UNIVERSITY PARK - It wasn't the first time it's happened, but Matt McGloin caused a bit of stir Friday with a peculiar choice of words.
"I don't think we're too far apart, Tom Brady and myself," Penn State's quarterback told the Philadelphia Daily News.
Virtually no one took the comparison with one of the best quarterbacks of all time seriously, and McGloin felt compelled to explain his brazen comments on Twitter.
Mirror file photo by Patrick?Waksmunski
Matt McGloin was named Penn State’s starting quarterback in early June.
"That quote was clearly a joke. I guess you can't have fun doing interviews," McGloin tweeted Friday.
McGloin, as all Penn State fans know by now, is the ultimate wild-card quarterback.
He's cocky. He talks a good game. He likes to gamble on throws. He can look great at times and overmatched from a talent standpoint at others.
AP shuts out PSU
The Nittany Lions received no votes in The Associated Press preseason Top 25, released Sunday. USC, with former PSU running back Silas Redd, is ranked No. 1. See Page C9 for more on the Top 25.
Regardless of all that, the bottom line is McGloin will be a starter for portions of three seasons with the Nittany Lions, which is remarkable, really, given that he came to PSU as a walk-on.
Because of that last part, McGloin has always and probably will always have a big chip on his shoulder. He can't stand it when someone refers to him as a former walk-on, which is brought up occasionally, followed by an inevitable tone of frustration in McGloin's voice.
The senior gunslinger from West Scranton is not Tom Brady and almost certainly never will be. But he is Bill O'Brien's choice as the best quarterback to lead the Lions' potentially exciting new offense, one in which McGloin will have much more control than he's ever had before.
"In an offense like this, it's crucial to know where you need to go with the football and you need to know what to do with it," McGloin said. "What is going to make, hopefully, our offense so successful is I'm just going to be managing the game, hopefully, and get us in the right plays and move the chains."
Brady moves the New England Patriots' offense with surgeon-like precision, completing 64 percent of his passes for his career. McGloin completed 54.1 last season 54.9 two years ago, plus his decision-making was highly questionable at times, and he will have to make major strides in those two areas in PSU's new scheme.
To succeed in O'Brien's offense, McGloin also will have to do these three things well:
n Read the defense when he walks up to the line of scrimmage - It's imperative for him to quickly figure out the formation, something McGloin says he does well.
"You've got to understand what front they're in, what the linebacker's doing and what the coverage is," McGloin said.
n Call the correct play once he's figured out what the defense is doing - The Lions will break the huddle with two or three play possibilities, and McGloin will audible into the best play at the line of scrimmage.
"He's got to process information in a hurry, and he's got to be right," PSU quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher said. "If he puts us in the wrong play, then we defeated the purpose [of the audible]. But he has a good understanding of structure and defenses and just doing it more. It's just repetition."
n When he drops back to pass, he must make the right read and deliver the ball on target - This is Quarterbacking 101, but it's especially important because of McGloin's tendency to take risks and because the Patriots-style offense is predicated on taking what the defense gives you underneath instead of trying to force the ball downfield.
"This is definitely a very difficult offense, but at the same time, we're way ahead of where we were [in the spring]," McGloin said.
McGloin didn't start until the final five weeks of the regular season last year, as the coaching staff continued to give Rob Bolden opportunity after opportunity to prove himself. Bolden never did that and is now at LSU, while McGloin put up decent but unspectacular numbers for the season (1,571 yards with eight TDs and five interceptions).
McGloin did not play in the TicketCity Bowl because he was recovering from a concussion suffered in a post-practice fight with receiver Curtis Drake. Bolden started the bowl game, and the Lions lost to Houston, 30-14, to finish 9-4.
Unlike the past two years, there was no quarterback competition this summer and preseason. O'Brien named McGloin the starter and Paul Jones the backup in early June, a decision that those who know McGloin well have said helped his confidence.
"I feel good about Matt," O'Brien said on media day. "He's definitely made a ton of progress. This is a guy that the more you're around him, the more you enjoy coaching him."
The coach also said more recently that McGloin has "really got a good feel for how we operate" on offense.
Fisher said McGloin is "light years" ahead of where he was in the spring with regards to running the audible-heavy offense.
"From the first day we went out there until these last couple days, you can just see a confidence level," Fisher said. "He's relaxed, he's seeing things. And Matt's a smart kid. He understands football. He's been around, he's played a lot of snaps here, he has a good, natural savvy for the game."
The success of the passing game will not depend entirely on what McGloin does. He can play the best football of his career, but he will need his talented yet inexperienced receivers to prove they can get open, run good routes and catch the ball.
If they can, McGloin has proven during his career that he can be accurate on short, underneath throws, and those likely will make up a big portion of the Lions' offense.
If the receivers struggle getting separation and drop a lot of passes, there's little McGloin will be able to do to move the chains.
"We've got some good playmakers. I like our guys," Fisher said of the receivers. "We've got some really good young receivers, and it's their time to step up. It's their opportunity, and we're moving forward. ... Opportunity brings about success, so we have guys that will step up. I'm not worried about that."
O'Brien has said Jones will play this season, so the coaches will have to find the right situations for the backup quarterback. Given the way the offense operates, with the quarterback having so much responsibility at the line of scrimmage, it could be dicey shuffling between McGloin and Jones too often.
Jones has never taken a snap in a college game, so it will take him some time to learn how to read defenses and get the offense into the right play.
Fisher said when and how much Jones will play isn't known yet.
"Part of it may be feel," Fisher said. "As we worked through spring and worked through camp, it's just determining what Paul is most comfortable with. We know this: Paul's a playmaker, and when he comes on the field, there's an 'it' factor, a positive energy. He finds a way to make plays."