Although it’s only February, it’s not too early to begin thinking about the next season of Penn State football. With spring practice less than two months away, VBR will take an early look at each position for the Nittany Lions in 2014. This preview will include returning players and any freshmen who could make an impact in 2014. Of course, a more in-depth preview of each position will be done in August before the start of the season.
Our first edition looks at the easiest and perhaps the most solid position heading into the 2014 season, quarterback.
Rewind to this time a year ago, and there were still questions about who the starting quarterback at Penn State would be. In fact, it wasn’t clear who would win the starting job until just before the 2013 season began. Christian Hackenberg came in as a freshman and started every game last year. Now, the Nittany Lions enter this season with an experienced signal-caller who’s ready to take a step forward as a sophomore.
Hackenberg looked very good last year and showed why he was one of the top recruits coming out of high school. He threw for 2,955 yards and 20 touchdowns. Those numbers earned him several individual awards. Five times he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week and also won the Thompson-Randle El Award as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
The youngster showed a poise and calmness in the pocket well beyond his years, especially in pressure situations. In overtime victories over Michigan and Illinois, Hackenberg had to lead game-tying drives at the end of regulation.
While Hackenberg is the clear starter, who the backup will be is still a bit up in the air. Currently, there are four other quarterback on the roster. Walk-ons D.J. Crook, Austin Whipple and Jack Seymour were all around the program last year and have experience in practice. The 2014 recruiting class includes two quarterbacks in 3-star recruit Trace McSorley and 4-star Michael O’Connor. McSorley will join the team in the summer, while O’Connor enrolled at the school in January.
McSorley is a dual-threat quarterback who could find himself moved to the secondary. O’Connor, one of the top pocket passer recruits in 2014, could receive a redshirt in order to save a year of eligibility and develop further.
While there will be some question marks at other positions for Penn State in 2014, the quarterback position is pretty clear. Hackenberg is the man who will try to improve upon last year’s record and get the James Franklin era off to a good start.
Continue to check with VBR over the next two weeks for other early position previews.
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