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Professor O’Brien Gives Hackenberg a “B” For His Play

Christian Hackenberg is doing well in what Bill O’Brien refers to as his “sixth class,” but not well enough to get a perfect grade just yet.

“I say to Christian, ‘You’re taking five classes on campus. This is your sixth class,'” O’Brien said. “And he’s probably getting around a B. I’ll give him a B.”

It might not be an A+, but O’Brien did have quite a few good things to say about his freshman starting quarterback at his weekly press conference. Hackenberg has been extremely accurate so far this season, completing around 71 percent of his passes, an impressive number considering he’s just 18 years old.

“I expect him to complete every pass, so obviously 70 percent is a good percentage,” O’Brien reported. “I think any time you complete over 70 percent of your passes a lot of good things are happening there. He’s throwing accurate passes, the guys are making good catches, and we’re protecting for him. When I call a pass I expect it to be complete. It’s a high bar and Christian understands that.”

Hackenberg has been great in the tangible aspects of the game: scoring points, keeping his completion percentage up, and racking up yards. But it’s what he’s done within the intangible aspect of the game that has really impressed O’Brien so far this season. Despite being one of the youngest players on the team, Hackenberg has emerged as a leader. On Saturday, after Zach Zwinak lost a crucial fumble, Hackenberg was seen consoling his downtrodden teammate.

“I think he does that naturally,” O’Brien said. “He’s a mature kid and I think nowadays when you look at recruiting, these kids are exposed to so much before they get here. They’ve spoken to the media, their picture has been on magazines. A lot of kids like Christian are ready for this. He has the personality to deal with his teammates. He’s a buddy of Zach’s and everybody felt bad for Zach.”

But leadership isn’t the only area that Hackenberg has excelled in throughout the first three games of the season. His confidence is through the roof too.

“He’s a self-confident kid,” O’Brien said. “He’s just got a really good demeanor and he’s sure of himself. He knows he has good abilities and he’s just a good person. He’s a calm guy, which is great for me, because I’m not a calm guy. The team feeds off of that. The guys have a lot of confidence in him.”

Here are the rest of the highlights from O’Brien’s Tuesday press conference:

  • On the injury front, Mike Hull is day-to-day. The other outside linebacker spot is up for grabs between Nyeem Wartman OR Stephen Obeng-Agyapong.
  • O’Brien hates losing: “Losing is brutal,” he said. “You do not want to lose. It’s just not a good feeling. But what you have to do is immediately pick yourself right back up. I allow them 12 hours of a mourning period. You have an opponent on the horizon that’s a good opponent. These kids are resilient. They come into the office on Sunday on their own. That’s their day off.”
  • On the Blue Out this Saturday: “One of our commitments is to help put an end to that horrible thing called child abuse.”
  • On the tackling issues against UCF: “It’s very rare that teams go live [in practice] anymore. What it has to do with is being in good football position. I thought we were aligned improperly sometimes. That will improve. There’s hundreds of teams out there that practice the same way we do. I’ve been places where we never hit [in practice] and I’ve been places where we hit every day and we can’t tackle. It has to do with being aligned properly and using proper technique.”
  • On Penn State’s offensive performance vs. UCF: “We did some decent things offensively. But if you turn the ball over, you have too many penalties, you have too many three-and-outs, and you’re in a high-scoring game, you’re going to come out on the losing end.”
  • On the tight ends: “I think all those guys have played solid for us. Kyle Carter, against Syracuse, had an offensive lineman land on this arm and almost broke his arm, so he’s been banged up. Jesse [James] has had a good year. You know, these are young players. I think Jesse is 19, Kyle just turned 20, and Adam Breneman is a freshman and had his best game last week. Those guys will continue to improve and just work hard.”
  • On Deion Barnes: “I think you have to really look at the film closely. He’s played with great effort. People are running away from him and people are giving the tackles help in protection with him. To me, he’s playing well and I’m glad he’s on our team.”
  • On the offensive line: “Our offensive line played their best game [against UCF.] They played physical. I thought we pass-protected really well. The sacks aren’t on the offensive line. It’s either holding the ball too long or having a blitz break off or whatever it is. They’re a great bunch of guys. They’re tough, just a fun group of guys to be around.”
  • On the young cornerbacks: “They learned a lot last week. They had their share of good plays and they had their share of not so good plays. I think Jordan Lucas is a really good player. He’s tough, he’s strong, he has good size, and good ball skills. He’ll get better, and better, and better. I can say the same thing for Trevor Williams. He’s a fantastic kid. Just like all of us he made his share of mistakes on Saturday. Remember, he was a receiver last year, so it was only his third game at corner.”
  • On the media: “I probably read about five or six articles a day. That takes me like 15 minutes. Nothing against your writing, it’s fantastic writing. That’s part of my job as the head football coach to know what’s going on, not just in my office or in the film room. But that’s all I do. I don’t tweet. I don’t Spacebook or blog or whatever.”

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About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.

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