A More Confident, Communicative Christian Hackenberg Enters Spring Game
When Penn State kicks off its 2015 season with the annual Blue-White spring game this Saturday, quarterback Christian Hackenberg will come in with a clean slate. Hackenberg’s struggles in 2014 have been talked about over and over, from turnover issues to noticeable tension with the coaching staff. However, the quarterback appears to be coming into his junior season with a heightened level of focus, ready to bounce back with a transitional year behind him.
Communication between the quarterback and coaching staff are off to a much better start in year two. Hackenberg has expressed nothing but confidence in James Franklin and his staff, most notably offensive coordinator John Donovan and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne this spring. Love is a strong word but Hackenberg hasn’t had a problem throwing it around.
“I love everything that they’re doing. I love their mindset, I love their approach to the game and I love working with them,” Hackenberg said. “They’re guys that make me excited about stepping in that building everyday because I know that there’s a focus and there’s a sincere and genuine care for us to be the best that we can be.”
Hackenberg spoke about some of the weapons around him on Tuesday’s call. All of last season’s contributing receivers are returning and Hackenberg said that he has seen improvement across the board in understanding the offense.
Lining up behind Hackenberg will be Akeel Lynch, the redshirt junior who will be the featured back for the first time in his career after backing up Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak last season. Hackenberg says that a newfound focus on the playbook and dedication in the weight room has Lynch poised for a breakout year.
“I think this spring has just been my confidence in the entire scheme and getting the ball to guys and letting them go make plays rather than trying to make the play myself,” Hackenberg said. “I’m not a guy who’s going to go out and run around and extend the play with my legs necessarily for seven, eight seconds.”
Hackenberg has focused more on his health and conditioning himself, working with strength coach Dwight Galt.
“I think I stayed relatively healthy, all things considered, last year,” he said. “I want to build on that, massage therapy, stretching, chiropractor work. Make sure everything’s in line, everything’s clicking. Ultimately, the body is what’s paying for my education right now.”
Though this weekend serves as more of a show for the Penn State faithful, Hackenberg knows its important for the offense to get the reps in, especially for the younger players to get game-type experience.
“Personally I enjoy it because its a continuation of all spring,” Hackenberg said. “You get to go out there, have fun some fun with the guys and the coaching staff. You get a good feel for what you need to do and its a good way to end spring heading into the summer session.”
Image: Mitchell Wilston