All the things that made Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg a freshman sensation in 2013 are still there for his sophomore campaign. The great arm. The poise under pressure. The natural leadership skills.
But Nittany Lion fans have noticed something a little different about Hackenberg this season. Namely, he has shown more emotion during games as PSU has started 3-0.
In a closer-than-it-should have been win over Akron two weeks ago, he was seen shouting into a sideline telephone in a conversation with position coach Ricky Rahne. In last weekend's win at Rutgers, he threw his hands up in anger and yelled toward the sideline after being sacked in the second quarter.
The 19-year-old not only admits to being more emotional this season, but he also is making no apologies for it.
Last year I was sort of the young buck, and trying to learn the ropes -- I was going through that growing and learning process, he explained. This year, I feel like I have a better grasp. I've always been that way. I've always been a guy that's been fiery and super competitive and want everything to be perfect. That's me.
It is also where Penn State is as a team. Or, as Hackenberg said, based on the situation we have, we have a couple of guys who have to be like that.
Though the NCAA repealed all scholarship sanctions against the Nittany Lions last week, two years of the penalties and the sanction that allowed players to transfer without penalty for a year have left PSU with a very small senior class. There are only 10 scholarship seniors on the roster.
In the meantime, 48 scholarship players have sophomore or freshman eligibility.
So Hackenberg, who became the youngest captain in team history in the preseason, feels as if it is his job to get a strong message across every now and then, calling it, part of the process.
I think you need to, he said. As someone who expects a lot -- (and) as a player (for) coaches who expect a lot -- when you know it's not good enough, and no one is saying it, you have to take the reins and be like, 'Listen guys, this isn't gonna get it done.' We've responded to that well.
After the 13-10 win over Rutgers, in which Hackenberg led yet another fourth-quarter, game-winning scoring drive, first-year Nittany Lion coach James Franklin said he did not mind seeing the occasional busts of emotion from his QB.
I think it's OK at times, Franklin said. I'd say for 56 minutes, he was pretty poised and calm and collected. There were times when he showed his emotion, which I think is good. I think that's important, I think you need that as a leader.
I'm really pleased with him and how he handles his business day in and day out, the coach added.