He lost all of his top receivers from last season. The star running back who would have opened things up for him left the team. And no matter how well he plays, he can't finish his college career with a bowl game.
"I feel like one of the luckiest quarterbacks in the nation," Matt McGloin said Wednesday. "I feel like I'm in a really good spot right now."
The reason he says it with the utmost sincerity is because of his coaches.
Whereas the former Penn State staff struggled to develop quarterbacks – McGloin was particularly frustrated with being part of a carousel with Rob Bolden the past two seasons – the early returns from the new coaches are promising.
McGloin has been effusive in his praise for head coach Bill O'Brien and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher since the spring. He added on to it this week.
"He's made me better than I ever thought I was capable of being," McGloin said of O'Brien. "He's opened my eyes up to so many different things as a quarterback – seeing different things, slowing the game down, making the right decisions."
The numbers so far have backed it up.
It's a jarring thing to see at first glance. But pull up the Big Ten passing stats and, sure enough, a Penn State quarterback is near the top of most major categories.
Second in completions (59), second in attempts (104), fourth in yards (688). And a conference-best eight touchdowns. McGloin's start to the season has been as productive as any the Nittany Lions have had in recent memory.
It prompted O'Brien to publicly call for "people to get off of Matt's back" last week following the Lions' 0-2 start to the season.
"The one thing you need to know about Matt – he's from Scranton. They make 'em tough," O'Brien told a crowd gathered at Damon's in State College for his weekly radio show. "He's a Scranton-tough kid, and he's going to be fine."
Two days later, McGloin matched a career-high with four touchdowns in a 34-7 win over Navy.
Of course, it helps to have a talent like Allen Robinson emerge at receiver. The sophomore caught three of those four touchdowns last week and now leads the Big Ten in catches, yards and touchdowns among wideouts.
"He definitely should have played a lot more last year," McGloin said. "He's a great athlete, a great player and a good person. He works his tail off. I think the coaches last year didn't give him the opportunity he deserved."
Along with his stats, McGloin's responsibility in the offense has jumped dramatically this season. The fifth-year senior is required to quickly relay the play call from O'Brien into the huddle, then get up to the line of scrimmage and make any changes necessary – from sliding protection over to checking into a different play entirely.
Despite all of that, McGloin has just one turnover on the season – a pass thrown on a desperation drive against Ohio bounced off of his receiver and up into the air for an interception.
One of the biggest knocks on McGloin earlier in his career was his decision making and his tendency to force passes. Aside from coaching, he said he has been helped most by not having to look over his shoulder because of the timeshare situation he had with Bolden.
"Because I'm the clear-cut starter, I don't feel like I have to make big plays to stay in the game," McGloin said.
Normally an afterthought each year, there was some added attention for Penn State's annual walk-on tryouts at Holuba Hall because of the slew of transfers that accompanied the NCAA sanctions on the program.
A Fight On State report estimated that 75 people showed up for the event, which was held after practice late Wednesday afternoon.
"I would say positionally you would love to (find), hopefully, maybe a couple DBs in the crowd there," O'Brien said Tuesday. "That's usually the position right now that we're looking for because of (a lack of) numbers.
"Other than that, I just want to try to get out there and see if we can find some good football players. Guys that are just hungry to play football that can move around a little bit, maybe catch the ball well. Maybe they're bigger guys that we think have a future as a lineman. … Just looking for football players, though."
3:30 p.m. Saturday