It’s not known yet whether junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg and junior defensive tackle Austin Johnson will declare for the 2016 NFL Draft, but in the interest of weighing all of their options, the two have both had conversations on the topic with head coach James Franklin.
They both have also reached out to the NFL Draft Advisory Board for opinions on their potential, said Franklin during Friday’s Penn State Bowl Media Day at Beaver Stadium.
“I met with both of those guys two weeks ago,” said Franklin. “Had really good meetings with them. We have some services we provide (for players and their families). They both have applied for information from the NFL.”
Franklin said that if and when a decision is made by either player, the process will be formally announced.
“What we basically decided, just like everything else, is that we want to have a plan,” he said. “Whatever we decide, it’s not going to be something thrown out mid-week. (It’s) something that we’ll do together in a way that (the players) want it to be done and that will be right for Penn State.”
When asked during player availability, Hackenberg said he’s only focusing on Penn State’s upcoming bowl game against Georgia, and that he’s not made a decision regarding his NFL future just yet.
Whatever we decide, it’s not going to be something thrown out mid-week. (It’s) something that we’ll do together in a way that (the players) want it to be done and that will be right for Penn State.
Head coach James Franklin
Hackenberg also said he met new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead this week and watched about four hours of film with him, during which time Moorhead talked about his offensive system, one with a style in which Hackenberg has never played.
“Picked his brain, I was intrigued about the offense (he will run),” he said. “Everyone thinks (it’s) the spread and stuff, I’ve never really ran what’s labeled as a spread offense. Never in my life. So I was just curious about how it worked and it was kind of cool how he broke it down, and the intricacies with it, how he teaches it to his guys and what he expects out of everyone.”
He and Johnson will likely be hearing feedback from the Advisory Board soon, if they haven’t already. When receivers coach Josh Gattis went through the process in 2006 as an underclassman at Wake Forest University, he said the board told him and other players what they felt was in the player’s best interest.
“It’s a very honest feedback that the NFL gives you,” said Gattis. “Obviously it's a stressful time for a lot of kids because they want to make the best decision, and you can imagine, 19- and 20-year-old kids getting pulled into lot of different directions, not necessarily are they all for the benefit of the kids. The kids just have to make sure that they are leaning on the people close to them, leaning on making the right decisions that are not only going to help them be successful for the next four to ten years of their NFL career, but the next 40 years of their life.”
The NFL Advisory Board has changed its feedback policies since Gattis applied.
According to NFL reporter Albert Breer, instead of a prior unlimited number of athletes who could apply for feedback from the board, now only five per school are permitted. Additionally, the process has been vastly streamlined. Players used to get five categories of grades: As high as the first round, as high as the second round, as high as the third round, no potential to be drafted in the first three rounds and no potential to be drafted.
Now, that’s cut to a first-round appraisal, second-round, or neither — meaning the board will advise a player to stay in school.
Regardless of what Hackenberg and Johnson hear back, no announcement will be made until after the bowl.
“After the bowl game those guys will handle things the right way,” Gattis said. “We’re all 100 percent supportive. We love those guys as players and teammates, and we know in the end they’ll make the best decisions for them.”