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Ratings don't matter: Jones becomes third 4-star QB recruit to leave PSU in 14 months, all beaten out by no-star recruit McGloin
September 26, 2012 - Cory Giger
Just 14 months ago, there were three four-star quarterbacks on Penn State's roster, and now they're all gone.
Kevin Newsome was the first to go, leaving the program in early August of 2011. He transferred to Temple and isn't even listed on the Owls' depth chart.
Next it was Rob Bolden, who transferred to LSU two months ago and is third on the Tigers' depth chart.
Paul Jones became the latest once-promising quarterback prospect to bolt, leaving the team Wednesday for what coach Bill O'Brien called "personal reasons."
"I was shocked that I heard that, that he wasn't going to be around anymore," starting quarterback Matt McGloin said Wednesday after reports surfaced about Jones' departure.
O'Brien confirmed the news at practice, and it probably didn't come as a surprise to those who have closely followed Jones' career at Penn State.
Jones, a redshirt sophomore, never played a down at quarterback in a game for the Nittany Lions. His only playing time occurred this season as a tight end, after he was beaten out for the backup quarterback job by true freshman Steven Bench.
"Just want to say thank you to everyone that has reached out to me offering their support. I really appreciate it," Jones tweeted early Wednesday evening.
He also still wants to play quarterback, so that figures to the main part of his decision about where to transfer.
"My dream is playing quarterback. And I'm going to chase it," Jones tweeted.
Jones graduated early from Sto-Rox High School so he could enroll early at PSU. He arrived on campus in January of 2010, threw two touchdowns in the Blue-White Game that year -- both to Shawney Kersey, who left the team two weeks ago -- and showed fans the athletic skills and big arm that made him a four-star recruit by Rivals.
But just like with Newsome and Bolden, recruiting stars never translated to on-field success for Jones at PSU. And amazingly enough, all of them were beaten out by McGloin, who did not receive a single star in the recruiting process and came to Penn State as a walk-on.
Jones had a tough time figuring things out on and off the field during his three years in the program.
Despite having a head start because he enrolled early, he was beaten out by Bolden in 2010 and wound up redshirting that season. Jones then missed the 2011 season because of academic issues.
He had a chance to start over with a clean slate this year under new head coach O'Brien and a new system, but Jones struggled to pick up the offense. O'Brien said before the season that he would find a way to get Jones some playing time at quarterback, but that quickly changed as Jones dropped behind Bench on the depth chart.
At 6-foot-3 and 258 pounds, O'Brien figured Jones could help as a flex tight end. Jones reportedly considered quitting the team when that decision was made before the Virginia game in week two, only to change his mind.
Jones had one catch for 7 yards against Navy and carried one time for minus-7 yards against Temple.
It was reported Wednesday by statecollege.com that the coaches had removed an offensive package that was designed to utilize Jones in some way. If true, that might have been the final straw for Jones.
"It's really upsetting seeing he made that decision," said McGloin, who noted he's good friends with Jones.
A reporter for The Daily Collegian saw Jones on campus Wednesday and asked if he was still on the team.
"I don't know," Jones responded.
"Whether he comes back or leaves, I wish him the best of luck," McGloin said on a teleconference during the afternoon.
O'Brien later confirmed Jones' departure to reporters at practice.
Central Cambria product Shane McGregor is now the Lions' third-string quarterback.
McGloin and McGregor both graduate after this season, leaving Bench and junior walk-on Garrett Venutto as the only quarterbacks returning next year.
The Lions have a strong verbal commitment from standout high school quarterback Christian Hackenberg, and if he does come to PSU, he would compete for the starting job with Bench next season.