The future of Penn State football can potentially lie in the hands of soon-to-be freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
There is little doubt which of the two signal-callers has more hype and potential coming into the 2013 season; it’s obviously Hackenberg. But like any young quarterback, there is much more to improvement to be made before he can earn his stripes and be named the starter.
It may be tough to pick out problems in Hackenberg’s game with his sharp release, strong arm and great accuracy.
Nonetheless, Hackenberg is nowhere near his ceiling in terms of raw tools.
Aside from building off his already strong arm, good release and accuracy, there are a few more things the young quarterback must do if he wants to start on this team.
For starters, Hackenberg will need to make quicker decisions.
At Fork Union Military Academy high school, Hackenberg was able to sit in the pocket and wait for his receivers to get wide open. That will no longer be the case. He needs to become strong in making decisions quickly with a pass rush in his face.
Head coach Bill O’Brien’s offense relies heavily on decisions made by the quarterback, and it is imperative that Hackenberg is able to make those decisions without pause or remorse.
An offense run through the brains of a freshman quarterback can be tough for any young kid to handle.
If anyone is up to the task, though, it’s Hackenberg.
The starting role is still up for grabs, but if Hackenberg can prove that he can make the right decisions quickly within the offense, his skill set should win him the job.
It’s much easier said than done to lead a football team, especially as a first-semester freshman fresh from moving in.
Last year, a key part of quarterback Matt McGloin’s success was that his team stood behind him on the field, and he was the real leader in the huddle.
Obviously Hackenberg isn’t the feisty McGloin, and he isn’t a fifth-year senior who has been around the team for a while. But that is no reason Hackenberg can’t and won’t get the Nittany Lion offense behind him.
Hackenberg must learn very quickly how to lead a group of young men, most of which are years older than him.
We all saw the debacle that was Rob Bolden, where there was such disconnect between an offense and its quarterback that it was palpable.
Hackenberg is still a young kid, but he is capable of becoming a team leader.
For the Lions to have success with Hackenberg under center, he must become the team’s leader.
For many freshmen, the biggest challenge of their first season is the weight room.
The difference between being strong in high school and being strong in college is great, and that is something Hackenberg must adjust to. At 6’4” and 212 pounds, Hackenberg is a bit small to take the beating that college quarterbacks take.
The fact is that Hackenberg needs to get stronger.
This means he can build an even stronger arm and stronger legs that increase his pocket mobility and athleticism.
Hackenberg has all the tools to be a great college quarterback, but he isn’t yet ready to showcase them. Over this summer, building strength to develop those tools will be key to his success in the fall.