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High Noon? Penn State Quarterback Coach Charlie Fisher On Picking a Starter

by on August 13, 2013 11:30 PM

“In all the annals of Penn State football there is nothing under the sun like the high excitement of … High Noon.”

Brace yourself. Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien is scheduled for a conference call with reporters at 12 p.m. on Thursday.

That’s the 11th day of the Nittany Lions’ 2013 summer training camp and 15 days – at most – of practice until the team’s season opener Aug. 31 against Syracuse in the Meadowlands.

It’s probably too early for marshals like Gary Cooper or Bill O’Brien (to say nothing of Hugh O'Brian) to name a starting gunslinger. Especially since the Penn State coach recanted last month’s Big Ten Conference media days pronouncement that he had hoped to name a No. 1 quarterback halfway through camp. (Sunday is midpoint.)

“I’m going to do what’s best for the football team,” O’Brien said last week. “…I mean, I said that in Chicago. But I hope you didn’t mark it on your calendar, so you’re all outside my office two weeks ... a week from now or whatever. Just hold your horses.”

Rein it in, huh? So, at high noon on Thursday don't assume O’Brien will name his starter -- just yet. We do know, however, it either will be freshman Christian Hackenberg, ESPN’s top-rated high school quarterback last year, or junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson, who started classes at Penn State in January 2013. Both are playing big-time college football for the first time.

Either way, after OB, the next person who will have say in selecting the QB will be quarterback coach Charlie Fisher. And while O’Brien said last Thursday that Ferguson has a small edge, Fisher – who coached Jay Cutler as a redshirt freshman starter at Vanderbilt -- wouldn’t give a hint one way or the other.

But when I asked Fisher last week for the top five attributes he is looking for in a starting quarterback, he did offer the following:


“No. 1 is the consistency factor. We’re looking for the guy who does it day-in and day-out. That includes the mental part and the physical. We want a guy who can run the offense, understands the operation and does a great job at doing that consistently every day.”


“We have smart guys here. That’s the expectation. They put a lot of work into it, because they have to. They have to grind away with preparation, studying and studying film. That’s exciting to see them do."


“You have to know what to do when you get out there. Accuracy and arm strength are factors, but there have been a lot of great quarterbacks at every level who didn’t have the biggest arm or who wasn’t the tallest guy, but was still pretty darn good because he knew what he was doing. You have to put in the time and preparation. At the end of the day you have to know what you’re doing and must be able to operate any offense.”


“Matt (McGloin) did a good job at that. He was focused and these guys need to be focused. They work very hard at it. You need to go one day at a time. Coach (O’Brien) always says, ‘Win the day.’ Don’t look ahead, don’t look back. Put the time in necessary for that day.”


“Playing quarterback is a process. It takes time. You just have to keep on improving. Matt is a great example of that. Look at how much he continued to improve (in 2012) from Game 1 to Game 12. It was pretty evident. Any coach of any sport at any level, that’s what you want to see – that your players keep on improving and are getting better.”

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