Bill O'Brien had a lot to say at Big Ten media days Wednesday, but no topic piqued more interest than the quarterback competition. And for good reason: the battle between JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson and true freshman Christian Hackenberg is among the nation's best.
The Penn State coach didn't shed any insight on a potential "leader" in that race, but he did say he plans on making his decision about halfway through training camp:
Halfway through camp, O'Brien says he'll make a decision on starting QB.— Tom Dienhart (@BTNTomDienhart) July 24, 2013
That isn't an exact date, but with a little bit of research, we can deduce a crisper time frame for the decision. O'Brien also said that practices will start on Aug. 5:
Bill O'Brien says first practice will be August 5. That's also the deadline for any players to take advantage of free transfer. #B1GMediaDay— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) July 24, 2013
The season opener against Syracuse is on Aug. 31, so halfway through camp is roughly Aug. 18 or 19. By O'Brien's benchmark, the starter will probably be announced around that second weekend of camp.
The coach's rationale behind this timetable is one of preparation. He knows what kind of microscope his college quarterbacks are under, and after lauding the Syracuse defense, he said it wouldn't be fair to make a player go up against the Orange on short notice.
Though Ferguson, unlike Hackenberg, was allowed to practice with the team this spring, the true freshman is a small favorite to win the battle. He was the No. 1 QB in 247Sports' rankings last year and the No. 7 overall prospect.
Ferguson, in his own right, was the No. 2 JUCO quarterback in 247Sports' rankings and is coming off a fine season at College of the Sequoias. But Hackenberg is the bigger, sexier name and the younger player, which gives him an immediate preference among college students in Happy Valley.
Whomever O'Brien picks will have the benefit of Allen Robinson (the Big Ten's best receiver), a solid offensive line and the tutelage of O'Brien himself on offense.
Before accepting the job at Penn State, he was the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots—so he knows a thing or two about working with gifted QBs.