EDITOR'S NOTE: The following story is from the next issue of Fight On State The Magazine, our annual "Young Lions" edition. In it, we profile key freshmen and sophomores in the Penn State football program. It will be on newstands soon.
At 6-foot-3, 242 pounds, Penn State quarterback P.J. Jones has never been much of a scrambler. That penchant for staying in the pocket, even in the face of peril, has carried over into his academic career.
During a press conference at Big Ten Media Days in July, Nittany Lion coach Joe Paterno indicated Jones would not play in 2011 while getting his academic house in order. Unfortunately for Jones, that means losing a year of eligibility, because he already used his one available redshirt in 2010.
But rather than transfer out of the program — and perhaps move to a lower level where he'd be able to play in '11 — Jones decided to settle in at Penn State and confront the problem at hand. He is an education major.
I passed both my classes in the summer, so I got six (more) credits, Jones said. I'll do better in the fall and spring, and then we'll see what happens.
Jones said he came up a credit and a half short of progression-toward-degree requirements at the end of the spring semester. He was under the impression he could make up the ground over the summer, but later learned a recent rule change no longer allows that.
I'm short by like one and a half (credits), he said. It's just half a class short. From what I understand, the summer credits now count after the season instead of before.
Asked to shed light on the situation, typically loquacious Nittany Lion quarterbacks' coach Jay Paterno demurred.
Can't talk about academics just because that's kind of a
there's some federal law involved with that, Paterno said. So I don't want to get into that.
He was then asked if Jones is in the mix at quarterback.
He would be down the road a little bit, just because these two guys (Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin) are far ahead of him, Paterno replied.
The good new for Jones is that he was allowed to be on Penn State's preseason 105-man roster. He will be able to practice with the team in the fall, too.
The quarterbacks coach may have been reluctant to discuss Jones' role on the team in 2011. But Jones himself has a good idea of what's in store.
I'm pretty sure the whole fall I'll be on the scout team again, working with the defense and doing the other team's offense, he said.
Scout.com rated Jones as a five-star quarterback prospect coming out of McKees Rocks High in 2009. He played in the 2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, then enrolled at Penn State the following week.
Jones was the star of the 2010 Blue-White Game, connecting on a pair of touchdown passes. But the academic issues prevented him from seriously competing for the starting QB job in the preseason of 2010. Instead, Bolden and McGloin split the vast majority of snaps last season, giving them a clear edge in the race for the position last spring.
Jones admits he misses the thrill of competition. He has not played in an actual game since the U.S. Army Bowl. He hopes facing the academic issues head on allows him to get back on the field.
You can be competitive the whole time in practice, he said. But when you're beating somebody or coming back for a win, there's nothing like that adrenaline rush.