Penn State’s quarterback competition will continue right up until the first kickoff of the 2013 season, when Penn State takes on Syracuse in MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Penn State’s annual Blue-White game, the spring game signaling the end of aspiring practice schedule, failed to yield any answers to the all-important question: Who will be Penn State’s starting quarterback?
To be fair, nobody expected the riddle to be solved this spring. Penn State is looking to replace Matt McGloin, who had started the majority of the past three seasons and flourished under the tutelage of Bill O’Brien and new quarterback coach Charlie Fisher in 2012.
After two players transferred last year (Rob Bolden to LSU, Paul Jones to Robert Morris), Penn State’s depth under center was bare. Sophomore Steven Bench had one full year under O’Brien on the sidelines, playing very sparingly, out of need more than preference from the head coach. Penn State also welcomed in junior college quarterback Tyler Ferguson and signed one of the top quarterback recruits in the class of 2013, Christian Hackenberg.
Bench and Ferguson each got a chance to play in Penn State’s spring game with the hopes of being able to sell their potential and skills to O’Brien and Fisher. While a stellar performance may not have been enough to force O’Brien to offer a starting nod in mid-April, neither managed to play outstanding enough to hedge the momentum one way or the other.
Bench and Ferguson put up similar stats in the Penn State spring game, each completing nine of 15 pass attempts. Bench had a small edge in passing yards, 99 to 90, but Ferguson had the advantage in passing touchdowns, two to one. Bench was sacked two times and Ferguson was sacked three times using touch-football rules for defenders.
Despite being under pressure, neither quarterback seemed to be too rattled by defensive players in pursuit. Ferguson looked calm in the pocket and got off some nice passes at times, but other times, he may have held onto the football a little longer than O’Brien may have preferred.
Bench also showed off a few nice passes but overthrew his receiver at times, including on the first play of the afternoon, intended for last year’s leading receiver in the Big Ten, Allen Robinson. One thing that Bench did have in his favor was a solid command of the huddle and offense. Bench played most of the game with the first-team offense against Penn State’s second-team defense, but he led the offense down field with some good poise and confidence.
Neither candidate has much playing experience, of course, and with Hackenberg coming in this summer, it is fair to say Penn State’s quarterback position is very raw.
For now, O’Brien will take some time to review all of the spring film on his quarterbacks. Once the summer training camp opens, though, O’Brien will be content to have an open competition that will also include Hackenberg.