Countdown To Dublin: The No. 2 Quarterback Spot Not To Be Overlooked
James Franklin released the team's depth chart before training camp started this summer listed by seniority. In short, he was saying that every position was up for grabs and that if you came to camp and worked hard the starting job could be yours.
But if we're being honest, that didn't really apply to Christian Hackenberg.
Sure, he could have an awful summer and one of the quarterbacks behind him could play better every single day and Franklin would have no choice but to start someone else. But I think it's safe to say we know that isn't going to happen.
Even so, that doesn't mean that the quarterback race isn't an important one for the team's success this year.
With five quarterbacks on the roster -- a position Franklin wants to keep at five over his tenure -- the competition to land the backup job to Hackenberg is not only a heated one, but a crucial one if the Big Ten Freshman of the Year happens to pick up any sort of injury.
"The No. 2 (QB) battle is interesting,'' Franklin said Thursday after practice.
Unfortunately for Penn State, even as a sophomore Hackenberg is still the most experienced quarterback on the roster. DJ Crook has a year at Penn State under his belt but the remaining three quarterbacks enter Happy Valley with no experience at the college level. That means that incoming talent will have to deliver in all the ways Franklin thought they could when he and his staff were recruiting them and deliver quickly.
So far so good.
"(Trace) McSorley, is all the things we thought about him when we recruited him, he's a winner, he's smart, he picked it up really well," Franklin said. "He doesn't panic. That's what you see a lot of times from a lot of these young guys when you put them in there and you just don't see that from him."
If McSorley is making a name for himself early in camp it stands to reason that highly touted freshman Michael O'Connor is the next bet to give the No. 2 spot a run. A strong arm and good football IQ in addition to a 6-foot-4 226 pound frame makes him a safe option if he is ever called on.
"I think Mike has had a great summer. O'Connor's has had a great summer,'' Franklin said. "But McSorley's right there. That's what we want, we want a great competition at every position, especially quarterback"
The added benefit of having five quarterbacks to work with is simply rest for Hackenberg. Franklin is keeping an eye on Hackenberg's "Pitch count" each week, but with so many quarterbacks getting reps, it gives Hackenberg a built in break each and every practice.
And at the end of the day, a healthy Hackenberg is the best thing Penn State can possibly have.