Penn State Football: James Franklin Dealing with Very Delicate Situation at QB

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Penn State Football: James Franklin Dealing with Very Delicate Situation at QB
Keith Srakocic

If you ever want to see a Nittany Lions fan roll his or her eyes, mention the names Pat Devlin or Paul Jones...or Kevin Newsome, Rob Bolden, Steven Bench and even Tyler Ferguson, for that matter. 

The recent past has seen Penn State bring in, chew up and spit out several high profile quarterbacks, leaving a wake of controversy and debate in their paths.

Whether you believe Devlin should have started or Bolden was ruined by a lack of coaching, there's no denying that the Nittany Lions track record with developing and keeping quarterbacks has turned into a punchline, at best.

James Franklin and his 2014 Nittany Lions have a bit of a volatile quarterback situation of their own, as well a chance to form their own legacy.

The good news is, Christian Hackenberg is the starter, come hell or high water. He's proven he has the tools and is penned in as the starter in both 2014 and 2015, at least. 

Also good news, Franklin was able to keep Under Armour All-American quarterback Michael O'Connor in the fold after taking over in January, and he just spent his first 15 practices learning the college game, with positive reviews.

How his progression is handled from here out will determine not only his future, but will play a part in the future of the program and, possibly, Franklin's success.

Most fans believe that premier programs should attempt to recruit a top-notch signal-caller in each recruiting cycle. Competition often brings out the best in quarterbacks, and a recruit who shies away from that draws skepticism from the folks who fill the message boards.

Keith Srakocic
Michael O'Connor

In the big picture, competition means that only one player will start and the rest of the players at that position could be losing their careers while holding a clipboard. For players who grew up as the best players on their teams, in their conference or even in their home states, that proposition is unacceptable and the grass starts looking very green elsewhere.

While it's a less-than-ideal scenario from a fan's perspective, it makes sense in many cases for the player.

Franklin needs to make sure that O'Connor never sees greener grass than that inside of Beaver Stadium. The dilemma will be to figure out how to handle the freshman's first year on campus.

Ideally, he would redshirt and put a season of eligibility between himself and Hackenberg. That would, hypothetically, line O'Connor up to start his last two years of college.

As it stands now, O'Connor may already be the second-best quarterback on the roster, making him the best option as a backup if Hackenberg were to miss significant snaps. 

If he plays even a few series as a freshman, it could shorten his Penn State career by a year. That could turn an already difficult situation into an unmanageable one.

For example, Pat Devlin chose transferring to Delaware over being a one-year starter.

The other side of the quarterback situation is the future recruiting. 

Not only will Trace McSorley enroll this summer and join the competition, Franklin and his staff are aggressively recruiting several other blue-chip quarterbacks for the 2015 class.

Would a redshirt season be best for Michael O'Connor and Penn State?

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Depending on how successful the staff is, Penn State will likely have four capable quarterbacks on scholarship in 2015—all with at least two years of eligibility. 

Suddenly greener grass starts sprouting up somewhere, for someone.

Of course, attrition is a natural part of big-time football. Ideally, players and programs will find success individually, whether it be together or apart. 

Pat Devlin went on to enjoy success at Delaware while Daryll Clark was named the Big Ten MVP in 2009.

Paul Jones is able to live out his dream of playing quarterback at Robert Morris, where he played in 10 games in 2013. The future is uncertain at Penn State and every other college program in the country. Not every player who commits on signing day will play four years at that school and unsung heroes pop up where they're least expected.

It's impossible to predict how the future will play out for the Penn State quarterbacks who are already on campus, and even more so for the ones who aren't even on the roster yet. 

Nittany Nation can rest assured that Franklin will do his best to maintain an open, honest relationship with his players, and in the case that someone doesn't finish his career in blue and white, hopefully it's in the best interest of both parties.


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