When Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg announced his decision to enter the NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining, much was made about the display of public thanks the Nittany Lions’ battle-fatigued quarterback shared. One notable exception was Penn State head coach James Franklin, which led to plenty of hot takes left and right. On Saturday, Franklin was asked about Hackenberg’s departure and lack of public thanks on his way out during a media press conference.
“I’m really happy for Christian and his family, Franklin said. Franklin said Hackenberg actually called Franklin the next day and claimed the two had a great conversation.
The relationship between Hackenberg and Franklin had been a talking point for the past two seasons. After a brilliant display as a freshman under Bill O’Brien, Hackenberg’s development was hindered under Franklin for what turned out to be his final two seasons in Happy Valley. Behind a shallow offensive line, Hackenberg was sacked routinely, leading him to appear to take some steps back in his development. As he enters the NFL Draft mix, scouts will be taking a deeper look at Hackenberg’s skills and determine whether or not the offensive line woes were enough of a factor to hold him back as a sophomore and junior.
As for Penn State’s next starting quarterback, Franklin said there will be an open competition for the job starting this spring. Trace McSorely stepped in to replace an injured Hackenberg in Penn State’s TaxSlayer Bowl loss to Georgia and eventually found a comfort level. That brief time leading the offense gave McSorely a nice confidence boost but is far from enough evidence for Franklin to make a call naming McSorely the starter for 2016.
Franklin also noted he was appreciative of the jobs done by former assistants Bob Shoop and Herb Hand. Shoop, who was Franklin’s defensive coordinator, accepted a job offer for the same role at Tennessee. Hand accepted a lateral move at Auburn.