Dr. Saturday - NCAAF

If you were handicapping Penn State's quarterback derby at the start of spring practice, you would have clearly begun with sophomore Kevin Newsome, the once-hyped heir apparent who won the top backup job last year as a true freshman and seemed to have a clear path to becoming a three-year starter. If Newsome somehow failed to assume his destiny, next in line was third-year sophomore Matt McGloin, a former walk-on whose name surprisingly (or perhaps disturbingly) wouldn't go away in practice reports. You might have even taken a flier on true freshman Paul Jones, a big, well-regarded signee who turned heads when Newsome and McGloin were struggling through the spring.

But when the Nittany Lions line up Saturday against Youngstown State, the first option under center is going to be the last man in line a month ago, true freshman Robert Bolden, who's so new to campus his official bio page on Penn State's website doesn't even have a picture yet. As of this afternoon, though, he's apparently beaten them all out in a little under a month:

Penn State coach Joe Paterno has named true-freshman Robert Bolden (Orchard Lake, Mich.) as the Nittany Lions' game one starter Saturday when Penn State takes on Youngstown State in a 12:00 p.m. kickoff at Beaver Stadium. Paterno expects multiple quarterbacks to see action in the game that will air live on the Big Ten Network.

"Based on what we have seen to this point, Bolden has a slight edge right now, but we are confident all three quarterbacks are ready to go and hope to give them an opportunity to play until we settle on the one that gives us the best chance to win," Paterno said.

Paterno said his three young quarterbacks: Bolden, sophomore Matt McGloin (Scranton, Pa.) and sophomore Kevin Newsome (Portsmouth, Va.), would be listed 1A, 1B and 1C on the depth chart at this point and all still have the opportunity to earn the starting nod on a regular basis.

Bolden comes with exceptional size at 6-foot-4, 208 pounds, and his fair share of recruiting hype as Rivals' No. 2 "all-purpose" quarterback in the 2010 class. The buzz from PSU practices has been very quietly breaking in his favor for a couple weeks. But you have to go all the way back to 1992 to find the last true freshman quarterback to start a game for Penn State, Wally Richardson, and all the way back to never to find a rookie who started a season opener: Bolden will be the first Nittany Lion QB to begin his first game with the first string since the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in Paterno's kitchen.

That's either a) A really good sign for Bolden's potential, or b) A really, really bad sign for the position in general. Even before today's announcement, the Lions seemed likely to play McGloin, Newsome and Bolden against the Penguins, which still seems like more of an indictment of Newsome's inability to seize a job that was his for the taking than the emergence of a pair of scrappy underdogs. If all three are set to play, odds are none of them are really ready to play; if they're determined to stick with Bolden through the growing pains, any remaining hopes of a run at the Big Ten title are basically deferred to 2011. Alabama is beginning to drool all over itself either way.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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