LSU appears to be on the verge of another quarterback to the roster in Penn State transfer Robert Bolden. Bolden will be a junior this fall and would add depth and experience to the position which currently has very little of either.
Bolden was part of the Signing Class of 2010 and was highly thought of coming out of high school. Rivals.com rated Bolden as the #2 dual threat quarterback in the nation and the #136 player overall. He was rated ahead of Zach Lee who signed with LSU but left to play pro baseball. Bolden was the first true freshman to start a season opener at Penn State in 100 years and was a part time starter during his two years there. Those things don't mean a whole lot today, but they do provide an indication of Bolden's raw talent.
Bolden's performance as Penn State's quarterback was just so-so, putting it nicely. But it's common for quarterbacks to struggle early in their career. He showed off a nice arm and the ability to get into a rhythm and put some drives together. However, his presence in the pocket was lacking...severely at times. After suffering a concussion against Minnesota in Week Seven of his freshman season, a game in which Bolden was 11 of 13 for 130 yards and a touchdown, Bolden lost his job to Matt McGloin and never fully gained his job, or his confidence. After not playing at all in Penn State's loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl, Bolden considered a transfer. However, he returned to Penn State and played as a part time starter in 2011, performing pretty poorly. His numbers are as follows:
2010 - 58.0% completion percentage 1,360 yards 5 TDs 7 INTs
2011 - 39.3% completion percentage 685 yards 2 TDs 7 INTs
I know what many of you are thinking.
After finally moving on from the Jordan Jefferson era, LSU seemed to finally have a clear approach at the quarterback position. Zach Mettenberger and Stephen Rivers, along with verbal commitments Hayden Rettig and Anthony Jennings all fit the same mold as a pro style, pass-first quarterback. Yes, there is Jerrard Randall who is a very good runner, but it still seems like a fairly clear path forward, especially with rumors of a position switch in store for Randall (although he has still been at quarterback this summer). But now....here comes this dual threat guy with horrible passing numbers, and Miles is going to use him to keep running the option, etc. WTF are we doing?
I understand the sentiment, but here are a few things that I think:
- LSU lacks depth at quarterback for the 2012 season. We're all excited about Mettenberger and rightfully so, but behind him are a pair of redshirt freshmen. Like most redshirt freshmen, they're probably not ready to excel at the SEC level. That doesn't mean that those guys (Rivers and Randall) are busts...it just means they might not be ready yet. If someone like Bolden is better equipped to take over the offense should Mettenberger suffer an injury, then he's worth taking a chance on.
- Despite his recruiting label as a dual-threat quarterback, Bolden did not show off any running ability while at Penn State. He rushed for a net of 38 yards in 2011 (107 not counting sacks) and a net of -11 yards (80 not counting sacks) in 2010. He has some athletic ability, so it's not out of the question that he learns how to run some option and zone-read stuff, but that's not the kind of player he is now. Bolden looks like he should fit into what LSU plans on running in 2012. Other than a play here or there, I would not expect the offense to change around him or for a certain "package" of plays to be installed, taking snaps away from Mettenberger in the process.
- I don't think Penn State's situation over the last two years was all that conducive to helping a young quarterback find his way. First, I don't think a whole lot of Jay Paterno as a quarterbacks coach, and I doubt that Bolden's talents were being maximized. I also don't believe Penn State was overflowing with play makers on offense to help him out. Bolden won't have those problems at LSU and could find some more success because of it.
- What if Mettenberger leaves for the NFL after 2012? You'll have another, more experienced option to compete for the starting job with Bolden on board. If Rivers is better, he'll win the job and no harm is done by adding Bolden.
- I suspect that Bolden will enter fall camp behind Rivers on the depth chart. He'll have to prove he deserves the #2 spot, and it will not be handed to him. However, I also suspect that many fans don't trust Les Miles to make the correct judgement and that he will lean towards the guy with some running ability, whether it's the correct decision or not.
- Bolden does not cost LSU a scholarship this season due to the unique transfer rules surrounding the current Penn State players. At least, that's what we think. This article implies that might not be the case since Bolden intended to transfer prior to Penn State's penalties being announced. If LSU has to count Bolden in their regular roster of 85 scholarships, then I think this conversation is over, and I don't see it happening. LSU simply doesn't have the room to add another scholarship player this fall.
- Both Hayden Rettig and Anthony Jennings are reportedly on board with LSU taking Bolden. If I thought that Bolden's addition would negatively affect either guy, then I'd be staunchly opposed to it. But that doesn't appear to be the case here. Bolden will likely be a senior when Rettig/Jennings are true freshmen, so the odds of Bolden impacting their careers are slim.
- If Bolden does not beat out Rivers, then we're right back where we started.
At the end of the day, Les Miles knows he has a championship caliber football team, but he recognizes one weakness as depth at the quarterback position. If Bolden can potentially help in that area, then it's tough to see this as anything but a positive for LSU. While it's true that neither Bolden or Rivers will likely lead LSU to a championship in 2012, perhaps they can assist. What if Mettenberger gets "nicked" for a few games, and the backup just needs to hold down the fort for a few weeks until he returns? Doesn't Les Miles owe it to his team to provide them with the best possible chance to win in that situation? What if Mett breaks a finger on a player's helmet and has to miss a a few games? What if he suffers a leg injury and misses a week? It's not that uncommon.
Bolden did not light the world on fire at Penn State. But he has a lot of talent. And he has major college football experience. I think it's possible that he could help us this year, and I like the addition....if it does indeed happen. Now, if Bolden starts coming in for 8-10 plays to run the option, or if he gets second team reps over Rivers, even if he looks terrible, then I reserve the right to change my mind.