Penn State Football: Why Christian Hackenberg Will Start at QB in 2013

Barry LeonardAnalyst IIIDecember 11, 2012

The biggest question mark for the 2013 Penn State Nittany Lions may be the quarterback position. Top recruit Christian Hackenberg has the stats and the style that will make him the starter at Penn State next season. There is talk that he may be given a redshirt, but his talent needs to be used immediately.

At 6'4'', he is the perfect size and prototype for the Bill O'Brien pro-style offense. Hackenberg is a pocket passer who posses great accuracy and shows flashes of very good arm strength and a live arm, according to ESPN Recruiting Nation.

In 2012, former walk-on Matt McGloin flourished in O'Brien's system and finished as the second-best passer in the Big Ten Conference. McGloin, who threw for just 1,571 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011, exploded for 3,271 yards and 24 touchdowns this past season.

Imagine what a kid with Hackenberg's talent could do in that same offense. In his high school career he amassed 5,509 yards with 56 touchdowns and 33 interceptions. Yes, the turnover number seems high, but that's just something the Penn State coaching staff will work with him on.

Rated a 4-Star recruit by ESPN Recruiting Nation, the gun-slinger is one of the top quarterback recruits of the entire 2013 class. According to the scouting report, "He is a very good timing passer who anticipates the breaks his receivers will make and can throw to a spot."

Hackenberg, who received offers from SEC powerhouses Alabama, South Carolina and Florida, is obviously a big-time talent who needs to see the field as a freshman.

Heading into next year, the Nittany Lions will be rather thin at the quarterback position. 2012 backup Steven Bench is currently the only other QBs on the roster. While Bench may be the favorite heading into spring practice because of his experience, it shouldn't take Hackenberg long to win the starting gig.

With the talent the Nittany Lions are presumed to have returning on offense, O'Brien would be smart to get his star recruit on the field as soon as possible so he can build chemistry with the other weapons.

Allen Robinson, the Big Ten's leading receiver in 2012, will be returning along with talented tight ends Kyle Carter, Matt Lehman and Jesse James. Running back Zach Zwinak, who rushed for 1,000 yards in just four starts in 2012, will help take pressure off the young quarterback.

With major scholarship reductions due to hit Penn State in the coming years, it's going to be critical that O'Brien continues to bring top recruits into the program. Showing that he's not afraid to start a true freshman at a key position will help.

The Lions need to try to win as many games as possible during these sanction years, meaning that the best talent needs to see the field early and often.

There's a reason Christian Hackenberg is considered a top quarterback recruit and the prize of the 2013 Penn State class. His size and ability make him the perfect fit for the Nittany Lions' now pass-happy offense.

He will be the best quarterback on the roster for the Lions and should be the starter come next fall.