Matt McGloin

East Carolina WR Justin Hardy wins Burlsworth Trophy as nation’s top former walk-on

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East Carolina wide receiver Justin Hardy was famously – and ridiculously – left off the Biletnikoff Award semifinalist list back in November, but he took home a nice consolation prize on Monday. Hardy was named the winner of the Burlsworth Trophy as the nation’s top former walk-on.

He received the honor at a ceremony in Springdale, Ark., on Monday night. The ECU play-maker beat out Mississippi State offensive lineman Ben Beckwith and Iowa running back Mark Weisman.

Last month Hardy surpassed Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles as FBS’s all-time leader in receptions.

Hardy leads the nation in receptions per game (9.17), ranks sixth in receiving yards per game (111.2) and places 20th with nine touchdown grabs.

Hardy is the fifth Burlsworth Trophy winner, joining Sean Benford (Georgia Tech, 2010), Austin Davis (Southern Miss, 2011), Matt McGloin (Penn State, 2012) and Jared Abbrederis (Wisconsin, 2013).

The trophy is named in honor of former Arkansas walk-on Brandon Burlsworth, who earned All-America honors in 1998 was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1999 but slain in a car accident before his NFL career began.

Hardy will conclude his collegiate career in the Birmingham Bowl against Florida on Jan. 3.

Rutgers QB Nova now all-time leader in 5 interception games

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Rutgers gave Penn State a good fight on Saturday night in its first Big Ten conference game. If not for a five-interception night from quarterback Gary Nova, Rutgers may very well have been celebrating its first Big Ten conference victory as well, instead of looking to rebound from a 13-10 loss to the Nittany Lions. Nova’s awful stat line Saturday night put him in a league of his own, sort of.

Nova was intercepted five times in a game for the second time in his career. Since 2000, according to the play index on College Football Reference, six different quarterbacks have been intercepted five times in a single game. Nova is the only player appearing on the list twice.

Nova was intercepted six times by Kent State in a 2012 loss. That is tied for the most single-game interceptions since 2000 with Travis Wilson of Utah. Wilson was picked off six times by UCLA in a 44-22 loss last October. The other quarterbacks to throw five interceptions in a game since 2000 are Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty (2013, vs. Tennessee), SMU’s Garrett Gilbert (2012, vs TCU), Houston’s David Piland (2012, vs. UCLA) and Mississippi’s Zack Stoudt (2011, vs. Vanderbilt). (EDIT: As reminded on Twitter, Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin was intercepted five times in a bowl game against Florida. Because that game was not vacated by the NCAA, that should count as well.)

Nova’s five interceptions is misleading though. The fifth interception came in the final minute of the game with Rutgers in desperation mode. Two other interceptions may fairly be accredited to the shortcomings of Nova’s intended targets failing to bring in a pass. Nova will receive the bulk of the blame, a responsibility that comes with the territory of being a starting quarterback. There is no indication head coach Kyle Flood is ready to make a change under center though.

Helmet sticker to Reddit for the find.

Rob Bolden’s transfer to EMU is official

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A few days after it was initially reported, Eastern Michigan confirmed the addition of transfer quarterback Rob Bolden. The former Penn State and LSU player is looking to make the most of his third college stop during his collegiate career, and the fresh start out of the bright lights of a big time program could serve him well.

Bolden was thrust into a spotlight at Penn State, where he opened the 2010 season as a starter despite not arriving on campus until the summer. He quickly took a hold of the starting quarterback competition after Daryll Clark had graduated, bypassing the perceived incumbent Kevin Newsome and another freshman option, Paul Jones, along the way.  He had his bright spots, but a weak offensive line never did him any favors either. Later in the season he was replaced by Matt McGloin after being knocked out against Minnesota. He returned to the starting job a few weeks later but was replaced again by McGloin in a game against Northwestern. Down 21-0 when ht took over, McGloin led the Nittany Lions to a home win against the Wildcats to make his case for the primary quarterback duties the rest fo the season.

