Before we start, let me get this out there: I think Christian Hackenberg plays in 2013. Maybe he plays a lot, maybe he finishes the season as the starting quarterback. Maybe he gets five snaps on the year. I don't know. But I think that Christian Hackenberg plays.
I also think Adam's concern that Tyler Ferguson transfers if Hackenberg starts is fairly legitimate (around the 9:10 mark of the Black Shoe Podcast), but if Hackenberg is good enough, I don't think that is a major concern, especially because the team will have Michael O'Connor coming in and they'll have several talented run-ons. If we know one thing about Bill O'Brien, he can turn run-ons into serviceable quarterbacks (SUP, MATTY LITE?).
However, right now, I think Tyler Ferguson needs to start. Definitely against Syracuse, and maybe for a few more games. I think he needs to be the gritty veteran who does what he needs to and nothing more until the hot prospect that throws 100 mph gets called up to the big show. My logic is twofold:
1) I'm a firm believer that you don't start a true freshman unless you absolutely have to. Take 2010 for example: the team's quarterbacks were Rob Bolden, Matt McGloin, Kevin Newsome, Shane McGregor, Garrett Venuto, and an ineligible PAWWWWWWWWWL Jones. Seriously. Look at that motley crew. McGloin, McGregor, and Venuto were all walk-ons. Newsome was fat. PAWWWWWWWWWWWL couldn't play. That left Bolden, who didn't even enroll early. I'm not saying that Hackenberg would be the next Bolden if he started by any stretch, I'm saying that Bolden started because he had to.
Hackenberg doesn't have to. Ferguson has been on campus learning the system since January, and he's picked it up well. He's good enough, he's smart enough, and doggone it, people like him. Of course, he doesn't have the arm talent of Hackenberg. Nobody does. I honestly believe that, just based on that, Hackenberg is one of the ten best quarterbacks in the country, and maybe the best in the Big Ten. But that leads me to my second point...
2) Hackenberg hasn't picked up the offense as well as Ferguson has. That statement is a touch misleading, since Hackenberg hasn't been on campus nearly as long as Ferguson has, and learning this offense is, as Robin Williams would say, harder than Chinese algebra. But as of right now, Ferguson just knows it better.
I was at media day's open practice and watched both quarterbacks. Hackenberg made freshman mistakes, that simple. He didn't go through his reads as well as Ferguson, and he would occasionally overthrow guys, and that's fine. With extra practice and getting the occasional snaps in games, those are things he can (and probably will) correct. He's so talented that, once he grasps the offense, I fully expect him to be given the keys to the Ferrari that is Penn State's offense. I don't know if that will be week one, I don't know if that will be during the non-conference schedule, I don't know if that will be at the start of the Big Ten schedule.
Luckily, he'll have guys that can help make his life easier: the best WR in the Big Ten, the best TE group in America, and an awesome o-line and running game. Once he proves he can get this stuff done on the practice field and in mop up duty, he's gonna be the quarterback.
But for right now, he has to take the spot from Ferguson. He has a better grasp of the offense, college experience (albeit not exactly against the SEC), and plenty of talent. I think that last part is what people tend to forget: Tyler Ferguson is a very talented quarterback. He's not as talented as Hackenberg, naturally, but he's still very good. He's going to make mistakes, because every quarterback will make mistakes. But it's not like he has a noodle for an arm and runs a 9.3 40 yard dash. He's good.
Guys, we all want Christian Hackenberg to step in and go wild. We want him to suit up from day one and throw for 4,500 yards and 40 touchdowns, because that would be awesome. But that's almost certainly not going to happen. He still needs to learn, and luckily, the team has a guy he can learn behind for a few weeks (or the entire season, if need be).
One last thing: I hope this doesn't happen, and I know everyone else hopes this doesn't happen, but if Ferguson starts, I'm afraid that we may have a Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow situation on our hands. If Ferguson doesn't go 50-50 with 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns a game, we're going to hear, "WE NEED 2 START HACK!!!!!!" all over the blogosphere, message boards, and Twitter. Hell, even if he does that, that may happen. Please, if Ferguson starts, don't be that guy or gal. We're ll on the same team here, a team that should have Tyler Ferguson as its starter on day one.
More from Black Shoe Diaries:
- Recruiting Roundup (8.14.13)
- Only Mystery McNeil Until Penn State Football
- Penn State vs. Syracuse Tickets Available On Groupon
- Penn State Adds San Diego State to 2015 Schedule
- Black Shoe Podcast - Episode 1.1 - The Preseason
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