STATE COLLEGE -- In the world of Penn State football, there's nothing like a scramble for the starting quarterback job to get blue-and-white fans talking.

It's the top story line in Happy Valley as the Nittany Lions get ready to open spring practice Friday.

Quarterback coach Jay Paterno says it could be an open debate through late August -- just like what happened two years ago when Paterno's father, head coach Joe Paterno, settled on Daryll Clark over Pat Devlin.

"Absolutely," Jay Paterno said Thursday when asked if the campaign to replace Clark was wide open. "It might be similar to Devlin and Clark" in that a decision may not come until a week or two before the first game Sept. 4.

Things turned out just fine with Clark, the fifth-year senior and two-year starter who set school records for single-season passing yards (3,003) and
career touchdown passes (43).

But the charismatic Clark has moved on, hoping to hook on as a passer in NFL.

No matter who lands the job, the candidates to replace Clark are inexperienced, at best.

Highly recruited Kevin Newsome might be the early favorite given he was the second-stringer last year, a freshman season in which he played sparingly. He flashed running ability out of the pocket during brief spurts on the field.

Third-stringer Matt McGloin, a former walk-on, played even less.


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Both hold advantages over incoming freshman Paul Jones, another touted recruit who will take part in spring drills after graduating from high school early and enrolling at Penn State in January. Jones, a four-star prospect, is considered more of a pocket passer who can get to the outside -- a la Clark.

And that's not even counting top newcomer Robert Bolden, another incoming freshman QB expected to enroll this summer.

While Clark didn't get hurt last year and rarely exited games, backups Newsome and McGloin each had offensive packages last season that were toned down enough so that they could play if needed, Jay Paterno said.

"They already have a good percentage of the offense down from the fall. That's the launching point right now," he said.

"How quickly we build? They're not going to be able to handle 100 percent of what Daryll handled in Week 1 next year. That's just the reality."

The spread HD offense that worked so well in 2008 was scaled back some last season, in part because Joe Paterno tried to play it safe with Clark having inexperienced players backing him up.

But don't expect the Nittany Lions to revert to a "Student Body Left" offense because Clark is gone.

"We're essentially in a system now. We've recruited a system over the last couple years ... that's the direction we're going to go," Jay Paterno said when asked about the spread HD playbook.

In January after Penn State defeated LSU in the Capital One Bowl, Joe Paterno also talked about possibly moving receiver Brett Brackett to quarterback, a position Brackett played in high school, though Jay Paterno didn't bring up Brackett's name in a phone interview Thursday.

Linebacker will be another position in which coaches will be sorting through the candidates to replace last year's excellent starting trio of Sean Lee, Josh Hull, and Navorro Bowman. All three graduated, though Bowman decided to skip his last year of eligibility in favor of the NFL draft.

There's also a leadership void to fill. Lee and Clark may have been the best pair of captains that Penn State has had in a while.

The 2010 senior class doesn't have quite such known leaders. Barrel-chested defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu -- the New York native dubbed once by Joe Paterno as his "Staten Island Ferry" -- is a leading candidate to lead the defense.

On offense, tailback Evan Royster is 481 yards shy of breaking Curt Warner's school record of 3,398 career rushing yards, though he's more of a lead-by-example type. Center Stefen Wisniewski, a two-year starter, could also be captain material.

Spring practice ends with the annual Blue-White scrimmage on April 24.