UNIVERSITY PARK (AP) - June 1 was a pretty significant day in the life of Matt McGloin.
That was the day that new Penn State coach Bill O'Brien decided that McGloin, a former walk-on, was to be the next starting quarterback for the Nittany Lions and was going to help usher in this new era of football here under center - and under the spotlight.
Indeed, O'Brien, a former offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, wanted just one player to run his NFL-type strategy, and McGloin grasped the playbook faster and with more success than Paul Jones and Rob Bolden.
So, McGloin grabbed the title, and will soon lead the Nittany Lions into preseason camp with a new offense and a new outlook.
"It was a load off my mind. You don't have to worry about looking over your shoulder every two seconds, seeing where you stand," McGloin said. "Last year, it was 'If I don't practice well Tuesday or Wednesday, I didn't know if I was going to play on Saturday.' ... Now that I'm the guy, I know I have to work harder than ever to maintain that position and to prove everybody wrong."
Still under the cloud of scrutiny and turmoil associated with the abuse scandal, Penn State opens the season on Sept. 1 vs. Ohio, and on that day at Beaver Stadium, McGloin will officially begin his quest in front of the nation. The challenge for the senior is to help change an offense that ranked 10th in the conference last season (342.4 yards per game). He also needs to show that O'Brien made the right call.
As for now, though, it's so far, so good ... especially in the eyes of his teammates.
The response from the players, in fact, has been "tremendous" McGloin said. The quarterback took on the role of organizing 7-on-7 drills this summer, and said he's working around everyone's class schedules so he can put in extra time throwing to his wide receivers at night.
McGloin completed just 54 percent of his passes last season, and missed the TicketCity Bowl vs. Houston - a 30-14 loss - after sustaining a concussion in a locker-room scuffle with a teammate. The other player involved in the scuffle, Curtis Drake, was dismissed from the team this summer.
In O'Brien's offense, the tight ends are expected to be more involved and running back Silas Redd will have the opportunity to catch more balls out of the backfield. McGloin's improved accuracy caught O'Brien's eye this spring when the quarterback said he limited his turnovers over and completed 70 percent of his passes. And that percentage might just stick during the season, as those safety-option dump-offs to Redd could increase - especially early on as the offense continues to mesh.
"In terms of (reading) coverages, defensive fronts, things like that, I'm light years ahead of where I was. It's scary," McGloin said. "I've really made strides in recognizing defenses and blitzes and getting in and out of plays and changing protections."
His teammates are relieved to have just one quarterback going through first-team drills. Nine out of the 12 first-team repetitions will go to McGloin throughout preseason camp, a reassuring fact for both McGloin and Redd.
"We know we have a sense of the identity of the offense now, and who is going to be leading us," said Redd, who anticipates 20-plus carries per game. "He knows that the offense has more than enough ability."
The offensive transition has gone "a lot smoother" this summer than it did in the spring, Redd added. He said players now understand where they need to be, McGloin knows what audibles to call, and the offense can continue adding new wrinkles along the way, as a result.
Just how much trickery - a traditional staple in the New England offense - can fans expect to see from Penn State this season?
"You guys," Redd said with a chuckle, "are just going to have to wait and see."
One thing is for sure. O'Brien made it clear from the day he tagged McGloin as the starter that anything can change as he progresses through the depth chart. Jones and Bolden are slated to back up McGloin and dual-threat freshman quarterback Steven Bench arrived on campus in June. McGloin knows he must produce ... or else.
McGloin said he watched Bench throw a few times and was pleased with the progress the newcomer is making. However, McGloin is champing at the bit for camp to start, so he can prove that he is the best option under center for the Nittany Lions.
The depth at quarterback is great and all for the future of this embattled program. But he still wants to be No. 1.
"This is the most excited I've been for a camp so far," McGloin said. "Don't get me wrong. I definitely love to compete and love the challenge. But you're the No. 1 guy. ... What I'm going to focus on now, in camp, is earning their respect and trying to become the best leader I can be."
He's off to a good start.