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Penn State Football: Hackenberg Awaits Important Chapter Of Career Following Robinson Departure

by on May 20, 2014 10:15 PM

It's not exactly a secret that Allen Robinson is good at football.

It's also not a secret that Christian Hackenberg had Robinson to thank for just about half of his stats. There's nothing wrong with that, but it also happens to be true. A quick refresher: 1432 yards of Hackenberg's 2995 total yards belong to Allen Robinson along with 97 of his 231 completed passes.

So with Robinson headed to the NFL it leaves behind a rather large hole in the offense that head coach James Franklin will have to fill if Penn State is going to have any success in 2014.

More importantly it leaves a large hole in the place where Hackenberg's biggest security blanket had been all last year. There is nothing better for a quarterback -- let alone a true freshman QB -- than an elite receiver who can get you out of trouble. It's safe to say Robinson was Penn State's "Mr Wolf" of Pulp Fiction lore. He just fixed problems.

Hackenberg admits that Robinson got him out of a jam on more than one occasion, but what the often praise-deflecting gunslinger hasn't admitted as freely is how much better he is as a quarterback now than he was nearly a year ago. Robinson was always Hackenberg's go-to and that's how things should have been, but Hackenberg got better and better at finding new targets in the final third of the season. It's something that frequently goes overlooked.

Even so, as Penn State enters the summer and Hackenberg gets to know all of his new targets better, it's an interesting time for the sophomore signal caller. He has the tools to play at an elite level, but how he responds to a new cast of characters around him (and more notably Robinson's absence) is one of the more intriguing narratives for the upcoming season.

What happens next is anyone's guess.

It's unlikely that Hackenberg will suddenly regress. He's simply too talented and his fellow teammates aren't all that shabby either.

Contrary to what you might think -- in many ways Hackenberg might do even better without Robinson at his side. 

It sounds crazy, but it's something James Franklin agrees with to a certain extent.

"I don't think there is any doubt from a development standpoint it helps," Franklin said on Tuesday evening. "Because you're not going to be able to do that (rely on a single target) at the next level. There are still some guys that are just better than everybody at the next level but it's not nearly as common. So yea I think so."

Hackenberg might benefit from having to pick out targets and work with many different receivers this year, but the rest of the offense can benefit as well. Allen Robinson isn't around to save the day anymore and that means everyone has to step up if winning is on the menu.

"It's going to be important for the development of our whole team," Franklin said. "When you're one dimensional, everybody knows that this is your guy. It's a sickening feeling when you have somebody who can take that guy away. When you're playing a team with somebody that can cover that guy."

"When you become too reliant on that person. So i think it's important for Hackenberg's development but I think it's really important for our whole program's development as well. That we become more diverse in our attack on offense and defense and special teams."

Either way, while Penn State is happy to see Robinson making his way to the NFL, it's safe to say that Hackenberg, Franklin and countless fans would have been equally happy to see him on the field at Beaver Stadium this fall.

Seeing who steps up on Penn State's current roster is half the fun of watching the game and we'll all be doing just that in a few short months.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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