Penn State QB race is a dead heat
Penn State's first 10 spring practices apparently did not produce any separation between the two quarterbacks who are competing to replace record-setting Matt McGloin.
That does not necessarily mean that neither Steven Bench nor Tyler Ferguson will have an edge after spring practice concludes April 20 with the annual Blue-White game.
“Any time you have practices left, there's always enough time for one guy to separate himself,” coach Bill O'Brien said, “and we'll see what happens over the next few practices.”
O'Brien is in no hurry to settle on a successor to McGloin, especially since the second-year coach will want to take a long look at incoming blue-chip quarterback Christian Hackenberg during preseason practice.
The Hackenberg factor isn't the only reason why Bench and Ferguson have been splitting repetitions with the first-team offense this spring.
“I think they've both had their good moments and their bad moments,” O'Brien said.
That is to be expected considering each is only a sophomore with limited experience.
Bench played sparingly behind McGloin last season, learning O'Brien's offense. Ferguson played last season at the College of the Sequoias in California, throwing for 2,614 yards and 22 touchdowns. He has been cramming to learn O'Brien's complex offense since enrolling at Penn State in January.
“Man, he's picking it up quick,” starting right guard John Urschel said of Ferguson. “Both of these guys are doing a great job of understanding the entire offense and really taking a leadership role at that position.”
“These are smart guys,” the second-year coach said. “It's not like they've made a ton of mental errors. I think that these guys have had productive practices. Has every play been great? No, but you can say that at every position.”
O'Brien hasn't babied his quarterbacks after having McGloin, who led the Big Ten in passing as a fifth-year senior. He has expanded the offense he installed last year, which has put as much pressure on Bench and Ferguson to keep up with O'Brien as much as with each other.
O'Brien said before the start of spring drills that he wouldn't name a starting quarterback going into the summer because of Hackenberg, who won't enroll until late June. Quarterback is the only unsettled position on an offense that returns eight starters and will plug in Adam Gress and Ty Howle at right tackle and center, respectively.
O'Brien still has plenty of time before he has to make a decision at quarterback. The Blue-White game, which represents the 15th and final practice of the spring, is little more than a week away.
“The word patience is a very important word, especially as it relates to me,” O'Brien said. “Coming from pro football I definitely have to learn more patience with all of these young players, and I think I have. But I can even do a better job of being more patient because these guys are 18, 19 years old. We've got to let them grow and that's what we're trying to do.”