Thursday, March 5, 2015

Penn State's QB backup plan comes off the Bench

When Bill O'Brien's first depth chart was released on Monday, many fans likely asked the same question: Who the heck is Steven Bench?

Penn State's QB backup plan comes off the Bench

When Bill O'Brien's first depth chart was released on Monday, many fans likely asked the same question: Who the heck is Steven Bench?

While for the first time in three seasons there is no doubt about who is Penn State's No. 1 quarterback -- as expected, senior Matt McGloin was named the starter -- there are questions about who is No. 2.

Listed as McGloin's backup on the depth chart is Paul Jones OR Steven Bench.

Jones is a familiar name to Nittany Lion fans. The 6’3? 245 pound was a highly-touted recruit out of Sto-Rox High School, and is Penn State's most athletically gifted quarterback. However he was sidelined for the past two seasons because of academic difficulties. He has not played in a game since his high school's district playoff loss to Beaver Falls on Nov. 13, 2009.

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With the departure of Rob Bolden -- who transferred to LSU -- and a better academic record,  Jones seemed poised to challenge McGloin for the starting spot under O'Brien's new offense. Now he's being challenged for the backup spot, by a kid who graduated high school a little over three months ago and only seriously thought about attending Penn State about eight months ago.

So who is he?

Bench is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound three-star recruit from Cairo, Ga. He was all set to attend Rice University until O'Brien and his staff came knocking this winter, just a few weeks before the Feb. 1 national signing day.

Bench was receiving interest from Mississippi State, among other schools, though the Bulldogs never gave him a scholarship offer.

Bench is a lifelong Florida State fan. Both his parents are alumni and he lives just 40 miles away from the campus. He missed just one game at Doak Campbell Stadium in the last six years.

He was committed to Rice, but never gave up on his dream of playing in a big conference. He's a big kid with a lot of upside -- the question now lies in whether it is enough upside to push Jones further down the depth chart.

For his part, Bench seems to be working on adjusting to college life. On Monday moning, Bench posted several tweets on his personal account (@SBench12) about how there were hundreds of students in his classes. The tweets were accomponied by the hashtag, #WelcomeToCollege.

Welcome to Penn State, Bench. Perhaps we'll see you on the field sometime soon.

About this blog
Joe Juliano has been a staff writer for The Inquirer for 20 years, covering college sports, golf and the Penn Relays.

Joining Joe this season will be John Stuetz, an intern for The Inquirer and senior at Penn State majoring in print journalism and marketing. This is John's third season covering the Penn State beat. He previously covered the Nittany Lions for the Daily Collegian, the university's student newspaper. A native of Glenside, Montgomery County, John graduated from Cheltenham High School.

For Joe, this will be his fifth season on the paper's Penn State beat. He previously covered the Nittany Lions for United Press International from 1976 to 1984.

Reach Joe at jjuliano@phillynews.com.

Joe Juliano Inquirer Staff Writer
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