STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State coach James Franklin brushed off the notion Wednesday night that quarterback Christian Hackenberg is in a bad situation.
Former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, an ESPN analyst, said earlier Wednesday that once the junior signal-caller gets “out of that situation -- which is not a good situation at Penn State -- scouts and GMs and coaches will drool over Christian Hackenberg.” Dilfer’s opinion isn’t an uncommon one, as other pundits and analysts have shared a similar sentiment.
But, after Wednesday’s practice, Franklin appeared to dismiss -- or at least ignore -- Dilfer’s take.
“A lot of people have opinions,” Franklin said. “We got to play well. We got to play well on offense, we got to play well on defense, we got to play well on special teams. We got to play well by position -- so, again, I’m worried about the people in our locker room, the people in our building and the people practicing today.”
Dilfer also compared Hackenberg’s playing style to Dallas Cowboys great Troy Aikman, a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl champion. Franklin said he didn’t feel comfortable comparing the two since he never coached Aikman.
As far as quarterbacks Franklin has coached -- which, to be fair, hasn’t been many elite ones -- he said Hackenberg most reminded him of Kansas State's Josh Freeman, a first-round NFL draft pick who threw 44 touchdowns to 34 interceptions during his college career. Freeman currently plays for the Brooklyn Bolts of the Fall Experimental Football League (FXFL).
“I had Josh -- a little bit different because I had Josh as a recruit, and as a freshman and as a sophomore,” Franklin said. “And he started for us as a freshman and did some pretty good things. But, yeah, physically, just the arm strength and things like that -- I could probably make a better comparison with that than Troy Aikman or anyone else.”
Hackenberg was named Big Ten freshman of the year in 2013 after throwing 20 touchdowns to 10 interceptions under then-coach Bill O’Brien, who left to coach the NFL's Houston Texans. Since then, Hackenberg has thrown 16 TDs and 17 picks, and his completion percentage has dipped every season.