Penn State’s Good Problem: The Quarterback Competition

By Penn State writer Sean McHahon @Wolfkaosaun

Centre Daily Times/Getty Images

The Penn State Nittany Lions have had a rough couple of years, but now they have a very good problem. That being the quarterback competition surfacing this offseason.

While Tyler Ferguson, a sophomore transfer from College of the Sequoias, has practiced with the team this spring, head coach Bill O’Brien has given indications that the starting quarterback spot is completely up for grabs. That means Christian Hackenberg, a five star recruit from Fort Union Military Academy, has every chance to show he deserves to be the starter this preseason camp in August.

While Ferguson has been in California and away from Penn State, some questions have arose whether or not he was fully committed to the team since he hasn’t returned to practice with the team this summer after July 4th. It turned out that he wanted to be with his family and that he wanted to be with his ailing mother, of whom had been going through chemotherapy. An issue that is completely understandable, especially for a young man.

Though Penn State isn’t a quarterback factory by any means, only three NFL quarterbacks have started a playoff game in the past 35 years, the Nittany Lions seem to have some bright spots emerging for the future. Coach O’Brien’s strong suit is working with quarterbacks, which is something that will help push both Ferguson and Hackenberg to reach their potential. If you want proof of that, just go back to the 2012 season and watch former quarterback Matt McGloin make strides in decision making and becoming more reliable as the season went on.

There’s no question that Heckenberg is the long-term answer to the quarterback position for the Nittany Lions. The question that remains is who will be the starter this year? Ferguson has a few advantages thus far; being that he had enrolled in January and has JUCO experience. Thus, giving him a much better understanding of the Penn State offense, playbook and overall organization. Although, Ferguson has also been working out at home, he has been bulking up and losing 10 lbs. of body fat. Even though those are some key advantages, don’t be surprised if Heckenberg gives Ferguson a run for his money.

This is going to be a huge battle to watch throughout this preseason, but what happens if Ferguson struggles in the starting position? Or Heckenberg? This is a good problem they have, because it adds depth but also allows them to build for the future.