Penn State Football: Hackenberg's First Year Not One Without Change
Somewhere, someone is writing about Christian Hackenberg using words and phrases like "still young," "growing," "sophomore," and many other descriptors.
But Christian Hackenberg is really far more than any of those things.
This June marks the one year anniversary of Hackenberg's arrival on campus. A kid only weeks removed from his senior prom, 10 pounds lighter and with hair far less flowing than it is today, taking in his new life in Happy Valley.
If the monumental task of learning a college football offense in a matter of weeks wasn't enough, Hackenberg would have to face expectations perhaps unlike any freshman has seen in Penn State's rich history. Hackenberg wasn't just there to play in the eyes of some fans, he was there to win.
Months later Hackenberg would find himself living up to nearly all of the most reasonable expectations and a Big Ten Freshman of The Year award validated his successes. A few school records didn't hurt his resume either only 12 games into his collegiate career.
Even so, Hackenberg undoubtedly has plenty to learn and plenty of room to grow. But Hackenberg has seen his fair share of change, more than most if you consider the following:
21 Coaches: Between the O'Brien and Franklin staffs Hackenberg has seen 21 coaches call his name in the hallways of the Lasch Building over the past 12 months. Two head coaches, and 19 assistants all coming and going faster than Hackenberg could throw a fade route to the back of the endzone. Add support staff to the mix and the number rockets even higher.
2 School Presidents: Rodney Erickson was still signing the checks when Hackenberg hit the ground in 2013. His sophomore season has yet to really begin and the school has a new face running the show in Old Main with a new set of goals and priorities. Assuming this transition continues it may not be long before Hackenberg has seen two athletic directors as well.
1 Reduced Sanctions: "They" said it would never happen but Penn State saw its crippling sanctions reduced before Bill O'Brien even had a chance to leave town. Hackenberg's future was suddenly that much brighter with scholarships at the program's disposal. It may not have changed Hackenberg's daily routine, but you can bet it was a big day for Hackenberg and his teammates.
21+ Departures: Hackenberg's final game of the 2013 season also marked the final game for 21 Nittany Lion players. Transfers, graduations, and the NFL all took players away from the program. The number grows if you count the ever-changing number of walk-ons.
6 Backups: Hackenberg might be the No.1 but a number of players have battled for the No. 2 spot. Steven Bench and Hackenberg never shared the practice field together but Bench marked the first exit in the backup sweepstakes. Austin Whipple, Michael O'Connor, DJ Crook, Jack Seymour, and Tyler Ferguson have all given it a shot with both Seymour and Ferguson bowing out of the race.
2 Centers, 4 New Protectors: Penn State's offensive line is anything but solidified and Hackenberg has already gone through two centers in his career and seen a senior-heavy offensive line return only one starter in 2014. The good news for Hackenberg though is his blindside will be covered by the usually reliable and returning starter Donovan Smith.
25 New Faces: With old faces out the door the 2014 recruiting class has meant Hackenberg now has 25 new names to learn and some new skill sets to get used to.
So yes, it is true. Christian Hackenberg is still in the most basic sense of the word "young" and he is a sophomore with plenty of things still to learn.
But after nearly a year in Happy Valley, you might also say Hackenberg is one of the few constants around these days.