True freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg has edged out junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson and will start Penn State’s season opener Saturday against Syracuse, according a to a report from ESPN.com.
Penn State coach Bill O’Brien has not publicly announced his decision, but ESPN said that a “source with knowledge” of O’Brien’s choice has confirmed that Hackenberg will start in the 3:30 p.m. contest against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
If the report is accurate, Hackenberg will become just the third true freshman since 1910 to start the season at quarterback for the Nittany Lions. Shorty Miller (1910) and Rob Bolden (2010) are the other two.
The highly touted Hackenberg, who threw for 2,144 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy last fall, entered camp behind Ferguson, a transfer from the College of Sequoias in California. Ferguson had emerged as the No. 1 signal-caller following spring practices.
O’Brien said early in fall camp that Ferguson was ahead of Hackenberg, but that he expected it to be a close competition for the starting job.
Although he said early in the summer that he hoped to name a starter midway through fall camp, O’Brien refused to anounce his choice this week.
“You’ll find out who the quarterback is on the first play of the game against Syracuse,” O’Brien said on Tuesday. “Believe me, I’m not trying to diminish the importance of that position and what it means to this football program or what it means to our fans or anything out there. I want to do what’s best for our players and what’s best for our football team.”
O’Brien also said Tuesday that both Hackenberg and Ferguson would see time against the Orange, who also have not announced a starting quarterback.