much different next year. Gone will be Clark and, if he turns pro early, tailback Evan Royster along with the two starting tackles, including all-Big Ten choice Dennis Landolt, and tight ends Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler.
Those voids, coupled with the painful significance of Pat Devlin's transfer to Delaware, are likely to enhance Clark's graduation.
So in the interest of off-season debate, how about this possibility: Why not move back seldom-used wideout Brett Brackett, recruited as a quarterback and a kid who has now been around the program for four years, as an insurance policy?
The Lions may well need him.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or email@example.com.