What Penn State's Hire of James Franklin Means for QB Christian Hackenberg

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor IJanuary 13, 2014

MADISON, WI - NOVEMBER 30: Christian Hackenberg #14 of the Penn State Nittany Lions drops back and passes the football during the second half of play against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

For the second offseason in a row, Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg will be learning a new offense. However, he'll still be the main attraction to Penn State's offense, and that is the smartest thing any new coach could do.

No one player is as directly affected by Penn State's hire of former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin than the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year. 

Does Hackenberg's style mesh with what Franklin wants to do on offense or will it take some time to adjust to what will be expected of him?

We simply don't know because we haven't seen anything from this team yet. However, there are few clues that tell us Hackenberg is in for more of the same in the future.

Especially since Franklin stated during his introductory press conference that his philosophy is all about getting playmakers the ball out of a pro-style offense (h/t GoPSUSports.com):

I don't believe in one offense or one defense or one special teams philosophy is the end all, be all. It's about taking advantage of the assets that you have, and that's what we're going to do. We'll be pro style; multiple pro style offense, defense, and we'll be aggressive in everything we do.

For Hackenberg, that is likely to mean he is going to be the focal point of this offense. He is the greatest asset the Nittany Lions have on offense.

The Vanderbilt offense was one of the most prolific in school history this past season. The Commodores averaged 30.1 points and 366.5 yards per game while throwing for nearly 3,000 yards as a team this past season.

All of that while breaking in a new starter in Austyn Carta-Samuels at quarterback. That news alone should make Hackenberg smile. 

What will be most interesting is how Hackenberg develops from last season to this one with a new quarterbacks coach and "quarterback guru" Bill O'Brien out of the picture. 

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Allen Robinson #8 of the Penn State Nittany Lions runs with the ball against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on October 26, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

About the only thing that could slow Hackenberg's influence over this offense down is if there are no playmakers available at wide receiver. It's a question now because junior Allen Robinson has declared for the NFL draft and taken with him a lot of the passing game production from the past year. 

The good news is that one of the four people that James Franklin is reportedly taking with him to Happy Valley is offensive recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach Josh Gattis, according to StateCollege.com.

However, one just needs to look at a guy like Jordan Matthews to notice that, if there is talent, Franklin and Co. will use it. The star receiver set SEC records this past season with 112 receptions for 1,477 yards and seven touchdowns.

To that point, look out for DeAndre Thompkins, a 247Sports.com 4-star recruit. He's an early enrollee at Penn State and that extra time to develop with Hackenberg could produce something special come the fall. 

It may not be a wide receiver that becomes the focal point of the passing game, though, as a loaded group of tight ends could be used in a different way with this offense. 

Both Kyle Carter and Adam Breneman had a major role this past season, combining for 33 receptions and 408 yards. If Franklin and Gattis can figure out ways to exploit matchups with these two talented players, their numbers could see a dramatic rise. 

All of this points to reasons why Hackenberg has nothing to worry about with his role in the offense going forward. There is plenty of talent around in the pass game to make sure he's going to be the focal point and not an afterthought of this offense.

His new head coach certainly has confidence in him already, claiming as much in his introductory press conference. 

It always helps to have a quarterback. I don't care whether it's little league, high school, college or the NFL. If you have a quarterback, you've got a chance. We feel very, very good about the quarterback we have in our program right now.

If anything, the combination of experience and a coach willing to tailor an offense to his skill set could set Hackenberg up for even more success in 2014 than last year.


Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter @ andycoppens.


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