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4 reasons why McGloin enjoying stellar season

November 21, 2012 - Cory Giger
People around the country have been asking all season why Matt McGloin has reached a record-setting level this year after looking mediocre at best the past three.

It's a simple answer, albeit in multiple parts.

1. Bill O'Brien's offense is perfect for his skill set. McGloin has a good football IQ, allowing him to understand the complex offense, read defenses at the line of scrimmage and get into the right play. He's also adept at throwing the short-yardage passes required by the scheme.

2. O'Brien named McGloin the starter early. No ridiculous quarterback competition when, like last year, there really was no competition between McGloin and Rob Bolden. That meant no more having to constantly look over his shoulder, allowing McGloin to play his game and not try to force things in an attempt to impress the coaches and stay ahead in a competition.

3. O'Brien himself. He worked with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Tom Brady, so it's no surprise he's been able to help McGloin reach another level.

4. This is the component that gets overlooked the most. It's quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher, who in one season at Penn State has proven to be -- to put it as nicely as possible -- an enormous upgrade over his predecessor, Jay Paterno.

Fisher understands how to develop a quarterback. He knows how to improve mechanics, footwork, arm slot, pocket presence and all the other little nuances that stretch beyond merely sending a quarterback out there to rely on his natural physical skills.

Fisher has done a terrific job in all those areas with McGloin, who's enjoying one of the best and most surprising seasons in Penn State offensive history.

All throws start with the quarterback's feet, Fisher said, and getting in proper position in the pocket.

"You always try to work on their footwork first and just be consistent with their delivery and knowing what to do with the ball," Fisher said of his work with McGloin's mechanics. "That has as much to do with it as anything -- if you know what you're doing with the football in your hands, you can get yourself in position to make good throws."

There are many examples of that to point at this season, but one sticks out the most. It was the game at Iowa, and McGloin made one of the most impressive throws of his career, from both a physical and mechanics standpoint.

At the Hawkeyes' 31, McGloin escaped pressure in the pocket, rolled out to his right and fired a bullet over the middle to tight end Jesse James at the 3 (resulting in a TD). Many quarterbacks in that situation will throw on the run, often a mistake because he can't get enough on the ball to throw in traffic, but McGloin stopped, set his feet, squared his shoulders and threw a beautiful ball.

McGloin has let on several times this season how much better the coaching is than years past, including this gem.

"Coach O'Brien and Coach Fisher are doing a tremendous job with the quarterbacks," he said in late August. "They're just teaching us the right way how to play the game of football and the right way how to play quarterback.

"We've never had anything like that before here, so we're really happy with the progress that we've made, and hopefully we're able to show everybody how far we've come."

McGloin clearly has done that this year, setting numerous PSU passing records, including yards in a season (3,071) and career TDs (45).

O'Brien recalled Saturday a specific instance when he realized McGloin was really getting it in the new offense. The quarterback was asked to draw up a play during a meeting in the spring and nailed it from every aspect.

Fisher also remembers that situation.

"That certainly was a nice thing to see," Fisher said. "Matt got up and did a great job, obviously, not only designing the play that we talked about but taking everybody through it."

For Fisher, the final week of spring drills is when he realized McGloin has what it takes to succeed in the offense.

It was an indoor practice on a Monday at Holuba Hall when, in Fisher's eyes, McGloin began to separate himself from the other quarterbacks.

"You just kind of sensed the ball was coming out fast, his mind was starting to slow down, he was processing the information, he was getting the verbiage correct, he was just doing a lot of good things," Fisher said. "It wasn't perfect, but you could see that he was making strides and he was the guy that was starting to get it." Fisher went on to say the quarterback's confidence "took off that day," then it got another boost when O'Brien named him the starter on June 1.

"When he was named the starter, obviously I think his confidence grew because Coach O'Brien had put a lot of trust in him," Fisher said.

While at Vanderbilt, Fisher worked with current Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. He also recruited Pennsylvania for the Commodores, and he remembers taking a look at McGloin, who played at West Scranton.

"He did a lot of good things on tape. ... He threw a good ball, and he made a lot of plays for their high school team," Fisher said.

McGloin, however, was barely recruited at all by Division I programs, didn't get any stars from recruiting services and eventually walked on at Penn State. Fisher was asked if he's surprised no one gave McGloin much of a shot.

"To a degree," he said. "I certainly thought he would end up with something, whether it be at the I-A level or certainly a lot of good I-AA programs in the East."

Five years later, a lot of college programs would love to have McGloin as their quarterback, and he enters his final game with the Nittany Lions having exceeded every expectation imaginable.

Bill O'Brien will get most of the credit for that, but no one should overlook Charlie Fisher's influence.

Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.

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