Curtis Drake's injury-plagued and somewhat checkered career as a Penn State football player has come to an end, with the former West Catholic High School star saying Friday that he was dismissed from the team because of academics.
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien delivered news to reporters before teeing off at the Nittany Lions' Coaches vs. Cancer golf tournament in State College, Pa., revealing that he has named senior Matt McGloin the starting quarterback and that Drake was off the team for good.
O'Brien would not elaborate on the Drake decision, but Drake said via telephone that it was because of a poor spring semester that left him short of the required amount of credits he needed to continue.
Asked if his dismissal had anything to do with issues of behavior or discipline, Drake responded, "No, nothing like that at all."
O'Brien was hired at Penn State three weeks after Drake scuffled with McGloin in the locker room following practice. McGloin hit his head when he slipped and suffered a concussion that sidelined him for the TicketCity Bowl, and Drake did not make the trip to Dallas.
The new coaching staff moved Drake from wide receiver to cornerback before the start of spring practice. O'Brien said that while the player had a clean slate with him, he had to "keep up his end of the bargain by doing well in school and keeping his nose clean."
In the end, Drake said, it came down to his grades when O'Brien spoke to him last month.
"I'm not sure if people think [O'Brien] kicked me off the team or he made it seem like that, but that's not what it was," he said. "I couldn't play because of the NCAA. He came in and explained the situation. I let him know I was still going to be here taking classes."
Drake said that he "really didn't have a relationship" with O'Brien but that the new coach "was cool from my point of view."
Drake called his dismissal "disappointing" but said he would spend his summer in school trying to get his grades up, and then see a specialist in Philadelphia to learn what he must do to get his twice-broken left leg back to 100 percent.
Drake broke the leg in the preseason of 2010, and again early in 2011 spring practice. He didn't play much last season, rushing five times for 52 yards and catching five passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, and then saw his spring workouts hampered by persistent pain.
"I'm not saying it's a relief to be off the team, but it is a relief to not to have to stress about the leg and give my leg time to heal," he said. "I won't know about football until I see a doctor and see what he says and then figure out what to do."
Drake, who twice was cited for off-campus fights at Penn State, said he had thought about transferring since the altercation with McGloin. He said advice from a doctor would decide whether he would try to play in 2012 for an FCS program, where he would not have to sit out a year, or with an FBS team, where he could not play until 2013.
As for McGloin's becoming the Lions' starting quarterback, Drake said he "definitely liked the move."
"Even with the little altercation we had, as long as I've been here, I've felt Matt was definitely the most ready and gave our team the best chance to succeed," he said. "I always felt like Matt should be the starter."
O'Brien told reporters that McGloin was "the most consistent guy throughout the spring.
"He has good command of the offense at this point," he said on the Penn State website. "He's a tough kid. He's a competitive kid. He's shown good leadership qualities. I just felt like he is the No. 1 quarterback."
O'Brien said that sophomore Paul Jones, who sat out last season for academics, would be the No. 2 quarterback and that junior Rob Bolden would be third-string. The news on Bolden, who has started the most games of any Penn State quarterback the last two years, gives rise to speculation that he may transfer.
On other matters, O'Brien said he that would allow the legal process to run its course in the case of senior wide receiver Devon Smith, who has been charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, before deciding his fate, and that junior tailback Curtis Dukes has returned to the team after missing spring ball to focus on academics.
The team also announced that the 2013 Blue-White Game to end spring practice would be played April 20.