This is our last look at position grades for the 2013 season. The final position to look at is quarterback. This was a big question mark heading into the season, as 2012 starter Matt McGloin, the best quarterback in the Big Ten that season, had to be replaced. There was a battle in spring practice between true freshman Christian Hackenberg and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson. Hackenberg ultimately won the job and started every game in 2013.
Under head coach Bill O’Brien, a coach with a reputation of being able to develop quarterbacks, Hackenberg flourished in the pro-style passing attack. Sure, there were times over the course of the year in which he looked the part of the true freshman that he was. However, there were other times that Hackenberg showed poise and maturity well beyond his years.
Watching a freshman quarterback play at Penn State was a rare sight for those fans who’ve followed the team for a number of years. Under former head coach Joe Paterno, it was often rare to see a true freshman play, let alone start at a position as important as quarterback. In his first season, Hackenberg led the Nittany Lions to seven wins.
For the year, Hackenberg threw for 2,955 yards with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also showed surprising mobility and rushed for four touchdowns. He had four games in which he threw for over 300 yards.
Hackenberg had a fantastic season and won several individual awards that earned him recognition from the Big Ten conference. He was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week five times and was also rewarded by being named the Big Ten Freshman of the year. He really made a name for himself in the four-overtime win over then-undefeated Michigan. In that game, Hackenberg accounted for four total touchdowns and led the game-tying drive with under a minute to go in the game.
Hack, as he’s affectionately known around campus, finished 2013 on a high note, leading the Nittany Lions to an upset victory at Wisconsin. He played a pivotal part in that win, tossing a career-high four touchdown passes with 339 yards and no interceptions.
Considering Hackenberg’s age and the fact that outside of Big Ten leading receiver Allen Robison, the receiving core was mediocre, he did a wonderful job. Sure, there were plenty of mistakes and a good deal of inconsistency, but that was to be expected.
I wouldn’t feel right giving the quarterback position any grade other than an A for 2013.
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