Matt McGloin wore his uniform to the interview room after Penn State defeated Wisconsin, unwilling to let it go just yet.

He wanted to linger in what just happened, not merely on Saturday but for the entire season.

The fifth-year senior also wanted to thank head coach Bill O'Brien and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher publicly one more time.

"He and Coach Fisher saved my career," McGloin said.

Now, the coaches get to build one from scratch. Following the most prolific season at quarterback in Penn State history, McGloin turns over the reins to, well, who? There's a true freshman who completed two of eight passes and a decorated recruit from Virginia who won't arrive until June.

In fact, Penn State's roster currently has just one quarterback, the position O'Brien defines as the most important on the field. The offense has a bundle of impressive components, including a 1,000-yard receiver, a 1,000-yard rusher and a host of tight ends. All it needs is a driver.

Penn State's 2012 offense uncovered stars such as receiver Allen Robinson, tight end Kyle Carter and running back Zach Zwinak, all of whom return next season. It also moved behind a significantly improved line, which returns three starters and four other contributors.

But its success hinged largely on McGloin translating O'Brien's hefty playbook onto the field. He did exceptionally, setting single-season records for attempts, completions and yards passing. McGloin threw 24 touchdown passes, tripling his total from 2011.


O'Brien calls quarterback the most difficult position in his system to learn, because of the responsibility it holds to identify matchups and change plays. And because it was a first-year offense, McGloin took the overwhelming number of snaps, both during practice and in games.

But over the season's last few weeks, freshman Steven Bench began seeing more reps with the first team. Bench, a Georgia native who committed to Penn State in January after initially choosing Rice, vaulted to No. 2 on the depth chart over the summer. He supplanted Paul Jones, who ultimately left the program, leaving Bench as the only returning quarterback on the roster.

Bench played in just two games, most notably against Virginia, when McGloin was injured briefly. His first play was an attempt to convert a fourth-and-four, so O'Brien clearly had faith in the freshman. But the head coach also holds an NFL view regarding quarterbacks, preferring to leave the game to his starter.

Though Bench has little game experience, the coaching staff regards him as a promising prospect. Fisher said Bench displayed a high "football IQ" early, prompting his move up the depth chart. But Bench also hit a "freshman wall" as the season went on.

"We're pleased with Steven's progress," Fisher said. "He needs a lot more reps. It's hard to get your No. 2 quarterback all the reps you'd like to get him ... but he's where we need him to be."

Christian Hackenberg, one of O'Brien's most prized early recruits, arrives in June from Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy. Hackenberg, whose family is originally from the Tamaqua area, is a 6-4 pro-style quarterback who had bundles of scholarship offers, including those from Alabama and Florida.

Hackenberg participated in last summer's Elite 11 quarterback camp, where ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer called him "a kid you build your program around. Your program is better Day 1 when he steps on campus."

Since he won't do that until June, Hackenberg will arrive to an interesting situation. Will he be able to redshirt or will he carve himself a spot on the depth chart? Ideally, Erick Hackenberg would like his son to redshirt but is unsure whether that will be possible.

"It would give him a year to understand the offense, adjust to school and adjust to the speed of the game at that level," said Erick, who played quarterback at Marian Catholic, Virginia and Susquehanna. "With a year under his belt, when the time does come that he's able to play, it provides a much better opportunity for him to be successful.

"But, hey, the cards may be dealt where he has to play as a freshman. If that's the case, I'm sure Bill O'Brien will be able to get Christian ready and not put the world on his shoulders."

To give the Lions at least two quarterbacks for the Blue-White game, O'Brien likely will bring in a junior-college player in January. One to watch is Jake Waters of Iowa Western.

Waters, who attended the Penn State-Indiana game, told that his choice is between Penn State and Kansas State. First, he'll guide Iowa Western against Butler on Sunday in the National Junior College Athletic Association title game.

Ultimately, here's what O'Brien's looking for in his next starter.

"The guy has to be accurate," O'Brien said. "Doesn't necessarily mean that he has to have a rocket arm, but he has to be accurate. Beyond that, you look for decision-making. ... And then when you meet the young man ... you try to learn about him as a person, learn how he communicates, how his mind works, how he thinks about things, and obviously intelligence becomes a big, big factor."