Penn State looks to already have its quarterback of the future in 5-star recruit Christian Hackenberg, but the Nittany Lions might be making room for one more highly rated signal-caller.
According to a PennLive story citing 247 Sports, Michael O’Connor, a pro-style quarterback currently playing at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida is expected to make his college decision this Saturday, and the destination appears to be Happy Valley.
The 6-foot-4, 223 lb. signal-caller is rated as the No. 9 pro style quarterback in the country. 247 and Rivals have him rated as a 4-star prospect while Scout gives him three stars. He currently has offers from Michigan State, Vanderbilt, Missouri, South Florida, Southern Mississippi, Rutgers, Toledo, Mississippi State, Buffalo, and Akron in addition to the Nittany Lions.
This news could raise a few eyebrows with Hackenberg seemingly already in the fold for the next four or five seasons, but overall, it is not particularly surprising.
Following the transfer of Steven Bench to South Florida, the Nittany Lions currently only have two scholarship quarterbacks on their roster in Hackenberg and JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson. While Bill O’Brien’s squad played the 2012 season with only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster in Bench and Matt McGloin after Rob Bolden transferred to LSU and Paul Jones left the team in late September, two is not a particularly safe number to be at given the risk of injury and depth issues.
A good example here — and also a lesson in how unpredictable college football recruiting can be when it comes to quarterbacks — goes back to Penn State’s 2010 signing class where the Nittany Lions took two 5-star quarterbacks in Jones and Bolden. As the well-told story goes, neither panned out, and a former walk-on in McGloin ended up outlasting both of them.
Looking back over the past decade in a Rivals recruiting database, the Nittany Lions have taken at least one quarterback in seven of their last 10 recruiting classes, the only exceptions being 2007, 2008, and 2011.
Considering all of this along with O’Brien’s background and quarterback coach Charlie Fisher’s pedigree, it makes sense that there is mutual interest between O’Connor and the Nittany Lions despite Hackenberg’s presence and limited scholarship numbers.
Lineman Noah Beh brought a rather impressive 2014 class to 10 verbal commits on Saturday. Five available scholarships remain as a result of the NCAA sanctions. The class is heavy on offensive skill position players and short on lineman with Beh being the only one so far, but those limitations will not stop O’Brien from making room for a talented quarterback who wants to come to Penn State.
O’Connor has a very unique background story that began in Canada and took a stop in Tennessee before arriving at his current Florida location.
Should he choose Penn State on Saturday as many recruiting experts are predicting, his college story could be just as intriguing.