STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Penn State backup quarterback Steven Bench plans to transfer, a move that temporarily lessens the field for the starting job this fall.
Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien said Wednesday in a statement that Bench was granted a release to leave the program. He will finish the spring semester at Penn State.
Bench's departure likely puts sophomore and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson atop the depth chart for now. Bench and Ferguson split first-team reps in spring practice, which wrapped up last weekend.
O'Brien had said he wouldn't decide on a starter until August preseason camp, when prized freshman recruit Christian Hackenberg joins the competition. Bench didn't see much playing time as a freshman last season backing up record-setting senior Matt McGloin.
The race between Bench and Ferguson was thought to be even. O'Brien planned to meet with players individually this week with spring drills done.
Something apparently didn't sit well with Bench during his meeting.
"After meeting with Steven, he informed me he wants to play elsewhere. We want what is best for Steven," O'Brien said in a statement. "I want to thank him for his contributions to the program. We wish Steven the best in the future and will assist him anyway we can."
Bench declined comment to The Associated Press. He posted on Twitter that he had decided to leave "and go to a school that will give me the opportunity to compete for the QB spot and reach my full potential."
NCAA sanctions allow Nittany Lions to transfer until the start of training camp in August and play for another school without having to sit out a year.
Lions247.com, which covers Penn State football, first reported Bench's departure.
Bench's advantage over Ferguson was a year of familiarity with the playbook that O'Brien overhauled after coming from the New England Patriots.