- Mitch Sherman, ESPN Staff Writer
Penn State quarterback recruit Christian Hackenberg (Fork Union, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) plans to visit the State College, Pa., campus on a fact-finding mission before he makes a decision on his future with the school, his high school coach said Wednesday.
After the annoucement of severe sanctions levied on Monday against Penn State, Micky Sullivan, longtime coach at Fork Union, said he met with Hackenberg and his parents to help devise a list of questions that the QB would like to get answered from coach Bill O’Brien and PSU officials.
“There’s so much that we just don’t know right now,” Sullivan said. “He’s got to get as many answers as he can before moving forward. For Christian, this is one of the most important decisions of his life.
"As of now, he's still a Penn State recruit.”
Hackenberg, 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds, ranks No. 1 nationally among quarterback prospects and 16th overall in the ESPN 150. He committed to Penn State in February and serves as a cornerstone in O’Brien’s recruiting class that has suffered the losses of defensive tackle Greg Webb (Erial, N.J./Timber Creek) to North Carolina and cornerback Ross Douglas (Avon, Ohio/Avon) to Michigan.
Sullivan said he has received inquiries from several college coaches about Hackenberg. The high school coach declined to speculate on schools Hackenberg might consider if he dropped Penn State.
Ideally, the coach said, Hackenberg would visit Penn State and reach a decision before Aug. 7, when Fork Union opens fall practice. Fork Union begins the season on Aug. 25 against Richmond (Va.) Hermitage on ESPNU.
The Hackenbergs felt a bit of shock, Sullivan said, after the announcement Monday, which included a four-year postseason ban and the loss of 40 scholarships over four years.
Christian Hackenberg formed a strong bond with O’Brien in the recruiting process.
“He’s been brought up to understand that his word matters,” Sullivan said. “When he says something, he means it.”
Moving forward, it’s a no-win situation for Hackenberg in many ways, the coach said; if he backs out of his pledge, he’d be a coward, according to some observers, for refusing to face difficult circumstances and reneging on his pledge. But if he stays, of course, he’ll play for a team that likely faces many struggles to overcome the sanctions and NCAA probation.
“He’s still conflicted,” Sullivan said, “but it’s important he has a second chance to re-evaluate all of this. I think he’ll come back from Penn State with a better idea of how to best handle everything.”
449dTom Luginbill and Craig Haubert