Two of the biggest question areas heading into Penn State spring practice are the quarterbacks and Bill Belton.
During his press conference this week, coach Bill O’Brien didn’t shed much light on the quarterback battle, which now, rather suddenly, has four options after ending the season with just one returner.
California junior college quarterback Tyler Ferguson was one of five early enrollees to arrive on campus this week. At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Ferguson will be expected to be the main competion this spring for sophomore quarterback Steven Bench.
O’Brien also has two intriguing non-scholarship “run-ons,” in D.J. Crook and Austin Whipple, the son of former college and NFL coach Mark Whipple, a good friend of O’Brien.
Meanwhile, Belton has been somewhat of an enigma.
The former highly-regarded high school recruit was switched from receiver to running back last year and was the starter in the season-opener against Ohio University.
But he fumbled early in that game, then sprained his ankle. He saw little playing time the rest of the way even after recovering, except for that strong performance at Iowa.
O’Brien called out Belton for practice problems during the season. He ran the ball only 60 times all year for 263 yards and three touchdowns (4.4 yards per carry; 33 yards per game).
“You can tell that he went home over Christmas and he really worked,” O’Brien said. “You can tell, and that’s a good sign. He’s a great kid, and I really have a unique relationship with Billy.
“I really have a lot of respect for Billy, and we’re going to do a better job starting with me, number one. I think Charles London did a great job coaching him. I’m going to try to, along with a lot of other guys, figure out different ways to use these guys, Billy being one .¤.¤. how can you use him better in the passing game and things like that because he can do a lot of different things.
“I’m looking forward to putting those plans into place here in spring practice. But Billy is ready to go, I think, as far as working this offseason.”