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Looking forward: Quarterbacks

With the 2012 season in the books, Lions247 will take a look at each of Penn State's position groupings, breaking down both how the Nittany Lions fared at that position this past season and what the future holds. After some interesting developments at the position last week, we wrap up the series today with a look at the quarterbacks.

Bench will enter 2013 with the most experience out of a young group of quarterbacks.

2012 roundup: Matt McGloin escaped what must have been a frustrating two-year merry-go-round rotation and was tabbed the definitive starter shortly after the completion of spring drills. He didn't let go of the job. Bill O'Brien and Charlie Fisher helped turn a career 54 percent passer into one of the nation's most effective quarterbacks. McGloin completed 61 percent of his passes, threw for more than 272 yards per game and tossed two more touchdown passes (24) than he had thrown in his previous two seasons combined. More importantly, he threw just five picks (two of those, however, were game-changers in two losses) and cut down his habit of forcing the ball into coverage. McGloin wasn't sharp in every game but he was productive in most, and played arguably the biggest role among the players in helping O'Brien implement the new offense. True freshman Steven Bench, who had ascended to the top backup spot even before Paul Jones decided to leave the team, played in just two contests and threw a grand total of eight passes.

Departures: McGloin, Shane McGregor, Garrett Venuto

McGloin left Penn State with a bushel of school passing records, including season passing yardage and career touchdowns, as well as the Burlsworth Trophy for the nation's top walk(run)-on. McGregor, one of the squad's top students, helped the scout team get the defense ready each week.

Returnees: Bench

Newcomers: Tyler Ferguson, Austin Whipple, Christian Hackenberg

Ferguson, who threw for 2,650 yards and 26 touchdowns and completed 60 percent of his passes during his freshman season at the College of the Sequoias, and Whipple, a walk-on who comes to the Nittany Lions from the Salisbury School, will enroll in January. Hackenberg, a five-star prospect, is set to sign his letter of intent in February.

Skinny: If the quarterback position isn't the top storyline during the offseason at Penn State, it's usually the second or third story, and the coming year should be no exception. The sooner O'Brien finds a quarterback he's comfortable with among a group that is a lot bigger than it was a few weeks ago, the more time he'll have to craft that offense around that player's specific skills. Bench has the advantage of having a year of studying the playbook and working with the coaches. Ferguson has a full season of college experience (albeit junior-college experience) under his belt. The staff would probably love to be able to redshirt Hackenberg but if the other guys don't pan out or are injured or the Virginian simply lights it up during the preseason, it wouldn't be unheard of for him to be in the mix in 2013. Whichever player winds up taking over for McGloin will have an experienced offensive line, a solid running game and a bevy of talented receivers to work with. But first he'll have to prove to O'Brien he has a thorough knowledge of the offense and good decision-making skills, which were what put McGloin into the driver's seat this past season.

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