Penn State quarterback race down to two contenders
May 1, 2013 8:00 AM
Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times
Transfer Tyler Ferguson (left) will battle incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg for the starting quarterback spot at Penn State.
By Mark Dent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
READING, Pa. -- Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said he had the same type of discussions with all his players, the end-of-spring talk, the "see where you fit in" as part of Penn State's grand scheme. It was just that with Steven Bench, the assessment led to a different outcome: Bench later told him he would transfer.
For the first time since Bench announced his transfer last week, O'Brien discussed the quarterback situation.
"I told him what I felt was the truth and what he needed to do to get better," O'Brien said at a news conference as part of the Penn State coaches caravan. "I felt he would still get repetitions here at Penn State. I told him no starter has been named, but, going in, you probably won't get as many repetitions as the other guys."
He said the race now is between junior-college transfer Tyler Ferguson and incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg, scheduled to enroll this summer. After the Blue-White game, O'Brien said the competition between Bench and Ferguson had not produced a leader.
"I didn't see there was this huge separation," O'Brien said. "I don't want anybody to transfer. I think everybody has to understand we're in a unique time that's an unprecedented time at Penn State and unprecedented in the NCAA."
O'Brien was referring NCAA sanctions. Penn State players can transfer without penalty until fall practices begin. Penn State also has a limit of 65 scholarships starting in August 2014.
O'Brien also announced redshirt freshman offensive guard Anthony Stanko would leave the team but stay on scholarship, which is allowed per the NCAA sanctions. With his and Bench's absences, along with two other players who have left the team but stayed in school (Luke Graham and Dakota Royer), O'Brien said Penn State would have 63 scholarship players this fall.
Blue-White game's future
In the first few minutes of the Blue-White game, running back Zach Zwinak injured his wrist. O'Brien declined to discuss the specifics but said Zwinak should be ready for non-contact practice when fall camp begins.
Zwinak's injury led O'Brien to reconsider the Blue-White game.
Given his team's lack of depth, he doesn't want to risk injuries and said he might consider changing the format and de-emphasizing intensity.
"We cannot let our best players get hurt in the Blue-White game. That's when you get labeled a dumb coach."