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O'Brien's right-hand man Penn State quarterback coach headlines opening day

  • ap filephoto Penn State coach Bill O'Brien, left, gives a play to Matt McGloin. With McGloin graduating, the Nittany Lions will be looking for a new quarterback in 2013.
    ap filephoto Penn State coach Bill O'Brien, left, gives a play to Matt McGloin. With McGloin graduating, the Nittany Lions will be looking for a new quarterback in 2013.
Published March 01. 2013 05:04PM

The 2013 Nike Coach of the Year Clinic will feature many highly regarded speakers throughout the weekend.

One speaker that was on hand yesterday afternoon that hits pretty close to home is Pennsylvania native Charlie Fisher, who is the quarterbacks coach at Penn State.

The Lehigh Valley and surrounding areas are filled with fans that bleed for the blue and white and a question on all of their minds is who will be calling the signals under center for the Nittany Lions come next season.

Coach Fisher wasn't at the Nike Clinic yesterday to answer those questions, but he did lend a little insight to what it takes to be the starting quarterback at Penn State. Needless to say, it's not something you can just pick up overnight. Also,just by sitting and listening to coach Fisher talk about the expectations of the quarterback position at PSU it's easy to see why the Nittany Lions turned their passing attack around so quickly last season.

Coach Fisher began his speech to the coaches in attendance by talking about his strong Pennsylvania roots, growing up in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. He talked about his long journey around the college football ranks and finally how he was approached to coach at Penn State University.

"I got a text from Bill O'Brien about coming to interview to become an assistant," said Fisher. "After everything went well and I got the job I was real excited because I grew up watching Penn State football. I went to games in 1969-70, sitting in the wooden bleachers at Beaver Stadium, so it was cool to come here and coach."

Next Fisher talked about what it takes to play quarterback and believe it, this man is passionate about the quarterback position. He frequently mentioned that the quarterback position is the most vital to a team's success and it's the most prestigious spot on any football team.

"It takes more courage, guts, and steel to play quarterback than any other position. It's the best position in sports," said Fisher. "You're always looking for the guy who can perform great under duress. Any talented kid can play well in a 7-on-7 drill, it's the guy that performs well under pressure that you want running your offense."

Penn State's quarterback last season, Matt McGloin had a tough time before Bill O'Brien and company took over the helm in 2012. McGloin passed for just 3,119 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions combined in 2010 and 2011, splitting time with Rob Bolden. Bolden's transfer to LSU opened the door for McGloin to be the full-time starter last season and he took full advantage of Bill O'Brien's offense, throwing for 3,271 yards, 24 TDs, and just five interceptions.

McGloin is now graduated and the Nittany Lions staff has three quarterbacks that will be vying for the starting job come fall.

A slight edge as of right now has to go to sophomore Steven Bench, who served as McGloin's back-up in 2012. Bench is a great athlete with decent size measuring 6-2 and weighing in at about 210 pounds. Bench has some quickness as well being timed at a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash.

Fisher said this of Bench last February after he signed at PSU. "He's got athleticism, he can throw the ball, he's a great competitor."

Bench has to have the advantage at this moment after serving a year in O'Brien's system. All O'Brien cares about is who can run his offense the best and Fisher validated that when talking to area coaches yesterday.

"You have to find the guy who can run the show the best," said Fisher. "The guy who can create the tempo you want. It's important for you to choose the guy who is an expert in your offense because then everyone on the team will believe in him."

Next on the list is junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson. Ferguson has real nice size at 6-4 210 pounds and the word on the street is that he has a rifle for an arm. He played his freshman season at College of the Sequoias in California. He wasn't highly recruited coming out of high school because of a collarbone injury, but the kid has shown some real potential and definitely has some ability. He threw for 2,614 yards with 22 touchdowns in 10 games last season.

Last, but not least is incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg, rated as the number one quarterback in the ESPN top 150 of high school players. Most people would like to see Hackenberg redshirt in 2013, but if Bench nor Ferguson show the ability to run O'Brien's offense to his liking you could see "Hack" make a push for a starting role. He has all the intangibles standing at 6-4 215 pounds and has shown on many occasions that he can make all the big throws. He has been deemed the quarterback of the future for the Nittany Lions, but only time will tell on that front.

O'Brien's ability to evaluate the quarterback position should give Penn State fans some comfort. It's pretty safe to say that whoever is behind center for the Nittany Lions next season that they will be prepared to play the position. As coach Charlie Fisher said yesterday to the people in attendance at his seminar.

"We're not in the compassion business as coaches, we're in the results business."

Simply put, the Nittany Lions have three options going into next season, so don't be surprised if you see all three get their chance in 2013.

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