Let me just get this out of the way first. The college football offseason is way too long. It’s been even longer in Happy Valley, no thanks to our friends at the NCAA. Believe it or not, but today is just a week less than 3 months since that emotional overtime victory over Wisconsin, and we’re still over a month from the start of spring ball. But that has never stopped football fans, whether they be from Penn State or anywhere else, from looking ahead. As you pull up a stool around any bar in State College over the next 6 and a half months, the topic is almost surely to turn to who is going to be under center when Penn State takes the field against Syracuse.
With all due respect to Jake Seymour, Austin Whipple, and D.J. Crook, this is a three horse race at best. Rising sophomore Steven Bench, JUCO transfer (and sophomore eligible) Tyler Ferguson, and incoming uber recruit Christian Hackenberg are the three names we’ll be discussing in the coming months. Here’s our incredibly early, and overly speculative look, at those three.
Going back to his high school tape, Steven has very impressive accuracy, and an above average arm. There are several areas that give him an advantage over the other two candidates, the biggest of which is of course his experience. A full season in the program, learning the offense, the coaches, and his teammates, is no small thing. He is also of course the only QB on the roster to have taken a snap for the Nittany Lions. One area that I do not think gets nearly enough attention is his athleticism. For a big guy, Bench runs rather well (4.68 40 as a high school senior). In his brief stint vs. Virginia, you saw a little read option, which I would not be surprised is something O’Brien wouldn’t mind adding to his offense, if he has a QB that can execute it.
Tyler filled a huge need on the QB depth chart when he committed to PSU in December, and enrolling just weeks later in January. At the time Penn State faced the prospect of just 2 scholarship QBs in the fall, and just 1 in the Spring. Ferguson is hardly a place holder though. In his first season at College of the Sequoias, he threw for 2,600 yards and 26 touchdowns. Tyler has a big time arm, and certainly looks the part at 6’5″, 210 lbs. Joining the program in January will of course give him the opportunity to not only study the playbook, but work with the staff throughout spring ball. He is also the only player in this competition to have played more than a few snaps above high school. Sure, junior college isn’t exactly Ohio State, but there is most definitely a step up in competition that should serve Tyler well.
There is not much I can say here that we haven’t already said about Christian. If you were to write down all the traits you want in a quarterback, he has it, size, arm strength, accuracy, and probably most importantly, the desire to be great. It wasn’t long after he signed his letter of intent, that he began tweeting about digging into the Lions’ playbook. About the only thing holding back Hackenberg is he won’t be on campus until this summer, while Ferguson and Bench will be getting reps with their teammates, and working with the coaching staff.
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