Bolden and McGloin alternated passing duties again in 2011, splitting time in games on a regular rotation for much of the season. It was not until Joe Paterno was removed as head coach in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal revelations that interim head coach Tom Bradley made McGloin the leader of the offense. Bolden went on to start the TicketCity Bowl for Penn State with McGloin out due to injury, but that would be Bolden’s final game on the field for some time. A free transfer option granted to all Penn State players as a part of sanctions that followed that summer led Bolden to LSU, where he sat out one season and never saw the field in his second season in Baton Rouge.

This spring Bolden was ready to make a position change to wide receiver. Considering his high recruiting profile as a dual-threat quarterback and the shrinking quarterback depth on the LSU roster, it raised a few eyebrows. Now Bolden will head to Eastern Michigan, where he will be given a chance to win a starting job under center and end his collegiate career on a high note. The Eagles are far away form competing for a MAC championship, but with Bolden returning closer to home it may just be the kind of environment Bolden needs to finally spread his wings.

“I am happy to be home with a new start and look to make my final year special,” Bolden said in a statement released by Eastern Michigan. “I appreciate the opportunity that Coach [Chris Creighton] is giving me and look forward to an exciting season. The support of my family has been tremendous throughout the entire process and I thank them all for that.”

Bolden will be eligible to play right away for Eastern Michigan after earning his degree in between Penn State and LSU.

LSU’s Rob Bolden moving to wide receiver

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In Lincoln, Nebraska we have a wide receiver playing quarterback. Down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana we have a quarterback playing wide receiver.

LSU has confirmed that quarterback Rob Bolden will make a position switch and is working out at wide receiver this spring. Bolden transferred to LSU in 2012 after Penn State was slammed with NCAA sanctions. Although he was allowed to have a free transfer, he did redshirt one year at LSU after making the switch. Bolden had split playing time as Penn State’s starting quarterback with Matt McGloin in the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Bolden had not thrown a pass since arriving at LSU. In fact, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., running back Spencer Ware and punter Brad Wing each recorded more pass attempts the past two years than Bolden, a former highly-rated quarterback recruit out of Michigan.

Bolden’s move to wide receiver came as a bit of a surprise, but LSU head coach Les Miles appears happy with the early play and signs of progress by a couple other quarterback options competing for the starting job this spring.

“I felt both quarterbacks, Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings, have gotten stronger and more capable,” Miles said. “Brandon, in his short amount of time here, has gained some weight and strengths and looks a little bit better. [Redshirt freshman] Hayden Rettig’s lost some weight, looks better, and he had a nice practice today.”

Jennings is the only quarterback returning this spring with any playing experience, not including the two seasons Bolden played quarterback at Penn State before transferring prior to the 2012 season.

LSU also confirmed a few other position changes Saturday. Jalen Mills will move from cornerback to safety. Lamar Louis is switching from middle linebacker to the outside. Kwon Alexander is also switching linebacker positions from sam linebacker to will linebacker.

Penn State coach Bill O’Brien agees to interview with Houston Texans

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Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien is taking the first step to evaluating his options for 2014.

According to NFL.com’s Ian Rappaport, O’Brien has agreed to interview with the Texans about the vacant head coaching position. Not surprisingly, O’Brien is being considered one of the top candidates for the job.

The O’Brien-to-NFL theme seems to be picking up steam every day with a number of NFL coaching jobs now available, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk does not seem to think it is an automatic given that he leaves Penn State. O’Brien has the mentality needed by an NFL coach and he has the experience to make the move after two years as a head coach of a notable program through unprecedented sanctions. If he can handle the situation he has dealt with in State College, whatever challenges that would await in the NFL would likely seem like nothing by comparison.

The buyout clause is certainly not the deterring factor it may have once been, and O’Brien has certainly earned an opportunity to explore all of his options. O’Brien has said before that the highest level of the profession of a football coach is in the NFL, and his statements have hinted that it would be something he would be interested in pursuing.

Does he leave Penn State now? Who knows. It is not likely O’Brien will leave Penn State for just any job in the NFL, but the Houston job is an interesting fit with a young quarterback in Case Keenum on the roster (if O’Brien can make Matt McGloin an NFL starter, what could he do with Keenum?) and a team that should be ready to make a quick turnaround in 2014 after a disappointing 2013 season.