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Penn State notebook: QB will be chosen at camp's midpoint

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Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien speaks at a news conference during Big Ten media day Wednesday, July 24, 2013, in Chicago.

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By Scott Brown
Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 8:21 p.m.

CHICAGO — Sophomore Tyler Ferguson and freshman Christian Hackenberg will split repetitions with the first-team offense when training camp starts in less than two weeks, and coach Bill O'Brien said he plans to pick one of the two as his starting quarterback midway through preseason practice.

Penn State opens preseason practice Aug. 5, and it kicks off the season Aug. 31 against Syracuse in East Rutherford, N.J.

“I'm going to see, hopefully, pretty quickly who stands out,” O'Brien said Wednesday at Big Ten media days. “Maybe neither one of them do, and then I have to make a choice.”

O'Brien said Ferguson will enter camp slightly ahead of Hackenberg since he had 15 practices last spring to run the offense.

Hackenberg, a five-star recruit, arrived at Penn State in late June but has not been allowed to work with the coaches, per NCAA rules. Ferguson, a junior college transfer, went home to California earlier this month to spend time with his mother, who has cancer.

He is expected to return to Penn State for the start of training camp.

Transfer provisionto expire Aug. 1

The reduction or elimination of the NCAA sanctions levied a year ago has generated a lot of buzz recently. And while neither is likely to happen any time soon — if ever — Penn State will get a measure of relief from the sanctions in less than two weeks.

The provision that allowed players to transfer without penalty after the NCAA punished Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal expires Aug. 1.

That means O'Brien and his staff won't have to worry as much about players transferring once preseason practice begins.

The NCAA sanctioned Penn State right before Big Ten Media Days in 2012, and the Nittany Lions' contingent that traveled to Chicago on Wednesday was considerably more relaxed than the one from a year ago.

All-Big Ten guard John Urschel made both trips, and he said answering questions that were mostly about football or math — he also excels in the latter — showed just how far Penn State has come in the last year.

“To be able to focus on football,” Urschel said with a wide smile, “we've moved on.”

Ready for camp

Tight end Kyle Carter and running back Zach Zwinak will be ready for the start of training camp, though the latter will be eased into contact, O'Brien said.

Carter hurt his wrist in November at Nebraska, and Zwinak injured his wrist in April during the Blue-White game. Both players needed surgery.

Zwinak, a 1,000-yard rusher in 2012, enters camp as the No. 1 running back. Bill Belton and redshirt freshman Akeel Lynch will challenge for the starting job.

All three will play, and O'Brien said there are scenarios when two of the three will be on the field at the same time.

Cutting ties

Zayd Issah, who signed with the Nittany Lions in February, cost himself a chance of playing at Penn State following an arrest on several charges, including felony assault, earlier this month.

The Harrisburg-area linebacker had his scholarship pulled following an arrest for using counterfeit money at McDonald's restaurants in March. It appeared that O'Brien would give Issah a second chance if the latter attended prep school for a semester and did well on and off the field.

But the arrest that happened a couple of weeks ago in State College caused O'Brien to distance himself from Issah.

“Zayd won't be at Penn State,” O'Brien said.

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @ ScottBrown_Trib.

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