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Hackenberg will look to be the all-star again this fall.
The demise of the Penn State football program was widely reported heading into 2012, but most of the key upperclassmen decided to stay, and that made for a solid team and an 8-4 finish. One of the primary reasons for that success was the blossoming of senior quarterback Matthew McGloin.
Recruits immediately paid attention to this turnaround from McGloin and the pedigree of head coach Bill O'Brien, who mentored Tom Brady for many years before becoming a college coach. That led Christian Hackenberg, considered to be one of the top two or three quarterback recruits in this year's class, to join the Nittany Lions despite the burden of sanctions for the next three years.
Hackenberg did not enroll early, though, and that means he must come in and compete for a starting job for the first time this August. McGloin is gone, but a JUCO transfer sophomore, Tyler Ferguson, is also expected to compete for the job. Ferguson led the team during spring practices this year.
One thing that may help Hackenberg is that Ferguson is really the only legitimate competition for the starting position, and Ferguson has missed most of the last month of summer conditioning drills to spend time with his mother (battling breast cancer). Every little break could count in this close quarterback derby.
There may be some growing pains with a true freshman at the helm, but one only needs to look at division rival Ohio State to see the benefits of getting a next-level talent ready and in there right away (Braxton Miller was great as a sophomore thanks to all his playing time as a freshman).
Hackenberg needs to have a great set of fall practices to win the job and get his offense going heading into a relatively soft September schedule for the Nittany Lions.