Penn State QB starter to be named Saturday

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Just wait until Saturday at about 3:30 p.m., because that's the first time the answer to Penn State's quarterback question will become official.

Tuesday, coach Bill O'Brien said he would not name Christian Hackenberg or Tyler Ferguson as the starting quarterback before then. The first player to take a snap against Syracuse is his starter for opening day.

"I'm not trying to diminish the importance of that position, of what it means to this football program and what it means to our fans and everything out there, but I want to do what's best for our players and what's best for our football team, and so that's what I'm going to do on that," O'Brien said.

This is new territory for O'Brien. Never at any of his coaching stops, he said, has he had two players he considered so similar.

"Last year, we had a seasoned quarterback [in Matt McGloin] who had been through a lot here at Penn State; he was going into his fifth year. It was a totally different story last year," O'Brien said. "Again, it's more about what's best for the team. The team understands the direction we're headed, and that's what's important. To me, it's important going into a first game not really knowing what your opponent is going to do, and I don't really think they know what we're going to do."

Of course, Penn State doesn't know what Syracuse will do, either. The Orange are in the same situation, having yet to name a starter between Drew Allen or Terrel Hunt. Allen is a transfer from Oklahoma and Hunt is a sophomore who has played only on special teams.

O'Brien said the uncertainty can be slightly nerve-wracking but is not too worrisome. Senior safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong said he thinks the defense is ready.

"As long as we stick to our basics and do what we know to do, I think we'll be just fine," he said.

How to beat the heat

Last year, Penn State wilted in a hot season opener. O'Brien insisted that would not be a problem this year even with a lack of depth for the Nittany Lions. He said he and his coaches plan to rotate players liberally and counsel them on how to deal with the heat.

"I think early in the game, just like any first game -- it's a big game being played in a venue like MetLife Stadium -- everyone will be jacked up," O'Brien said. "Both sides of the ball will be pumped up. There will be a little bit of hyperventilating going on, and we've got to do a good job of calming these guys down and making sure we keep our poise on the sideline and get into the flow of the game quickly."

Walk-ons rewarded

Five walk-ons were recently given scholarships by O'Brien: Bryan Davie, Carl Nassib, Devin Pryor, Langley High School graduate Tyrone Smith and Deron Thompson.

Preseason departure

Freshman defensive back Neiko Robinson is no longer attending Penn State, O'Brien said.

He said it wasn't for disciplinary reasons but declined to elaborate on why Robinson was gone.


Mark Dent:, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05.


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