Penn State No. 1 QB Still Up in the Air

Two weeks into training camp, Nittany Lion coach Bill O'Brien has yet to settle on a starting quarterback. First-year passers Tyler Ferguson and Christian Hackenberg are gunning for the position. "It's very even," O'Brien said.

Entering the second week of training camp, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien has yet to settle on a starting quarterback. But on a conference call with beat writers Thursday, O'Brien said, “I'm pretty close. I don't know if I have an exact day yet. But I'm pretty close.”

Vying to replace record-setting passer Matt McGloin are sophomore junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson and highly touted true freshman Christian Hackenberg.

“It's very even,” O'Brien said. “I spoke to both guys this morning, and I told them I couldn't be prouder of where they are at and how they've worked. They've both had a lot of good moments. They've both made their share of mistakes. It's very even.”

According to the second-year head coach, the competition has been something of a trial by fire. Neither quarterback was with the Nittany Lions last season, and they are both being asked to master the complex pro-style offense O'Brien brought with him from the New England Patriots.

Ferguson enrolled in January and at least has one spring practice under his belt. Hackenberg enrolled over the summer, so this training camp is his first college football experience.

Nevertheless, O'Brien is throwing just about everything at them.

“We don't need to hold back much with Christian or Tyler,” he said. “These guys are bright guys. They come back one day to the next and improve on the mistakes they made before. They do a nice job in there.”

Asked specifically if there would be a challenge changing the tempo of the offense with a young quarterback, O'Brien insisted there is “absolutely no challenge changing the tempo with a young quarterback, especially one that's smart. They're both young and both smart.” Varying the tempo of the offense during a game was a staple for Penn State with McGloin at the helm.

A self-professed “one-quarterback” coach, O'Brien admitted that may have to change this year.

“Just so everybody is clear on this, whomever I name as the starter, the other guy quite obviously has to be ready to go and more than likely will play this year,” O'Brien said.

Later, he added, “There'll be a starting quarterback and we'll go from there. We don't rule out anything. I do believe in playing one quarterback. But it's hard to rule out anything. You have two talented players and we'll do what's best for the team.”

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