Penn St. transfer Bolden, LSU the perfect match

Former Penn State quarterback Rob Bolden breaks the tackle of Temple’s Justin Gildea on a run for a first down. PHOTO BY CRAIG HOUTZ/CENTRE DAILY TIMES /MCT.

The Sporting News’ and CBSSports.com’s preseason No. 1 team with its five preseason All-Americans hits the field for its first practice today. And they’ll do it with a late addition to the team, one that sures up the only weakness on the LSU Tiger team.

Maybe never before has the anticipation for fall camp been this high for LSU, as the team and fans alike are eager to flush from their systems the memory of an ugly loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship game almost seven months ago. And if that wasn’t enough, the arrival of former Penn State quarterback Rob Bolden only adds to the excitement as now the Tigers have a legitimate backup to star quarterback Zach Mettenberger should he go down to injury.

The Tigers are loaded at almost every position, especially on defense and special teams, boasting a nation high five first team All-Americans on the CBSSports.com preseason team: Sam Montgomery at defensive end; Eric Reid at safety, Brad Wing at punter; and Tyrann Mathieu at both defensive back and punt returner. Defensive end Barkevious Mingo was named to the second team.

The only problem was a suitable backup at quarterback. And now they have that as well.

Like LSU, Bolden is ready for a new start. He was given permission by Penn State to contact other schools on July 22, one day before the NCAA hammered the Nittany Lions program with sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Bolden visited the LSU campus over the weekend, and on Tuesday what everybody anticipated came to fruition.

Bolden was an LSU Tiger.

There will be mixed reactions to the addition of Bolden. Moralists will question whether LSU should have even gotten involved in the plucking of players from Penn State, given the turmoil and the seeming capitalization on a terrible situation. Traditionalists will say that the NCAA’s allowance of players to transfer to another FBS school compromises the integrity of amateur sports, making the raiding of the Penn State football program more like professional free agency. And pessimists will worry themselves with the comparison of the former No. 2 high school dual threat quarterback to former Tiger Jordan Jefferson, whom many Tiger fans loved to hate. Here is one thought from an LSU message board:

“It’s like someone molded jarrett lee and JJ into one all powerful disappointment and Les went out and found him just for the sake of nostalgia.”

Yes, Miles purposely ventured out to Pennsylvania to invite another quarterback controversy into the program.

Pessimistic Tiger fans like this need to relax and enjoy the championships. Everything we’ve heard about Mettenberger’s talent and emerging maturity is true. Bolden is not coming to take his place or even light a fire in the spirit of competition.

Zach Mettenberger is the quarterback of the nation’s best team. Period.

None of the above concerns matter even if they are legitimate points (and for the record I don’t agree with any of them). All that happened with this development is LSU patched up a hole that everyone was aware of but were too afraid to really consider–the possibility of losing Mettenberger to injury.

That would have effectively ended any national championship aspirations, depending of course when the injury occurred.

Redshirt freshmen Stephen Rivers and Jerrard Randall are simply not ready for the fire of SEC play, as recent comments made by Coach Les Miles confirmed. Miles knows he has a national title team here. He just hit a home run with acquisition of Bolden.

I can hear the traditionalists grumbling about the free-agent type word “acquisition.”

The addition of Bolden to the roster will not affect LSU’s numbers this season, though he will count against next year’s. But even that won’t matter. 2012 quarterback signee Jeremy Liggins is now playing for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College after coming up short in his effort over the summer to meet NCAA eligibility requirements.

The Tigers had a need and an open spot. And Bolden is the perfect man to fill it, partly because he’s simply not a great quarterback right now. The 6’3, 214-pounder from Michigan will not challenge Mettenberger for the starting job. There is no controversy here.

For his career at Penn State, Bolden completed 165 of 328 passes for 2,045 yards with seven touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Regarded as a run-pass threat, Bolden also had 59 career rushing attempts for a net 27 yards and one touchdown.

Hardly powerhouse numbers. But the potential is there to take a chance on him being a suitable backup, given the inexperience behind Mettenberger right now.

If anything, this is going to be another Flynn/Perrilloux situation, where the latter had a 10-play package installed for him in each game. That turned out golden for LSU in their national championship run in 2007 when Perrilloux was forced to start the SEC championship game after Flynn got injured. All Perrilloux did was win game MVP honors and catapult the Tigers into the national championship game.

A good backup quarterback is obviously never a bad thing.

But I don’t even see Bolden being this important to the Tiger offense this year. I think Miles may have his eyes more set on next year, because if Mettenberger is as good as advertised, he may very well declare for the NFL draft after this season, and that would leave LSU without an experienced quarterback taking over the reigns in 2013.

But that possibility isn’t even in play anymore. Bolden started as a true freshman at Penn St., so he has three years to play two. Conceivably, he could take zero snaps this year, declare a redshirt, and then have two more years to play for the Tigers while Miles and his staff ready Rivers and Randall, along with blue-chip 2013 recruits Anthony Jennings and Hayden Rettig. It is more possible to see Bolden being a dual-threat compliment to Rivers in 2013 than it is him fulfilling the same role with Mettenberger in 2012. A Rivers/Bolden combination would keep LSU at the top if Mettenberger decides to forgo his senior season.

Yes, the grass-eating, riverboat gambling Miles does know what he’s doing, Tiger fans. With one addition he has just covered not only a concern for this year, but planted a seed for LSU’s continued dominance in 2013 and beyond. And it took no loss on the roster to do it. Such a safe, calculated move should not be questioned, but celebrated, especially since it gives a young man like Bolden a fresh start as well.

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