Last updated: February 17. 2013 3:54AM - 41 Views

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For the second time this month, Paul Jones has left the Nittany Lions. This time, he won't be back.

Penn State's quarterback-turned-tight end has departed for "personal reasons," according to coach Bill O'Brien.

"Just want to say thank you to everyone that has reached out to me offering their support," Jones posted on his Twitter account. "I really appreciate it.

"My dream is playing quarterback. And I'm going to chase it."

Jones, whose famously strong right arm helped him become one of the country's highest-rated quarterbacks coming out of high school, did not show up for practice on Tuesday, according to teammates.

He had briefly quit the team after the Ohio game when O'Brien decided to move him to tight end in order to get him on the field. Jones changed his mind later in the day.

"I didn't want to (switch to tight end) for an hour," Jones said earlier this month. "I talked to (O'Brien) some more, then I said I'd do it. On Monday (Sept. 3) I tried it, and that Tuesday afternoon I told him I'd play it."

Because of that incident, there was some uncertainty if Jones' latest decision would be final. O'Brien then ended that speculation.

"He will no longer be a part of this football team," O'Brien told reporters in State College before the start of Wednesday's practice.

Jones leaves the Lions without having thrown an official pass. His most memorable appearance came in the 2010 Blue-White Game when he hooked up with Shawney Kersey for a pair of touchdowns. Kersey also left the team this month for personal reasons.

Shaky work in the classroom kept Jones off the field during his first two years on campus. He redshirted in 2010 and then was academically ineligible in 2011. He considered transferring to a junior college to play while bringing his grades up, but he elected to stick it out at Penn State.

He was excited to play in O'Brien's new offense, but was passed on the depth chart by true freshman Steven Bench after the first week of the season. When Matt McGloin was injured against Virginia, it was Bench who filled in for him.

O'Brien said afterward that Jones would still attend quarterback meetings as the third-stringer, but he would practice mostly as an F-tight end, a versatile position for the team's most athletic big men.

Still, Jones would play sparingly over the next two weeks, seeing only a handful of snaps and getting just two touches.

He caught a 7-yard pass for a first down two weeks ago against Navy. Last week against Temple, he lined up in the backfield in the first quarter and was quickly dropped for a loss. He spent the rest of the game on the sideline.

Statecollege.com reported Wednesday that the offensive package that included Jones was removed for this week's game against Illinois, sparking his departure.

"I'm very good friends with Paul and we have a great relationship," McGloin said. "So it was a shock that I heard he wasn't going to be around any more. He's a type of kid who wants to contribute any way he can. I was upset to see him make that decision, but he's got to do what's best for him."

That will likely include a transfer. Because he has already played for the Lions this season, however, he is not eligible for the special NCAA exemption that allows Penn State players to transfer and play for a new team in 2012.

The earliest he could see the field again would be in the 2013 season. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

As for the Lions, Jones' exit will not affect the offense much, if at all, this year. Four other tight ends have already seen significant time, with three having caught a touchdown.

Fifth-year senior Shane McGregor is expected to step in as the third-string quarterback.

A bigger concern could be for 2013. Penn State is now on track to just have two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster for next season, and one isn't yet a member of the team.

Bench will be a true sophomore and is set to be joined by heralded prep quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who pledged to O'Brien back in February and has remained committed to Penn State. Some services have Hackenberg rated as the top pocket-style QB recruit in the nation.

Hackenberg can not officially join the Lions until national signing day in February.


Penn State at Illinois

TV: noon Saturday. ESPN

Where: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.

Last Meeting: PSU defeated Illinois 10-7 on Oct. 29, 2011.

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