Penn State, for so many years seemingly unable to find blue-chip quarterback recruits to accept its scholarship offers, now might be on the verge of having another problem: finding a way to keep all the elite signal-callers on its roster happy.
The Nittany Lions continued to quickly fill their 2010 recruiting class by landing their third consensus top-10 QB in eight months at a Friday morning press conference when 6-foot-4, 205-pound Robert Bolden of St. Mary's High School in the Detroit suburb of Orchard Lake announced his plans to sign with Penn State.
Bolden, the 12th player to commit to a class expected to eventually number around 18, joins freshman Kevin Newsome and Sto-Rox rising senior Paul Jones as highly-rated prep quarterbacks that will by vying to take over for all-Big Ten Daryll Clark under center for the Lions next fall. Newsome enrolled in January, and Jones is expected to enroll in January of 2010.
The newest Nittany Lion was unfazed by the depth chart.
"Off the field, we'll talk,'' said Bolden, who had a chance to work with and against Jones at Penn State's senior camp a couple of weeks ago. "On the field, we'll compete. It comes down to whoever is the better man winning, basically.''
Bolden's statistics aren't overly eye-catching - he completed 63.7 percent of his throws for 951 yards and seven touchdowns while running for 260 yards and three scores in 2008 as the Eaglets, decimated by injuries, dropped four games by seven points or fewer to finish 4-5. As a sophomore, Bolden threw for 900 yards and seven TDs and rushed for seven touchdowns in quarterbacking St. Mary's to the state championship game in Michigan's third-largest classification, where his team lost in five overtimes.
However, St. Mary's plays a schedule filled with larger schools, and Bolden's list of close to 30 scholarship offers came from a number of big-time programs. Louisville, Oregon, Northwestern and Vanderbilt comprised the rest of his final five, and Michigan State was considered Penn State's stiffest competition until landing another quarterback recently.
Other colleges that offered included Wisconsin, West Virginia, Nebraska, Purdue, Colorado, Missouri, Virginia Tech, Iowa and Virginia.
Bolden, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds and is a sprinter/hurdler on the St. Mary's track team, is rated the No. 8 senior quarterback in the country by Scout.com and the No. 6 dual-threat QB prospect in the nation by Rivals.com.
"I think [Penn State] is getting a kid with a big, strong arm, and he's also pretty fast. He's pretty strong and accurate,'' St. Mary's coach George Porritt said. "He's a quality kid. His dad [Robert Sr.] works hard with him. I think Penn State will be very happy.''
The younger Bolden - who often goes by Rob - said he was looking for academics first and an offense that he felt suited him next when he was evaluating colleges. A fan of current Steeler backup Dennis Dixon and Penn State great Michael Robinson, he said there were a lot of similarities with Penn State's and St. Mary's offensive systems.
"I went up there two times, and both times I really enjoyed myself. I was very comfortable,'' said Bolden, who was recruited by Ron Vanderlinden and Jay Paterno and hosted by Michigan native Deon'tae Pannell during his visits. "They came in about the middle of my recruiting, but they set themselves apart.''
Although Bolden's speed is exceptional, he considers himself a passer first. Scout.com rates his mechanics, release and touch among his strongest attributes.
"I'm very comfortable throwing the ball. Some guys look to run first and pass second. I move around and try to wait until the last moment to throw the ball,'' Bolden said.
Bolden will not be enrolling until next summer because his high school doesn't allow early graduation. He said, though, that he won't continue to look at other colleges.
"I'm 100 percent committed,'' Bolden said. "That's why I waited to come out with my decision. I didn't want to decommit later on.''
Bolden's commitment leaves the Lions with approximately a half-dozen scholarships available for this year's recruiting class, and that number could quickly be dwindling. Several recruits with whom Penn State is in a strong position are visiting this weekend for Lift for Life and Arts Fest, including Lancaster defensive end/linebacker Dakota Royer and Connecticut linebacker Khairi Fortt. Fortt, considered a heavy Penn State lean, made the trip with friend and already-committed running back Silas Redd.
Philadelphia's Sharrif Floyd, one of the top five defensive tackle prospects in the country, is also considering a trip to University Park later this weekend, one of his coaches told the Mirror on Friday.
FACTBOX: The Bolden file
Name: Robert Bolden
High school: Orchard Lake, Mich., St. Mary's
Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 205
Notable: Rated No. 8 quarterback in country by Scout.com and No. 6 dual-threat quarterback in country by Rivals.com. Had more than 25 Division I college scholarship offers. Will be a three-year starter for Eaglets, having led them to state finals as a sophomore. Second QB to commit to Nittany Lions for 2010.
FACTBOX: Who's left?
With Rob Bolden's commitment Friday, Penn State is believed to only have a half-dozen more scholarships available in this recruiting class but is still involved with some heavy hitters. Here are some names to watch the rest of the way:
Sharrif Floyd, DT, Philadelphia: Ranked in the top three at his position by both recruiting services; Boston College generally considered PSU's biggest competition.
Khairi Fortt, LB, Stamford, Conn.: Rivals.com's second-rated outside linebacker is close friends with Penn State running back commit Silas Redd.
Kevin Haplea, TE, Annandale, N.J.: One of Scout.com's top 10 at his position is expecting to announce from PSU, Pitt, North Carolina and Florida State later this month.
Alex Kenney, WR, State College: The Little Lion speedster says he hasn't committed to the Lions yet, although other recruits have said his has twice.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, Duncan, S.C.: Lions are considered a long shot to land nation's top-rated running back, but he's scheduled to visit Penn State the last weekend of July.
Dakota Royer, DE/LB, Lancaster: A productive edge pass rusher in the mold of former Lion Aaron Maybin, he is expected to announce a PSU commitment in July.
Others to watch: California WR Kenny Stills, Maryland FB/RB Zach Zwinak, Michigan DE C.J. Olaniyan, California LB Tony Jefferson