Penn State starts their spring practice Mar. 18 and their quarterback of the future Christian Hackenberg won’t be there until the summer when he enrolls, leaving the door open for rising sophomore Steven Bench to claim the starting quarterback position.
Bench only appeared in two games last season in relief of Matt McGloin, who graduated and is now hoping to get a shot at the NFL. He didn’t exactly do anything to impress the coaches with his eight pass attempts, though.
He only completed two passes for 12 yards, but the experience he gained last year digesting Bill O’Brien’s offense gives him the advantage over freshman Tyler Ferguson, who enrolled early and will be competing with Bench this spring. Hackenberg, who will be behind the learning curve this summer, is in the mix as well.
I have no doubt in my mind that Hackenberg is destined for greatness at Penn State, and is the best talent of the three, but he may find it difficult to grasp the nuances of O’Brien’s no-huddle offense in the early goings on.
The scenario that I see playing out is that the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Bench enters summer camp as the starter, and O’Brien will push Hackenberg to be the starter, but won’t rush his development at the risk of stunting his growth.
Therefore, I think Bench will be the starter in week one vs. Syracuse, with Hackenberg getting a few series throughout the game. Then in the next three weeks against Eastern Michigan, Central Florida and Kent State , Hackenberg will be given a bigger role against the inferior competition, and will enter Big Ten play as the unquestioned starter.
Hackenberg is the quarterback of the future, but Bench is the quarterback of the present — for now.