STATE COLLEGE – Penn State coach Bill O’Brien has turned to a junior college prospect to help replenish depth at quarterback.
Tyler Ferguson signed a letter of intent Thursday to play for the Nittany Lions. Ferguson, who played this year at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif., will be eligible next season and plans to enroll in January.
The sooner he arrives, the better for Penn State’s depth chart, which is woefully thin at quarterback with record-setting starter Matt McGloin and third-stringer Shane McGregor both seniors and out of eligibility.
Ferguson will join Steven Bench, the backup to McGloin as a freshman this year, as the only two scholarship quarterbacks come January. They’ll likely compete for the starting job during spring practice.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Ferguson threw for 2,614 yards and 22 touchdowns in 10 games for College of the Sequoias this year, completing 55 percent of his passes.
Ferguson will have four years to finish three remaining years of eligibility. He was initially committed to Houston until O’Brien called last week.
“I mulled it over, called Houston the next day and de-committed and then the next morning (Saturday), I called and committed to Penn State,” Ferguson said during a signing ceremony in his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif., The Bakersfield Californian reported.
Bench played sparingly behind McGloin, who broke the school record with 46 career touchdown passes, including 24 in 2012 to tie Daryll Clark (2009) for the team’s single-season mark.
O’Brien said this week that Bench seems to be off to a good start in the offseason.
“He’s working hard, doing all the things that a good quarterback has to do,” O’Brien said in an interview with The Associated Press. “At the end of the day, it’s going to be how he does in the spring, just like every other player.”
Bench worked his way up the depth chart and supplanted Paul Jones, a sophomore, as the backup by Week 2. Jones left the program in September, further depleting Penn State’s depth after Rob Bolden transferred to LSU over the summer.
Bolden, who began the previous two seasons as starter before losing the job to McGloin, left Penn State in the summer after O’Brien settled on McGloin as his first stringer following spring practice. Both Bolden and Jones were once highly touted recruits under the late coach Joe Paterno.
O’Brien, in his first season on the job, spiced up the Penn State passing game and turned McGloin, a former walk-on, into one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten.
Penn State also has a verbal commitment from blue-chip high school prospect Christian Hackenberg of Fork Union, Va. While Hackenberg cannot officially commit until February, he has been vocal about his dedication to the Nittany Lions despite the sanctions handed down by the NCAA in July against the school for the child sex abuse scandal involving retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
Ferguson became a priority for Penn State after Iowa Western’s Jake Waters, considered one of the country’s top junior college quarterbacks, chose Kansas State over Penn State last week.