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Penn State Football: Hackenberg Living Up To The Hype In The Eyes Of Donovan

by on April 17, 2014 1:30 PM

Generally speaking Penn State's new coaching staff has played down the Christian Hackenberg hype.

Not because they don't believe in him but rather it's an understanding that winning is going to require far more than the right arm of their sophomore gunslinger. Penn State's depth issues are far larger than Hackenberg can solve on talent alone.

But that doesn't mean the coaching staff doesn't know what they're working with.

"He is everything you would hope he would be," offensive coordinator John Donovan said after the Blue White game. "We always saw him at a distance, so the first time you meet with him and the first time you see him throw and the first time you interact with him and he keeps learning the offense more and more, he impresses you every time. He's what you want back there. We couldn't be happier to have a guy like him."

Hackenberg wasn't exactly showcased during the Blue White scrimmage, playing in only three series. Considering though that the need to keep him healthy and on two feet is critical to any success Penn State has this season, his cameo appearance wasn't all that surprising.

"We always talk about `protect the ball' and `protect the quarterback'," Donovan said. "Those are the two things we talk about all the time. You have to be able to protect the quarterback. We have to keep him upright and not take hits."

That need will make Penn State's ability to run the ball this season even more important as every play that Hackenberg exits healthy is a small victory for the Nittany Lions. Considering that Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch all return for the 2014 season there wont' be a lack of ball carriers lining up behind Hackenberg.

"I think they are a pretty talented group of guys," Donovan said. "They are solid. They are all going to get better. They are a little bit older, a little bit stronger, a little bit faster and I think they will be a very big part of what we do."

However all of this comes back to the biggest issue of them all, the depth of the offensive line. If Herb Hand's unit is unable to literally hold the line for Hackenberg and his running backs it could be a very long and bumpy season for the Nittany Lions.

But if the line does come together and Hackenberg and company get the time and space to do their jobs, it could be an interesting first year under James Franklin and time to get back to the Hackenberg hype yet again.

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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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