QBs Hackenberg, O'Connor Approve Of Franklin Hire
Penn State fans can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
For a few weeks, the Nittany Lions appeared in danger of entering the 2014 season with fewer than two scholarship quarterbacks. By all accounts, the James Franklin hire is great news, but the presence of quarterback Christian Hackenberg probably is far more crucial to the team's win-loss record in 2014.
Hackenberg, who threw for nearly 3,000 yards with a 2-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio as a freshman, seemed to struggle with the news that coach Bill O'Brien was leaving for the Houston Texans and indicated his future with the Nittany Lions wasn't guaranteed.
He quashed all doubt this week, giving a vocal stamp of approval for Franklin.
“He was upfront, he was honest with me,” Hackenberg told PennLive.com on Wednesday. “[He shared his] plans on what he wanted to do. He really didn’t have to sell me on anything. I’m still here, this is where I want to play ball so it was a great meeting and I just got to know him on a personal level more so than the recruiting process.”
Franklin recruited Hackenberg at Vanderbilt, but the two didn't have much of a relationship prior to this week. While not exactly destitute after a seven-win season, the quarterback is Franklin's lifeline as depleted depth caused by NCAA sanctions reaches rock bottom.
The new coaching staff still needs to help develop Hackenberg post-Allen Robinson. The regarded early NFL draft entrant caught 97 passes in 2013, or 42 percent of Hackenberg's completions. As any young quarterback does, he'll need to learn to read defenses, go through progressions and adapt to Big Ten defenses likely to scheme against him this offseason, and continue to produce without his safety blanket in Robinson.
Penn State's quarterback situation looked dire after O'Brien left. The team already lost two quarterbacks via transfer since May, and although Hackenberg now claims he never thought about leaving the school, he seemed intent on making sure he liked the new hire. Four-star quarterback Michael O'Connor, a verbal commitment, was more explicit, delaying plans to enroll at the school early and publicly acknowledging his doubts until PSU hired Franklin.
If O'Connor and Hackenberg had left, PSU literally would not have had a scholarship quarterback on the roster. Now O'Connor is enrolled at PSU, taking classes, and set to back up Hackenberg.