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Hackenberg, Zettel Lead Way For Penn State At NFL Combine

Another year, another stellar showing from Nittany Lion standouts in Indianapolis. It’s commonplace for Penn State to be well represented at the NFL Scouting Combine, but it’s been quite a while since we’ve seen a buzz like the one surrounding this year’s crop of players. With arguably the most important player in recent history entering the draft, all eyes were fixed on Hackenberg and his defensive counterparts as they took to the field in hopes of boosting their draft stock.

alex robinson christian hackenberg stock michigan whiteout james franklin bill o'brien

QB Christian Hackenberg

With scouts remaining skeptical of his regular season tape, Hackenberg needed a resounding performance during field drills in Indianapolis to — if anything — quiet the noise and reassure NFL brass that he’s worthy of a top-100 selection.

Known generally for his abilities as a pocket quarterback — that is, when a pocket was actually formed around him — Hackenberg turned some heads with his surprising speed during drills. He managed to tie for third place among quarterbacks along with former Stanford standout Kevin Hogan with a remarkably quick 4.78, finishing one-one hundredth of a second behind players like Carson Wentz and Trevone Boykin, two of the draft’s quickest quarterbacks.

Hackenberg finished with a 31-inch vertical, a 114-inch broad jump, and 7.04 in the three cone drill — a top-tier time among passers. It remains to be seen how scouts will digest his up and down passing performance, but if his Combine performance is any indication, the kid’s got some serious athleticism.

carl nassib penn state football at temple

DE Carl Nassib

Nassib, like Hackenberg, had plenty of questions to answer in Indianapolis. Measuring in at 6-foot-7, 277 pounds, Nassib’s NFL comparisons have covered the spectrum. He’s drawn Jared Allen-like praise, but has some scouts worried that he’s not active enough with his hands, and that he only relies on speed.

Nassib’s Combine performance was good, not great. He ran a 4.84 in the 40, leaving scouts wishing he whittled that time down a few notches, while finishing with a 28.5-inch vert, 21 bench press reps, 114-inch broad jump, 7.27 three cone time, and a 4.37 20 yard shuttle time. Again, it’s important to note that Nassib’s tape speaks for itself, and that he moved rather fluidly at such a remarkable size. He’s generally one of those players who’ll perform better in pads, but expect the 40 time to reduce come Pro Day on March 17.

Austin Johnson PSU vs. Indiana

DT Austin Johnson

Johnson’s draft stock hasn’t fluctuated nearly as much as his more scrutinized counterparts. In fact, it’s seen a meteoric rise over the course of the regular season, which prompted his decision to turn pro. Johnson’s seen as a traditional run-stuffing defensive tackle with the ability to occasionally pressure the quarterback. A jack-of-all-trades of sorts, he wasn’t expected to blow away the Combine, so his numbers aren’t too surprising.

Johnson finished with 25 bench press reps, a 26-inch vert, 99-inch broad jump, 7.84 three cone time, and a in the 4.75 20 yard shuttle. It’s interesting to note that his 5.32 40 yard dash was one of the slowest times at the combine — at 314 pounds, Johnson’s speed is more tailored to short spaces rather than long distances.

He’ll have an opportunity to improve those numbers at Holuba Hall, something he’ll definitely be expected to do.

Anthony Zettel

DL Anthony Zettel

Zettel entered the combine looking to establish himself among the draft’s more talented defensive line prospects, despite being more of a hybrid at the NFL level. At 6-foot-4, 277 pounds, Zettel projects as more of a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL, but has the ability to play numerous positions on the line.

His numbers were solid. Zettel recorded a 4.81 40 time, 28 bench press reps, a 30.5 inch vert, 109 inch broad jump, 7.63 in the three cone, and a 4.39 20 yard shuttle. His quickness definitely correlates to pass rushing effectiveness, as he’s shown time and time again throughout his remarkable Penn State career.

About the Author

David Abruzzese

David is a senior from Rochester, NY, nestled right in beautiful Western New York. He is majoring in Broadcast Journalism, and as an avid sports fan, he passionately supports the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres. He is the first Penn Stater from his family, and couldn’t be prouder to represent Penn State University. In his free time, he likes to alpine ski, and play golf. You can follow him on Twitter @abruz11, and can contact him via email at [email protected]

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