Penn State Football: Could Bill O'Brien Name Starting QB This Spring?

John McGonigalCorrespondent IIFebruary 21, 2013

Nov 17, 2012; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Bill O'Brien looks on from the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Indiana Hoosiers at Beaver Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With spring practice approaching, a bevy of questions surrounds the Penn State football team considering the loss of the 2012 senior class.

One key member of that memorable class was seasoned signal-caller Matthew McGloin—a former walk-on who transformed into a 3,000-yard passer under coach Bill O’Brien.

With the departure of McGloin, the Nittany Lions will be looking for a new starter under center, and the search starts this spring.

JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson and 2012 backup Steven Bench will be the two primary signal-callers heading into spring camp with 5-star commit Christian Hackenberg not enrolling until the fall.

Without the presence of Hackenberg in the spring, could O’Brien name a starting quarterback?

It wouldn’t be smart to put it past O’Brien and his surprising nature. Remember, the Lions’ coach is a guy who loves to go on fourth down and pass frequently on first down, so he’s no stranger to keeping people on their toes.

Also, he’s previously picked a quarterback before fall camp got underway.

After suffering through a long, daunting and stale battle between McGloin and former Nittany Lions quarterback Rob Bolden, Penn State fans had to breathe a sigh of relief when O’Brien named McGloin the starter before fall camp—avoiding a bunch of starter talk.

Regardless, that talk will likely re-emerge with a batch of quarterbacks who have seen little or no time at the FBS level.

Ferguson—a California kid from the College of Sequoias—has nice awareness and accuracy in the pocket, but he needs quite a bit of work on his mechanics and release point.

As for Bench, he saw limited action when McGloin briefly exited last year’s game against Virginia.

Filling in for the final drive of the first half, Bench showed the ability to escape pressure and also a pleasant touch on a throw that would have been a touchdown if Lions receiver Allen Robinson didn’t botch the catch.

Does Hackenberg have invaluable potential? Yes.

Should O’Brien wait for him to get on campus before making a decision at quarterback? Maybe not.

Hackenberg’s buddy and fellow highly-touted commit Adam Breneman, who is coming off an ACL tear, said he wanted to play his freshman year.

If Hackenberg has the same wants, it could make for a tricky situation.

However, Ferguson or Bench could stand out and create distance at the quarterback position in the spring. If one of them were to do so, don’t think O’Brien won’t pull the trigger, name a starter and redshirt Hackenberg.

After all, an extra year to learn an already familiar system and another year to be bowl eligible couldn’t hurt the Virginia native.

However, either Bench or Ferguson needs to wow O’Brien and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher for any of this to happen.

But with an entire spring to work with before Hackenberg permanently gets on campus, don’t be shocked if Bench or Ferguson are named the starting quarterback before the fall.