It may be three or four years before we know if Bill O'Brien made the right decision.

But we already know that Bill O'Brien did the right thing.

Last week, the Penn State head football coach had a meeting with freshman quarterback Steven Bench -- the man many folks expected to be under center when the Nittany Lions open the 2013 season on Aug. 31 against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium.

PSU's spring practice had just been concluded. Bench and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson were thought to be running neck-and-neck for the starting QB job. Bench, having been Matt McGloin's primary backup in 2012, had the edge in experience.

O'Brien, however, saw things differently. He had come to a decision that Bench wasn't going to like.

When fall practice started, Bench would see very few, if any, snaps with the first-team offense. Those would go to Ferguson and incoming freshman five-star recruit Christian Hackenberg.

The writing was on the wall for Bench. Barring injuries, it was unlikely he would ever be the Nittany Lions' starting QB.

Not surprisingly, Bench quickly made the decision to transfer to another school, where he will be eligible to play immediately under the NCAA sanctions leveled on Penn State last summer in the wake of the Sandusky scandal.

It was the best outcome for all parties involved, although it's unlikely that Bench feels that way right now.


O'Brien simply couldn't afford to give first-team repetitions to three QBs during fall practice. There's simply not enough time. So a decision had to be made and Bench was the odd man out.

Ferguson is a little bigger and stronger than Bench and has a slightly stronger arm. Hackenberg is the most high-profile recruit of the O'Brien Era.

By making the decision now, Bench can move on with his football life. Wherever he eventually lands, he will have three years of athletic eligibility left to make an impact.

It would have been easy for O'Brien to string Bench along by telling him he still had a shot at the QB job. Bench, after all, provided insurance if Ferguson and/or Hackenberg got injured or simply couldn't do the job. They will now be the only two scholarship QBs on the PSU roster this fall.

Instead, O'Brien told Bench the hard truth, knowing full well it would likely leave Penn State thin at the QB position in 2013.

It was the best thing that O'Brien could do for Bench's football future.

It may take several years to sort out who will eventually be the best quarterback -- Bench, Ferguson or Hackenberg. Given O'Brien's track record in such matters, however, it would be unwise to pick against him.

His decision to give McGloin the starting job last spring over Rob Bolden and Paul Jones -- who were both blue-chip recruits out of high school -- was quickly vindicated when the former walk-on enjoyed a surprisingly strong season, leading the Lions to an 8-4 record.

Bolden transferred to LSU, where he rode the pine last fall and will likely do so again this fall. Jones ended up at Robert Morris, a Football Championship Subdivision school, and in the recent RMU spring game, he was a less-than-impressive 2-for-8 for 63 yards.

Bench, however, will now have the opportunity to prove he's better than Bolden and Jones. He'll have the opportunity to prove O'Brien wrong.

All because O'Brien did the right thing.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dis patch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdis