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Friday, April 26, 2013
NittanyNation mailbag: Looking at the QBs

By Josh Moyer

Welcome to NittanyNation's mailbag! We asked you to tweet or email your questions, and we've selected three to answer in-depth this week.

Brian Santoro (@santoro_brian) writes: In your opinion, does Christian Hackenberg start this year?

Josh Moyer: Well, I've seen Hackenberg play in-person once -- and I've seen Tyler Ferguson in a few practices and at the Blue-White Game. But I've spoken to all the coaches who faced Hackenberg and half who faced Ferguson. Before I hem and haw about pros and cons, though, I'll give you a straight answer: I think Ferguson at least starts Aug. 31.

Honestly, I've been saying since Day 1 that Steven Bench would start because Bill O'Brien needs a smart quarterback who can break down a defense and learn the playbook quickly. Because of Bench's background and from talking to people who know him, I thought he would be the best at that. Clearly, that wasn't the case. I thought Bench's head-start with learning would make him the starter. Heck, Matt McGloin said the same thing.

So although I was wrong about Bench, I'm not wrong about what's going to separate them. Whoever has a better grasp of this offense is going to be the starter. So, call it insanity, but I'm again going with the QB who has the head-start: Ferguson. Could Hackenberg start? Absolutely. But Ferguson is my best guess right now. It's his job to lose.

Both quarterbacks are mobile, both have great arms. But the one thing I kept hearing about Hackenberg is that he needs to improve upon reading defenses. He has everything else. He was confused by disguised coverages, but that's something that's teachable, and that'll come in time. Ferguson needs to add a little bulk, but teammates have said he has a strong presence in the huddle. Neither QB had a great offensive line last season, and both have high ceilings. Hackenberg is the future, but I think Ferguson is the short-term answer.

Bill Thornburgh @Thornypa): Josh, who of the walk-on QBs will be highest on the depth chart?

Josh Moyer: Austin Whipple appears to have the edge over D.J. Crook right now. I haven't been overly impressed with either player, but there will be the third walk-on QB that comes this summer: Jack Seymour.

Whipple and Crook have limited upside, but Seymour really is the headliner of this run-on class. He turned down several MAC offers because he felt the education at Penn State was better. He played on a terrible team and still managed to get noticed because of his ability. I think Seymour eventually becomes at least the No. 3 QB during his career. In continuing my reasoning with Hackenberg, I just think Seymour needs some time to adjust to everything before he leapfrogs over Crook and Whipple, both of whom are older.

Michael O'Connor
Steven Bench's departure makes Michael O'Connor a priority in 2014 recruiting.
Tyler Sterner (@TylerSterner132): Does Bench's departure allow Penn State to add an extra commit to the 2014 class?

Josh Moyer: Actually, yeah, it will. Now before I get a dozen emails about how that makes sense, let me explain in the paragraph below. If you know how it works, head right on down to the third paragraph to see who they might target.

OK, so, forget about the whole PSU-can-only-sign-15-guys thing. That's not the main concern this year, the fact the Lions can only have 65 players on scholarship next season is. It was believed PSU couldn't sign more than about a dozen guys as a result, so now it should be able to sign one more. PSU will probably end up grabbing around 10-13 players in this class, barring any other transfers.

PSU already offered ESPN 150 quarterback Michael O'Connor, and he suddenly becomes a very high priority. Even if he decides to head elsewhere, PSU needs to find another quarterback recruit now. If O'Connor commits to PSU -- and he wants to commit somewhere by June -- PSU could go a couple different routes. Maybe pick up another lineman or simply take the best player available.