STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Christian Hackenberg, the nation's top-rated quarterback in the 2013 class, won't be arriving on Penn State's campus until June, but coach Bill O'Brien said the incoming freshman still will compete for the starting job.
"Certainly, he'll be in the mix," O'Brien said Monday afternoon on Penn State's first day of spring practice. "We'll teach him the offense and see how he does."
The Nittany Lions' quarterback situation is in flux with the departure of fifth-year signal-caller Matt McGloin, who's hoping to hear his name called on draft day. Because there are only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, O'Brien said he likely wouldn't name a starter this spring.
When asked if he would ideally like to redshirt the incoming quarterback, the coach just shook his head.
"That's not necessarily the case," O'Brien said. "I mean, look, you bring these guys in. They're on full scholarship. Unless they're injured, you're going to put them into the mix and let them compete -- and you're going to play the best players."
Hackenberg will arrive this summer as one of the most heralded quarterback recruits Penn State ever has reeled in, and expectations are high for the Fork Union (Va.) product. He's the highest-rated prospect to commit to Penn State since defensive end Maurice Evans in 2006. ESPN ranked Evans No. 11 overall; Hackenberg is No. 15.
"Christian is a kid you build your program around," former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer said over the summer. "You're better the moment he steps on campus."
Once he steps foot on campus, Hackenberg will compete with two other inexperienced signal-callers. Sophomore Steven Bench is the only returner at the position, and he threw just eight passes last season. Junior college QB Tyler Ferguson enrolled in January.
Hackenberg committed Feb. 29, 2012, and remained loyal throughout the Nittany Lions' unprecedented sanctions, which resulted in a four-year bowl ban and reduced scholarships. As the headliner of Penn State's recruiting class, Hackenberg cited a "gut feeling" and playing under O'Brien as reasons for choosing the Lions.
"You know, I'm just sort of going in there with the mindset that I'm competing for the job," Hackenberg told ESPN last month. "And I'm going to let Coach O'Brien sift through that after workouts."