A year ago, Bill O'Brien took the occasion of Penn State's annual Coaches vs. Cancer Golf Tournament to announce his starting quarterback for the 2012 season. Matt McGloin was tabbed the first-teamer, and the senior went on to break most school single-season passing records.
O'Brien held a press conference at this year's PSU CVC tourney, too, but the second-year coach was not prepared to name the 2013 starting QB Friday.
That's because one of the leading contenders for the job, FOX Sports NEXT five-star prospect Christian Hackenberg, will not enroll at Penn State until late June. Following McGloin's graduation and the transfer of 2012 second-teamer Steven Bench, junior college product Tyler Ferguson -- who enrolled in January -- is currently the only scholarship quarterback on the roster.
That's the guy who definitely has the lead going into training camp, O'Brien said of Ferguson. He's been here for 15 practices (in the spring) and a lot of meetings.
Yet O'Brien is on record as saying Ferguson and Hackenberg will be vying for the starting job come training camp. Bench left (he transferred to the University of South Florida) because he was told he would receive fewer preseason reps than the other two QBs.
Hackenberg will arrive at Penn State June 23 for the start of the school's second summer semester. Like the other football freshmen, he'll enter a bridge program that allows him to become acclimated to college life. It involves taking classes, being introduced to study halls and learning the way around campus.
NCAA rules forbid O'Brien and the position coaches from holding football-related meetings with the team -- including the newcomers -- until the start of preseason camp. So Hackenberg's most significant contact with the staff during the summer will be through strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald.
With that in mind, O'Brien is counting on veteran players to help the young QB along when it comes to X's and O's.
We can't have any football meetings with them, so it will be (important for) our older guys to incorporate the younger guys -- including Christian -- into the mix with the different seven-on-sevens they're having and all the things they're doing on their own, O'Brien said. Then we'll officially be able to start coaching him in training camp.
According to O'Brien, freshmen report for training camp Aug. 3. The rest of the team reports Aug. 4. Camp starts Aug. 5.
Those dates are especially significant because players who were on the roster when it was hit with NCAA sanctions last July can transfer to other FBS programs without penalty until the start of training camp this year.
I can't wait, O'Brien said. I love to play golf. I'm glad to be here. But talking to (the media), I can do without. Let's start playing some football.
Many opponents were not prepared for Penn State's new, fast-paced offense last season. According to O'Brien, there are more changes in store for this season -- on both sides of the ball. Scheme-wise, we won't be the same team we were last year, he said. We have a brand new quarterback. Things like that are different. Definitely, we'll be different. I think you have to change. You've got to stay on the edge of things. You can't just stay the same. Training camp will be big for us.
Though he did not have specific numbers, O'Brien said the majority of the Nittany Lions are on campus for the first summer semester. He noted that being in school and working out with the team at this time of year is not mandatory.
Despite losing several key leaders from the 2012 team, O'Brien is comfortable with leadership on this squad. We have a really good core bunch of leaders. There's senior leaders, there's junior leaders, there's sophomore leaders. I feel really good about our team.
Asked if he cared to comment on the Paterno family lawsuit against the NCAA regarding the NCAA sanctions, O'Brien said, No. Nope.
On the academic front, O'Brien said, Some kids have to have a good summer. But everybody seems to be doing pretty well.
O'Brien is all for playing an NHL game in Beaver Stadium. It would be interesting to see how many people we'd get for a game like that. You think we'd get 100,000? It would be pretty good.
On playing a game in Ireland in 2014, O'Brien said, We're close. I hope it happens soon. I think we're close. The game in question would likely be against UCF to open the 2014 campaign.