There were only five quarterbacks present at Big Ten Media Days this week, but that’s plenty to give a fair assessment of their colleague and opponent, Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg (who was not present, as head coach James Franklin considers the event as one suited for seniors).
After all, who better to analyze a quarterback than another quarterback?
Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong Jr.
Armstrong grinned when asked about Hackenberg.
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“I enjoy watching him play,” he said. “He’s a great athlete.”
Armstrong (6-foot-1, 220 pounds) said he didn’t realize just how big Hackenberg actually was until one specific moment two years ago.
“We actually went up to Penn State, we played in that game where it snowed a lot,” he said, generating painful laughter from the Nebraska beat writers in the scrum. “He ran to the sideline and he got pushed late, and I had to grab him and it was like grabbing an offensive lineman! It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s tall!’”
Armstrong said Hackenberg is a great athlete, despite last season’s struggles.
“He overcame a lot,” he said. “He’s going to have a bright future. I like watching him play and learn a lot from him, just because he’s in that pro-style offense and he’s making plays and leading those guys the right way.”
Wisconsin’s Joel Stave
Stave said he felt he and Hackenberg had similar journeys last season. Not only did both players make a change from one coach and playbook to another, the Badgers’ quarterback struggled with his touchdown-to-interception ratio in his second season as starting signal-caller, despite a strong previous year.
“He’s kind of gone through what I did, with one coach to another coach,” said Stave. “That’s not always easy, bouncing from coach to coach and one offensive system to another.”
Stave said he thought his personal way of moving forward as a player could also help Hackenberg in the coming season.
“I think just trusting yourself, trusting in your teammates and trusting the process (helps),” he said. “For him, I didn’t get a chance to watch a ton of Penn State games last year, but I know what he did his freshman year. He’s a big guy, and a talented player. So I think as long as he’s able to trust himself and his teammates, there’s no reason he can’t have another very good season.”
Michigan State’s Connor Cook
Cook is considered to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the Big Ten, alongside Hackenberg. The two are very familiar with each other, and will face off in the last regular-season game of the year for both teams on Nov. 28 in East Lansing, Mich.
“He’s a big guy, got a big arm,” said Cook. “(He) has great pocket presence. He just has everything you need. He’s a prototypical quarterback.”
Cook said he noticed that Hackenberg is “calm, cool and collected in the pocket,” which is something he admires and wishes he could emulate a bit more.
Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld
Sudfeld, like Hackenberg, was a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy this summer.
“I didn’t get to interact with (Hackenberg) much,” Sudfeld said. “But he’s a really nice guy. He throws hard.”
Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner
Like Sudfeld, Leidner also joined Hackenberg at the Manning Passing Academy.
Leidner said the camp was a fantastic way to network, and was a bit of a “rite of passage” for quarterbacks who are expected to compete at the next level. He also spoke highly of Hackenberg’s build and ability.