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Spring Football Preview: Quarterbacks

On April 18, the Penn State football team will take the field for their annual Blue/White scrimmage. In the midst of spring practice, and headed into the spring game, we'll be taking a closer look at all of the position groups. Up next: quarterbacks.

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Christian Hackenberg.

That's all.

*submits this to Cari and Jared*

*they say they want more words*


Penn State knows exactly what its plan is at quarterback this year. That plan is "Christian Hackenberg plays all the time and that's it and maybe in mop up situations or if God forbid Hackenberg gets hurt someone else will get some run."

Hell, even the backup job is probably locked up. In all likelihood, it's Trace McSorley as QB2, Billy Fessler at QB3 and Tommy Stevens as a redshirt. As we saw last year with D.J. Crook, James Franklin has no issue benching Hackenberg and going to a backup when a game is out of hand, and there's no reason to believe that this wouldn't be the case again this season.

As of now, it looks like McSorley is going to be in line to take the backup job, barring something completely unforeseen. We've heard Franklin rave about his competitiveness and his will to win, which are all excellent attributes for any quarterback. He was really productive in high school: started all four years at Briar Woods High School in Virginia, amassed more than 12,000 yards of total offense and 150 touchdowns and only lost five games. He was supposed to come in and play either in the secondary or at QB, but he was so impressive that he's worked his way to second on the QB depth chart.

However, no matter how nice McSorley's competitiveness and high school stats are, this is all going to be about Hackenberg this year. He is going to get all of the snaps, he is going to be the guy that is expected to be a superstar, and if he struggles at all, it's too bad, because it's going to be him and only him.

*tries submitting this to the bosses*

*they still want more stuff*

*I regret taking the quarterback preview*

I guess that we should spend a few minutes talking about Christian Hackenberg. I think, kind of unfairly, a lot of people (myself included) had expectations last season that Hackenberg was going to carry the offense all year. Sure, the running backs were solid but not great, the wide receivers were a gigantic question mark and the offensive line was made of five piles of dirt, but none of that really mattered, because Penn State had the next Peyton Manning lining up at QB and he was going to take care of everything.

Of course, that didn't totally happen. Penn State went 7-6 with a 2-6 mark in Big Ten play. Hackenberg put up nothing close to the gaudy numbers we were anticipating: 270-for-484 (55.8 percent), 2,977 yards, 12 touchdowns, 15 interception. Franklin made a good point when he said that a good portion of the criticisms Hackenberg faced were unfair -- "To be honest with you, looking back at it, [I'm] a little angry that he faced some of the criticism he did. I don't know if it was fair, just, or realistic." -- but there were certainly a few things that you could hold against him. His body language sucked at times (although to be fair, mine would suck too if I got hit as much as he did), he forced a few too many passes, accuracy was a problem occasionally, etc.

But all in all, when we look back on Hackenberg in 2014, we need to remember that the deck was stacked against him whenever he played. Not only were the aforementioned personnel issues, but once defenses knew that the offensive game plan was "Christian throws the football," he really should have had no chance. Add in the fact that it was his first year in a deeply-flawed offense orchestrated by a maligned offensive coordinator and the fact that he was competent at all is shocking.

Now, heading into 2015, our expectations of the offense as a whole are a bit different. We expect the offensive line to be better because the only way it could be worse is if it was comprised of five matadors, but nobody is expecting it to be spectacular. The running backs should be nice, and Akeel Lynch could be pretty good, but nobody's expecting anyone to be a superduperstar in 2015. The wide receivers are talented, as are the tight ends, but it could take some time for them to really develop and hit their stride.

Most importantly, our expectations of Christian Hackenberg shouldn't be that he's going to win the Heisman or that he's going to "save" the Penn State football team or anything like that. Our expectations should be that he is going to compete, that he is going to lead and that he is going to do everything he can to make sure Penn State is in a position to win every football game.

Will Hackenberg lead the Nittany Lions to an undefeated record and a national title? Probably not. But he is going to fight like hell to make sure that happens. And at the end of the day, with how the deck is still stacked against Penn State football, that's all we can ask for.