Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said Tuesday that he has yet to choose a starting quarterback, even though the season opener against Syracuse is just 11 days away.
Junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson and highly rated freshman Christian Hackenberg will continue to compete for the job until O’Brien said he will decide later this week.
“It’s very close,” O’Brien said before practice. “I told the team yesterday. They’re two of the best young quarterbacks I’ve ever coached. Tyler’s 19 years old and Christian’s 18.
“I’d say by the end of the week we’ll make a decision on who will start against Syracuse. I would say that both guys would play this year. I think both guys need to be ready to play this year.”
Eight starters return on offense for the Nittany Lions, including 1,000-yard rusher Zach Zwinak and 1,000-yard receiver Allen Robinson. Penn State’s fortunes could hinge on how quickly Ferguson or Hackenberg make progress.
“They both have the ability to throw the ball down the field,” O’Brien said, “and to make athletic moves on the perimeter of the defense. They’re both athletic, even for their size. They both can run. We’ve seen a lot of that. They can throw on the run. They’re more similar than they are different.
“I’ve never had more fun coaching quarterbacks than I’ve had coaching these two guys. They’re bright guys. They work at it. They compete at practice. They have good demeanors. They have good huddle commands.”
O’Brien said both quarterbacks will play, although they will not receive an equal amount of playing time.
“The guy who’s the starter is gonna play the majority of the snaps,” he said. “Whoever the backup is will be a young guy who needs to get his feet wet a little bit. Why not play him a series here or there to get him into a major college football game and let him get his feet wet?”