Hackenberg, Zettel Named to Sports Illustrated’s 2015 B1G Watch List
Two Nittany Lions made the cut for Sports Illustrated’s list of 12 Big Ten players to watch for in the upcoming football season. Unsurprisingly, the two players are standout quarterback Christian Hackenberg and defensive lineman Anthony Zettel.
Hackenberg’s numbers regressed in his second season at the helm of Penn State’s offense, but he still showed flashes of brilliance. In the first and last games of the season, he threw for a combined 825 yards and five touchdowns, first abroad in Ireland and then in Penn State’s first bowl game since 2011. His numbers across the entire season were humbling (12 TDs, 15 INTs, 2,977 yards), but with an offense that’s adding more than it’s subtracting, he rightfully will be a player to watch.
On the other side of the ball, Zettel had a monster season playing a key role on one of the best run defenses in the country. Leading the team’s linemen for Bob Shoop‘s elite defense, Zettel totaled eight sacks and 15 tackles for a loss, adding two interceptions. After the season, he was named to BTN.com’s All-Big Ten First Team and All-Big Ten Bowl Team, and was sought after by numerous NFL scouts during the season. The rising senior will once again be counted on by Shoop to maintain the stifling defense that Penn State had last year.
Of the 12 players on the list, seven are from Ohio State (including its three quarterbacks), two are from Michigan State, two are from Penn State, and one is from Wisconsin. Hackenberg is one of five quarterbacks on the list alongside the Buckeyes’ Miller, Barrett, and Jones and the Spartans’ Connor Cook. Zettel is the only defensive tackle on the list, but two other defensive linemen are present: Ohio State’s Joey Bosa and Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun, both defensive ends.
A strong recruiting class, an experienced offense, and a comparatively easier schedule than last year’s might result in big seasons from multiple players, not just Hackenberg and Zettel.