Returning Starters: 1
Key Departures: Tyler Ferguson
Projected Starter: Christian Hackenberg
Highlights from 2013
Christian Hackenberg didn't just have the best freshman year for a QB in Penn State history, he had one of the best passing years in school history for anyone. Hackenberg completed 58.9 percent of his passes and threw for 2,955 yards. He also threw 20 touchdowns, with 1/5th of them coming in the season finale against Wisconsin.
I suppose if we're talking about highlights, we need to talk about his masterpiece: walking into Wisconsin and absolutely shredding the No. 15 Badgers en route to a 31-24 win. He went 21-for-30 with 339 yards and 4 touchdowns. Also: no picks. Watching it, you would have thought Penn State was being led by a senior. Not a true freshman.
He wasn't the only QB who looked really good last year. Tyler Ferguson threw the ball 15 times in 2013, completing 10 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown. He really did no work for that touchdown, but it was AWESOME.
It looked like there was going to be a rotating QB situation with the two at the beginning of the season, but as the year went on, Hackenberg established himself as the man. Which was good. Because he's the man.
Penn State has an established quarterback who has all the talent in the world and can very easily become the best QB in America in a year or two. So...that's nice. Every physical tool you want in a pro-style QB, Hackenberg not only has, but has in droves. He's big, smart, progresses through his reads well, is accurate when he sets his feet, and has an arm that would make an atheist believe in God. And yes, this entire section was an excuse for me to post this Vine again.
Losing Ferguson hurts, but Penn State has several walk-ons who have been with the program for a year and should be able to be solid game managers if something happens to Hack *knocks on every piece of wood in a 45 mile radius and sacrifices a chicken to the sun*. Austin Whipple and D.J. Crook are both talented, and while they may never be Matt McGoin, they can get the job done.
Lastly, Penn State has a stud QB recruit in Michael O'Connor. Ideally, he redshirts, but if Penn State needs him, he's so talented that -- with some coaching -- he can come in and potentially make an impact.
I've never taken a snap at the collegiate level. Or the high school level. Or at any level of football ever. Yet I have as many snaps as a college quarterback as whoever will back up Hackenberg. That's really the main issue: if Hack goes down, who is the guy that steps up, especially since Ferguson transferred to Louisville? Logic would dictate O'Connor, since he has a scholarship and the two walk-ons, well, don't. However, maybe James Franklin and co. don't want to burn his potential redshirt. Let's hope nothing bad happens to Hackenberg, ok? Cool.
What to Look for in the Blue/White Game
Christian Hackenberg will probably throw a few passes, but nothing too major. Michael O'Connor will probably throw a few more, but again, nothing too major. I expect a heavy dose of D.J. Crook and Austin Whipple, as the fight for Hackenberg's backup (should O'Connor redshirt) is the major subplot going into next year.
The other potential option for the game is that Hack comes out, throws for 500 yards, and established himself as the best passer in the conference. But that's probably not gonna happen. Oh well.