Wednesday’s announcement that sophomore quarterback Steven Bench is leaving Penn State at the end of the spring term came as a surprise. All indications were that Bench and Tyler Ferguson were essentially even in the race to be the starting quarterback at Penn State this fall, although top recruit Christian Hackenberg will certainly also be a factor once he arrives in State College after his high school graduation in June. Looking a bit deeper this development is not as shocking as it first appears.
Coach Bill O’Brien has made it clear that unlike his predecessor he is a 1 quarterback guy. Of course having Tom Brady as your quarterback from 2009-11 when O’Brien with Bill Belichick’s guidance ran the Patriots offense makes it easy to have that point of view. However, O’Brien has also said that there are just not enough reps during the limited practice time college football teams get to have 3 quarterbacks competing for the starting position. It is also clear that O’Brien has all along clearly intended to give Christian Hackenberg a legitimate shot at the staring quarterback job in 2013. Had he not been willing to do this it is quite possible that Hackenberg would have de-committed from Penn State before the early February signing date. Literally dozens of quality FBS programs would love to have Hackenberg.
Given all of this O’Brien had to make a decision on which other quarterback-Bench or Ferguson-would have a real shot at starting this fall. To his credit O’Brien was honest with Bench concerning his status. He also wisely released Bench from his scholarship-although of course Bench can transfer elsewhere and play as early as this fall due to the NCAA sanctions issued against Penn State last July. PSU obviously can use the extra scholarship-and disgruntled players are never good for any program. Honestly given Bench’s abilities-he is mobile but has arm strength similar to Matt McGloin-a Sun Belt type program might be best for him. At such a school he probably can step in and compete for the starting QB spot. Bench is also from Georgia so he would be closer to home that he was at PSU.
As for Penn State there will be a quarterback with a strong arm behind center this fall. Given the returning players throughout the rest of the offense merely adequate quarterback play will be needed in order for the Lions to have an efficient and effective offense. As stated in my last article the schedule is not difficult and another winning season is ion my opinion likely.
I will be seeing Bill O’Brien speak in Philadelphia this coming Tuesday (April 30th). It will be interesting to hear his comments on this situation as well as on other issues facing the program. I look forward to writing about that appearance next week.Tags: Bill O'Brien, Christian Hackenberg, NCAA, Penn State, quarterback, Steven Bench, transfer, Tyler Ferguson