UNIVERSITY PARK — Christian Hackenberg isnt sure what offense hell be tasked with learning next. Hes not sure who will emerge and take the place of his top target who decided to make the jump to the NFL.
The Penn State quarterback is sure of one thing, however he was never going anywhere.
Even though the coach who recruited him has moved on, Hackenberg said he never thought of transferring from Penn State despite Bill OBriens exit two weeks ago and during the coaching search that followed. Instead, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year is excited to begin his first full offseason program with a new staff and James Franklin at the helm.
I think hes a pretty personable guy. Hes up front, hes honest, Hackenberg said. He brings a lot of intensity to the room. Hes very fiery. I think hes a guy that really loves the game of football, really loves coaching it and I cant wait to get on the field with him.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Hackenberg was the only Penn State player to sit down with Franklin one-on-one.
Inside the teams weight room on Wednesday afternoon, Hackenberg shot down speculation that his future plans were up in the air pending a meeting with Franklin.
I really wasnt going in there looking to hear anything in particular, Hackenberg said. He was upfront, he was honest with me, plans on what he wanted to do. He didnt really have to sell me on anything. Im still here. This is where I want to play ball. So it was a great meeting. I just got to know him on a personal level.
Hackenberg had contact with Franklin before as the former Vanderbilt coach recruited Hackenberg during his junior year at Fork Union Military Academy.
But even then, Hackenberg said, their contact was limited to a phone call or two. Instead, Hackenberg dealt more with Vanderbilt quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne, who is expected to be announced as Penn States quarterbacks coach in the coming days.
Rahne changed his Twitter profile to reflect his new job on Franklins Penn State staff on Wednesday.
Along with Rahne, Franklin who played quarterback at East Stroudsburg tutored former Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman and helped the former Wildcat become an NFL starter.
Former Vanderbilt assistants Brent Pry (linebackers), Bob Shoop (defensive coordinator), Josh Gattis (receivers) and Sean Spencer (defensive line) are expected to join Franklins staff and all are listed in the Penn State directory. Penn State has not announced any hires.
Theyve been there, done that. Theyve seen everything that youve done, Hackenberg said. Theyve been in almost every situation that youve been through so you really get to appreciate that and I think they appreciate what youre doing a little bit more. Im excited to be able to work with him and his expertise and just having him to be able to fall back on in terms of actually being able to play the position that he understands.
Franklin said at his introductory press conference that he plans to implement a pro-style offense. Hackenberg said he has not yet seen a playbook, however and isnt sure of specifics at this point.
Hackenberg, who will turn 19 in February, was able to absorb a heavy dose of OBriens pro-style attack and employ it effectively as the 2013 season wore on. Hackenberg completed 231 of 392 passes for 2,955 yards for 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Im going to approach it the same exact way. Im excited about it, Hackenberg said. I know hes going to work to the strength of this team and were going to go from there. Im excited. I cant wait to get (the playbook) in my hands.
While the team is without a playbook for now, Hackenberg will also be without his top target. Allen Robinson announced earlier this month he will forgo his final season at Penn State and enter Mays NFL Draft.
Defensive back Adrian Amos said Robinson is currently working out in preparation for the Draft. ESPNs Mel Kiper Jr. currently has Robinson pegged as the 32nd overall pick.
Hackenberg credited Robinson with helping him get assimilated to the college game as the two began working out together as soon as Hackenberg arrived on campus last summer.
Robinsons absence he caught a school record 97 passes for 1,432 yards leaves the team with a hole on offense. Among returning players, tight ends Jesse James (25) and Adam Breneman (15) are first and fourth on the team respectively in catches while receiver Geno Lewis (18) is second.
We still have to go out and perform in spring practice, perform in training camp, Breneman said. But its exciting to know the opportunity is going to be there to get the ball a little bit more. If everything goes as planned hopefully the tight end group will have a big 2014 season.
Lewis caught three touchdowns, tied for second among receivers. Lewis said hes tried to model himself after Robinson. Breneman said hed spend time after practices last season watching film of Robinson in order to improve his receiving skills.
The seniors and the guys that left early are some really good guys and Ill miss them dearly, Lewis said. But it also is a new opportunity for myself to step up and be a leader on the team. Im really excited for that.
Notes: Ohio State officially announced Larry Johnson as defensive line and assistant head coach on Wednesday. Johnson spent 18 years at Penn State and served as interim head coach until Franklin was hired. Johnson was given the opportunity to stay at Penn State by Franklin but turned down the offer. ... Five-star defensive line recruit Thomas Holley flipped his commitment from Penn State to the Florida Gators on Wednesday.