Penn State Football: Comparing Christian Hackenberg's 2013 to Past Frosh Phenoms

Tim Tolley@@TimTolley_BRContributor IDecember 3, 2013

Penn State Football: Comparing Christian Hackenberg's 2013 to Past Frosh Phenoms

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    Shortly after the Nittany Lions began their 2013 season, we took a look at how Penn State's freshman quarterback, Christian Hackenberg, might stack up against former standout freshmen quarterbacks.

    Christian managed to start all 12 games as the Penn State quarterback and somehow exceeded the lofty expectations that the media and fans had for him.

    With Hackenberg at the helm, the offense produced two 800-yard rushers and the best single-season by a receiver that anyone in Happy Valley has ever seen.

    After throwing for 2,955 yards and the third most touchdowns in Penn State single-season history (20) against just 10 interceptions, let's see how his first campaign stacked up against past blue-chip prospects who were thrown into the fire as rookies to the college game.

Matt Barkley

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    Perhaps the possessor of the best college career on this list, Matt Barkley arrived at USC as the top quarterback prospect in the country and threw for over 12,000 yards and 116 touchdowns before being drafted last April by the Eagles in the fourth round.

    As a first-year starter, Barkley started 13 games, but threw for just 2,735 yards and 15 touchdowns to go along with his 14 interceptions.

    Better season than Hackenberg? NO

Robert Griffin III

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    Before he was RG3, the Heisman-winning second pick in the draft, Griffin took his lumps as a true freshman starter on a 4-8 Baylor Bears squad that relied heavily on its quarterback.

    Not only did Griffin lead his team in rushing yards and touchdowns with 843 and 13, respectively, he also threw for 2,091 yards and 15 touchdowns while only tossing three interceptions. 

    Better season than Hackenberg? YES

Jimmy Clausen

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    Jimmy Clausen threw for over 8,000 yards in his career at Notre Dame before leaving early for the NFL draft where he was a second-round pick.

    As a freshman, Clausen took about two-thirds of the snaps at quarterback for the Irish and threw for 1,254 yards, but only seven touchdowns and six interceptions.

    Better season than Hackenberg? NO

Chad Henne

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    A Pennsylvania native, Chad Henne threw for 9,715 yards and 87 touchdowns in his career at Michigan, both school records. He went on to be drafted in the second round of the NFL draft.

    A four-year starter, Henne was fortunate to begin his career throwing to the likes of Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant and Steve Breaston.

    As a freshman, Henne threw for 2,743 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

    Better season than Hackenberg? TIE

Terrelle Pryor

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    Though Pryor didn't start for the Buckeyes out of the gate, he did take a vast majority of the snaps at quarterback in his first year.

    In what was an efficient freshman season, Pryor threw for 1,311 yards and 12 touchdowns while throwing just four interceptions. He rushed for an additional 631 yards and six touchdowns, and he also caught a touchdown in Ohio State's bowl game.

    Better season than Hackenberg? NO

What to Expect Now

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    Each player on this list played under different circumstances. Each one had a different skill set and different coaching. They had varying teammates and played in different styles of offenses. 

    Some played in bowls. Others put together their stats playing only in the regular season.

    The one thing that each of these quarterbacks had, which Hackenberg will look to develop of his own, was success.

    It's rare that a quarterback can step on campus and take over the starting quarterback job, then have success in year one.

    It takes a special kind of 18-year-old player to absorb a playbook and then use it to compete against players who have been preparing for several years at that level. 

    The ones who are able to do just that, seem to improve and put together terrific college careers. If this list of standout freshmen is any indication, the sky is the limit for young Christian Hackenberg.

    All stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.