UNIVERSITY PARK - With two months to go before training camp, the Penn State Nittany Lions don't have to be in Happy Valley - though it certainly can't hurt to stick around if you're competing for the quarterback job.
Signing a slew of autographs while wearing his blue No. 11 jersey, Matt McGloin certainly looked the part of a starter while he and about 20 other Nittany Lions took part in the Pennsylvania Special Olympics opening ceremonies on the Penn State campus Thursday.
McGloin and receivers including Derek Moye and Justin Brown have been getting together for informal workouts since the end of the spring semester in May. He's building rapport with the offense's top targets while bonding with younger players.
Mirror file photo by Gary M. Baranec
Matt McGloin signs autographs for some fans last year.
"The leadership role is definitely what I'm trying to improve on," said McGloin, a junior this fall. "Being down here so early, I think the guys are realizing I want to be the guy, and hopefully I can have a good year because of that."
But at last check with coach Joe Paterno at the end of spring practice in April, nothing is set at quarterback - a position that McGloin and Rob Bolden shared in 2010.
Results were mixed. As a true freshman, Bolden showed flashes of promise in starting about the first two-thirds of last season. McGloin took over down the stretch after Bolden sustained a concussion, the confident righty seemingly infusing the offense with his swagger.
Penn State ended a 7-6 campaign with a 37-24 Outback Bowl loss to Florida in which McGloin threw five interceptions.
Spring practice ended with Paterno narrowing the field again to McGloin and Bolden, though he didn't name a starter. Bolden and a third quarterback, Kevin Newsome, have both left open the possibility of transferring.
So far, things appear the same. A team spokesman has said there has been no change in the status of either Bolden or Newsome.
"They're all still with the team, as far as I know. ... They're all out there working hard," Brown said. "As far as I know they're coming back."
There are two summer sessions at Penn State, and players often take classes to help cut down on the course load during the season. Some players stay for the first session, but most return for the second, which this year begins June 29.
For now, the small group of players in town gets together a couple times a week for informal workouts that include lifting and running. McGloin and walk-on QB Shane McGregor, a Central Cambria graduate, get to toss passes to tight ends and wideouts.
It's also time for McGloin to develop intangibles.
"A quarterback needs to be a leader on the field. Last year as a sophomore, I didn't really want to step on too many guys' toes," he said. "But now, I'm getting older, and we have a lot of younger guys on the team this year. I think I want to be the person who steps up."
As for Bolden and Newsome, McGloin doesn't have any answers, either.
"You guys know as much as I do," he said. "I hope they come back. They're good players."
Overall, there wasn't much talk about the quarterback race among fans at the Special Olympics appearance. The Nittany Lions faced a throng of autograph-seekers, many of whom tugged on jerseys at nearly every turn, with Moye, Brown and McGloin among those in most demand.
"I've been doing this since I was in high school," Brown said. "It's always great to give back to a kid. ... Doing this with guys who look up to you. It just brings smiles to their faces. It's a good thing."
One fan question did leave Brown speechless - when someone brought up the recent scandal at Ohio State that led to the resignation of Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel and the early departure of star quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Brown indicated players were instructed not to answer questions about the Buckeyes.