Five former Nittany Lions invited to NFL Scouting Combine
February 11, 2016 2:22 PM
Joe Hermitt/PennLive.com via AP
Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg throws Dec. 31.
By Audrey Snyder / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The chance for NFL coaches and general managers to size up quarterback Christian Hackenberg is quickly approaching.
The former blue-chip prospect, whose up-and-down career as a three-year starter at Penn State gives way to an unknown draft stock, will be under the microscope later this month when Hackenberg joins four of his former Penn State teammates at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium for the NFL Scouting Combine. Hackenberg was among the NFL’s list of invited prospects released Thursday afternoon and will join defensive end Carl Nassib, defensive tackle Austin Johnson, safety Jordan Lucas and defensive tackle Anthony Zettel at the annual event that runs Feb. 23-29.
Of the five five former Nittany Lions headed to the combine it was Johnson, the 315-pound defensive tackle who, like Hackenberg, declared for the draft following his junior season, who received the highest overall individual grade of the five by NFL.com. On a scale of no grade to 10, with the highest mark given to a once-in-a-lifetime caliber player, Johnson was projected at 5.98.
Johnson’s NFL-ready frame, paired with a rare skill set that allowed him to be a disruptive force in the backfield all season, could make him the first player of the Penn State group off the board come May.
Hackenberg will have the chance, like all of the other combine invitees, to interview with teams and general managers while also working out for them. Among them will be former Penn State and current Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien. Whether the pairing, who thrived in Hackenberg’s freshman season when he was named the Big Ten’s freshman of the year before O’Brien bolted for Houston, reunites in the NFL is one of the more intriguing story lines with the 2016 draft class.
Hackenberg exited the Lions’ TaxSlayer Bowl game last month with a right shoulder sprain and has been working out in Southern California with quarterback guru Jordan Palmer since then. Although the injury wasn’t believed to be serious, it will be worth keeping an eye on whether Hackenberg is limited at the combine and whether he opts to throw again when Penn State holds its annual pro day on campus this spring.
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