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A Trace of the Penn State Quarterback Not Named Hackenberg

by on August 09, 2015 8:25 PM

Here’s what you don’t know about Christian Hackenberg’s back-up quarterback. But should:

His given name is Richard.

“His arm strength is his greatest strength,” says sophomore receiver Chris Godwin. “He has a great arm.”

He doesn’t think of himself as a dual-threat quarterback -- a description his head coach, James Franklin, loathes.

“I’m a quarterback,” he says, “who can run.”

He’s admittedly different, in a good way. “Compared to everybody else, I have a certain kind of athleticism,” he says. “If a guy comes in, I can step away from him. Or if things break down, I can turn a sack into a two-yard gain.”

He’s put on 10 pounds since last season – from 190 to 200.

He let his hair grow longer over the summer. Now he looks like the 19 he is instead of the hair-thinning 39 he appeared to be. “He seems taller,” Godwin says. “Maybe it’s just the hair.”

His 20th birthday is the day before classes start on Aug. 24th.

He’s now the guy who will go in if Hack gets hit hard too hard, hurt, overly harried or gets way ahead – or behind. That wasn’t the case last year, when he redshirted. He’s aware, then, that he’s like the vice president – one step away from the top. “I definitely think about it. I always have to be mentally ready for the chance. I know that when the opportunity comes, I have to be prepared to take advantage of it.”

He’s an excellent student, majoring in business with a 3.50 GPA – half A’s, half B’s – in his freshman year. He tries to sit in the first three rows of every class.

He’s smarter about football these days.

“I feel a lot better about where I am coming into this year than last year,” he says. “My understanding of the offense is much better than this year. I’m able to do more things. And I worked a lot with Christian over the summer, understanding the ins and outs of defenses.”

He stands 6 feet tall. “He’s good for a small guy,” Godwin offered with a semi-straight face.

He’s four inches shorter than both Hackenberg and the No. 3 QB, freshman Tommy Stevens, and an inch taller than the No. 4 quarterback, redshirt freshman Billy Fessler. He’s taller than 30 players on the 124-man preseason roster, and a half-foot taller than the squad’s shortest player, redshirt freshman Mark Allen, but eight inches shorter than the team’s two 6-8 team tall guys, Sterling Jenkins and Charlie Shuman.

He was going to be a safety at Penn State, many people thought. That was short-lived.

He’s often under-estimated. “I understand it,” says Godwin, “because he’s so short. But I don’t see him as being short. That shouldn’t be a determinating factor in how good a quarterback he can be.”

He went to four straight Virginia state high championship games as a starter. (He won three.) He was 55-5 as a starter, winning 91.67% of his games.

He had crazy stats at Briar Woods High School in Loudoun County, just eight miles to the west of Dulles airport. As a senior, he threw for 3,252 yards and 32 touchdowns, and ran for 892 yards and 13 TDs.

He wears a No. 9 jersey and is the No. 2 quarterback. It’s quite possible he’ll be the next No. 1. After Hackenberg.

He has the support of No. 12, who some say could be the Nitany Lions’ next No. 1 receiver.

“People aren’t familiar with how good Trace is,” Godwin says. “He has great accuracy and he can run with the ball as well.

“Whenever Trace McSorley gets his shot,” says Godwin, “he’ll be ready.”



Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for StateCollege.com since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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