What Christian Hackenberg Must Do to Become Elite
Under the tutorial of Bill O'Brien, Hackenberg led the still-ineligible-for-postseason-play-even-though-the-players-had-nothing-to-do-with-anything-Jerry-Sandusky-related to a surprising 7-5 record, including a huge upset against Wisconsin in Camp Randall to conclude the season.
Hackenberg threw for 2,955 yards and 20 touchdowns in his debut season in Happy Valley, earning him a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman team as well as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award. He performed about as well as anyone could expect from a true freshman.
But as to be expected, Hackenberg's freshman year was not without some growing pains. His accuracy was inconsistent, completing over 60% of his passes in only six out of 12 games. He also threw 10 interceptions on the season.
While neither of those statistics are alarming by any stretch, they are both areas he will have to improve on to take the next step and become an elite quarterback in college football.
If Hackenberg can go from completing 59% of his passes to around 65%, and also get his TD/INT ratio closer to 3:1 as opposed to the 2:1 he had in 2013, he will be one of the better quarterbacks in the country this upcoming season.
In addition to improving his numbers, Hackenberg will also have to show that he can adjust to a new coach and a new offensive scheme.
It's well documented what kind of a detriment having to learn a completely new system can potentially have on the development of a young QB.
With O'Brien's departure to the Houston Texans and the hiring of James Franklin, it's key for Hackenberg needs to make a seamless transition into his new offense. If he can learn and adjust right away, Penn State will be in good shape to compete in the Big Ten in 2014.
Hackenberg will also need to find a new favorite receiver to throw to. Of his 231 completions and 2,955 yards last year, Allen Robinson was responsible for 97 and 1,432 of them. With Robinson expected to hear his name called in the NFL draft this weekend, the pressure will likely fall on sophomore Geno Lewis to become Hackenberg's new No. 1 target.
Standing at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds with a rocket attached his right shoulder, Hackenberg has all of the physical tools to be an elite quarterback.
If he improves his accuracy, takes care of the ball a little better, adjusts to Franklin's new system, and quickly builds a strong rapport with Lewis, Penn State can expect to have a successful debut season for their new head coach.
With his raw talent, we might even get to see Hackenberg make a trip to New York in December.