And many are assuming that will help clear the path for June enrollee and FOX Sports NEXT five-star quarterback prospect Christian Hackenberg to claim the starting job for the Nittany Lions. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Hackenberg and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson will be the only QBs on scholarship at PSU in 2013.
But Bench's departure has not changed Hackenberg's mind-set as he prepares to enter the program. Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said there will be an open competition for the starting job among Hackenberg and Ferguson, as well as run-ons D.J. Crook and Austin Whipple.
Hackenberg, from Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy, is anxious to have it at but taking nothing for granted.
Steve and Tyler, all those guys, I know them pretty well, and it [Bench transferring] definitely doesn't change anything, Hackenberg explained. You really have to come up there and be prepared to compete.
Anywhere you go, there are going to be kids that transfer and kids that stick around, so you have to be as prepared as you can, and where the cards fall is where they fall. I wish him [Bench] the best of luck. He's great.
Fairly comfortable is how Hackenberg described his grasp of the basics of O'Brien's mammoth playbook. He has benefitted immensely from having the tome at his disposal since his commitment became binding in February. But as important as the mental reps are the physical ones, which he can't take until participating in informal workout once he arrives on campus.
I'm just really trying to get the basics down, and get a base understanding, Hackenberg said. Once I get up there and things unfold, it will be a lot easier to get all the basics down.
That said, there are some physical preparations Hackenberg can tackle once he's finished playing for the Fork Union baseball team this spring.
I'll probably take a week off once the baseball season ends, and then really get focused on football and throwing the football, and getting comfortable with my throwing motion and different motions, and refine everything, he said. When you come into a situation like we have up at Penn State, you have to be at your top level to compete. I'm just going to refine everything, and get tuned up and geared up.
Hackenberg was on hand to see the Lions get geared up one final time in the spring for last Saturday's Blue-White Game. He noted that the offense as a whole jumped out at him, specifically the play of early enrollee receiver/running back Richy Anderson and the pure talent of tight end Jesse James.
Something else jumped out at him on his visit for the spring game.
Hackenberg ranks among the most heralded Penn State recruits of the last decade. Expectations are high -- he knows that from what he heard from autograph-seeking fans Saturday -- and Hackenberg is not backing away from them.
The offense as a whole looked very good, and I'm sure [fans] are expecting me to come up there top-notch, Hackenberg said. I feel like I'm getting a taste of [the expectations], and once I get up there, hopefully I start playing within the next three years, and it will get more intense.
But I feel like its preparing me, and honestly, it's really cool for any 18-year-old to be in the seat I'm in.