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Comparing Penn State's Christian Hackenberg to Past Freshman Phenom QBs

Tim TolleyContributor ISeptember 5, 2013

Comparing Penn State's Christian Hackenberg to Past Freshman Phenom QBs

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    The Nittany Lions rolled out their blue-chip freshman quarterback last week, and he was met with rave reviews. From his footwork to his poise to the beautiful 54-yard toss to Geno Lewis, Christian Hackenberg seems to have the goods.

    However, Hackenberg isn't the first 18-year-old signal-caller to step on campus and take over a huddle. It's actually happened more than you probably think.

    Developing a freshman quarterback is an inexact science, and not all of them reach their full potential.

    Will Christian?

    Let's take a look at how the Virginia native stacks up against a few other high-profile freshmen starting quarterbacks from the last decade.

    All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

Chad Henne

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    A Rivals 5-star QB, Henne was rated as the third-best pocket passer coming out of high school and the 13th-best prospect overall.


    First Start

    Henne found out he would be the starter just days before the season opener against Miami of Ohio. He completed 14-of-24 passes for 142 yards. He also threw two touchdown passes and an interception in a 43-10 win, per


    Stud or Dud?

    Surrounded by future NFL wide receivers Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant and Steve Breaston, Henne threw for 2,743 yards and 25 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions in 2004, per The Wolverines went 9-3 and earned a Rose Bowl berth. 

    Henne would go on to set Michigan career records in yards (9,715) and touchdowns (87).


Jimmy Clausen

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    Clausen left high school as the top-rated quarterback by and the No. 1 overall prospect by Rivals.


    First Start

    Clausen came off the bench in his first game but was named the starter before the Week 2 matchup against Penn State. In that game, Jimmy completed 17-of-32 passes for 144 yards and an interception in a 31-10 loss.


    Stud or Dud?

    As a freshman, Clausen threw just seven touchdowns against six interceptions and completed only 56.3 percent of his passes, per Sports-Reference. He would win just one of his first six starts, and Notre Dame put together a 3-9 record in 2007.

    Before leaving after his junior season for the NFL draft, Clausen would amass more than 8,000 yards passing and 60 touchdowns.

Rob Bolden

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    A consensus 4-star prospect, both Rivals and 247Sports rated Bolden as a top-three "dual-threat" QB prospect.


    First Start

    In his debut against Youngstown State, Bolden was 20-of-29 for 239 yards and two touchdowns. Penn State won 44-14.


    Stud or Dud?

    Bolden's first start was arguably the best of his career. After battling injuries and Matt McGloin, Bolden would transfer from Penn State with career marks of seven touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

    Rob Bolden is not listed on the LSU depth chart.

Matt Barkley

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    Matt Barkley was a consensus 5-star recruit and top QB prospect in the country. 247Sports ranked him as the top overall recruit.


    First Start

    In a 56-3 win over San Jose State, Barkley completed 15-of-19 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown.


    Stud or Dud?

    As a freshman, he threw just 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, but the team posted a 9-4 record. For his career, Matt Barkley totaled 12,327 yards, 116 touchdowns and 48 interceptions.

    USC had a record of 34-12 in games that Barkley started.

Tate Forcier

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    Forcier was rated as a 4-star "dual-threat" QB by both Scout and Rivals, which ranked him as the fifth-best prospect at that position.


    First Start

    Forcier came out hot against Western Michigan, completing 13-of-20 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns. 


    Stud or Dud?

    Forcier started every game as a freshman, passing for 2,050 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while also rushing for 240 yards and three TDs. Michigan posted a 5-7 record in 2009 with him at the helm.

    After a dicey sophomore season, Forcier transferred to San Jose State but never took another snap in a college football game.



Christian Hackenberg

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    Hackenberg was rated as a 5-star QB prospect by all three major recruiting services. 247Sports ranked him as the top QB recruit in the country.


    First Start

    Last week, Hackenberg completed 22-of-31 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-17 win over Syracuse. He also threw two interceptions.


    Stud or Dud?

    Hackenberg has a solid supporting cast and coaches who can help him reach his potential. As his career proceeds at Penn State, the scholarship limitations may make things more difficult.

    Can he endure the tough times he'll have this year and evolve into an elite college quarterback like Barkley and Henne, or will he suffer setbacks and never quite reach his full potential?


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