Rob Bolden’s stay in the Bayou is apparently over. The Times-Picayune/NOLA.com, along with several other LSU sources, reported today that the one-time blue chip QB will transfer.
Penn State fans had been scratching their heads at how the former Lions quarterback ended up at SEC powerhouse LSU after the NCAA sanctions hit Happy Valley in 2012. Especially with the memories of a miserable showing at the TicketCity Bowl a few months earlier still fresh on their minds.
In truth, it was something of a freeroll for Les Miles and the Tigers. The NCAA allowed Penn State players to transfer without penalty because of the sanctions and, as to not restrict those players’ options, allowed teams to exceed the 85-scholarship limit to add a Nittany refugee.
Bolden, the first true freshman to start a season at quarterback for Penn State in exactly 100 years, ended up as a benchwarmer in Baton Rouge. He redshirted in 2012, and didn’t so much as appear on the QB depth chart in 2013.
That looked to change in his final season of eligibility as two other LSU quarterbacks, including Philip Rivers’ kid brother, left the program.
Apparently not. Bolden, who at one point was working out with the receivers during spring ball, is leaving. This being his final year to play, he has two options — drop down a level to FCS. Or he could use the grad program loophole and transfer to another FBS program — provided it offers a graduate program not offered at LSU.
It’s hard to even fathom right now given how much has happened this last few years, but I swear this guy at one point was a strong prospect. So much so that he was invited to the prestigious Elite 11 camp for QBs.
And in a skills camp for the most promising high school quarterbacks in the country, Bolden won awards for “best arm” and “quickest release.” He finished fifth in camp MVP voting.
His downfall was just an utter lack of pocket awareness. It’s funny to think back to that much-hyped debut in 2010. As an observer, you’re going to cut the 18-year-old some slack playing in front of 100,000-plus people.
What I (and many other reporters) initially complemented the kid for was patience and poise. Remember that his second game of his career was in Tuscaloosa against Nick Saban and the defending national champs.
We nodded in approval as the Tide’s ferocious pass rush didn’t seem to faze the kid, who delivered passes despite being a second away from having his mouth guard ejected into the third row at Bryant-Denny.
Turns out, it wasn’t necessarily fearlessness or poise. As the next two seasons dragged, it seemed more and more that Bolden just struggled to pick up on the rush or even make defenders miss. It carried over to when he ran with the ball.
His sharp decline was triggered by that very issue. Easy to forget that Bolden had put together what remains his most impressive half of college football early on against Minnesota that October as a freshman.
Then came the concussion.
Scrambling to his right, Bolden made a poor decision. With a teammate trying to clear the way in front of him, instead of cutting inside of the block and into open space, Bolden tried to take the long way around to the outside — right to the spot where the defender was being herded.
Bolden was corraled and held up long enough for a few Gophers to be able to pile on, driving him into the turf, with his head smacking hard on the ground.
And so, three years later, Matt McGloin was the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders.
We’ll keep an eye on if and when Bolden starts under center this fall.
Another record-breaking fundraiser
Fewer than 50 players were on campus to participate. There wasn’t really an audience, either.
Penn State’s first Lift For Life back in 2003 brought in $10,438 by the end of the day. And it was a fine beginning for a start-up charity. One that was held in Penn State’s regular weight room in the Lasch Building.
That it would graduate to Holuba Hall the next year so fans could attend was a plus. Eventually it would move outdoor’s to Penn State’s lacrosse field, with plenty of seating.
What began as a way for Scott Shirley to support his father, who was afflicted with kidney cancer, at Penn State is now part of a larger nationwide philanthropy called “Uplifting Athletes” that has chapters on a few dozen campuses.
Shirley and then-teammates Damone Jones and Dave Costlow were the original officers at Penn State. That torch passed through many hands, most notably those of Scranton native Eric Shrive.
Shrive, who also had a family member afflicted, raised the bar to new heights, personally raising more than six figures for the Kidney Cancer Association in his time in Happy Valley.
That brings us to this past weekend. The 12th annual Lift For Life topped $140,000 for the year — yet another event record — helped along by new president Ben Kline and his fellow officers.
The 12-year total for the event is now just a shade under $1 million. Penn State listed it at $992,565 on Monday afternoon — a figure less than that first-year total.
Not too shabby.
A new numbers game?
So did a true freshman let the cat out of the bag on Monday? No one’s confirming anything just yet.
A buzz crackled online through Penn State’s world-wide-webbers after running back Nick Scott posted an up-close photo of a Nittany Lions helmet on his Instagram account.
And it happened to have his number — 24 — on the side of it.
Outside of a one-game cameo to honor injured linebacker Michael Mauti in 2012 season finale, Penn State’s helmets haven’t had numbers on the side since the early 70s.
Not surprisingly, Penn State is keeping things under wraps. James Franklin has smartly dodged questions about changes to the uniforms — he says he gets asked about it from fans more than anything else. He’ll surely be asked again in two weeks out in Chicago for Big Ten media days, but don’t expect an answer until August at the earliest.
Penn State’s latest uniform “change” was a minor one. A small Nittany Lion logo was placed at the tip of the collar, but if you’re watching a game on TV, you might not even notice it.