There were three quarterbacks on equal footing at the start of the spring. That doesn't seem to be the case at the end of the spring, though Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien isn't letting on who stands where.
Bill O'Brien is closer to picking a starting quarterback than he was at the start of the spring.
"I have a pretty good idea about the quarterback situation," he said Wednesday evening. "I've talked to them. I'm going to talk to the staff. It's really between me, the staff and the team."
After going through 15 spring practices and breaking down those practices on film, O'Brien has a better idea of his offensive personnel. The next step is tailoring his complex playbook to the specific talents of those players. And though the quarterback plays the most important role in the offense, there are other factors that will determine exactly what kind of looks Penn State will throw at opposing defenses this fall.
"You mold the offense around the different skill sets you have," O'Brien said. "At that position (quarterback), definitely. And at the receiver position, the tight end position and the running back position."
O'Brien said the running back position is a strength, saying Bill Belton and Derek Day had good springs behind Silas Redd (he did not mention Curtis Dukes, who was held out of spring ball for academic reasons) and likes the dimension Zach Zwinak brings to the lineup. He expects to have a solid wide receiving rotation of four to six players and he likes the mix of veterans and younger players at tight end; he said people are forgetting about redshirt freshman Kyle Carter.
"This guy had a really good spring," he said. "We've got to find a role for this guy on the team."
The staff will use part of the summer to decide which parts of the playbook they're going to focus on in August.
"We've got to really hone down what we want to do in June at our staff meetings so that we have a great plan for training camp," O'Brien said. "We're not going to try to do everything. We threw everything at them in the spring, so we want to make sure what our prime objectives are with our offense, where we're going to put guys, and then be able to accomplish those objectives in training camp."
Training camp will also be about evaluating another group of players -- the freshman class. O'Brien was asked what positions might need immediate contributions from the freshmen.
"The farther away from the ball you play as a younger player, the easier it is to play earlier," he said. "Because sometimes it's more about athletic ability than it is about physical strength."
Offensive linemen, for example, are less likely to see early time than defensive backs. And if a player shows the coaches he is ready to play in his first year in the program, O'Brien will give him a shot.
"I'm going to put the 11 best players on the field," he said. "I'm not a huge seniority guy. Usually the seniors are the strength of your team, but it's about playing the best players."