Bill O’Brien made it official on Tuesday. Everyone outside of the Lasch Building is just going to have to wait until Saturday to see who the starting quarterback will be.
Starting his first press conference of his second season as Penn State’s coach, O’Brien didn’t even wait for the question to be asked, addressing the situation right away.
“You’ll find out who the quarterback will be on the first play of the game against Syracuse,” O’Brien said, promising to be brief when answering any questions about the starting job.
Indeed, when asked about it later, “just to clarify,” O’Brien responded in kind.
“Just to clarify,” he said, “you’ll find out on the first snap on Saturday.”
The momentum would seem to favor true freshman Christian Hackenberg to be under center for that first play. But both he and sophomore Tyler Ferguson are expected to see the field at some point when the Nittany Lions face Syracuse at 3:30 p.m. at MetLife Stadium.
O’Brien again strongly hinted that a decision has already been made and the team knows exactly how things will play out.
This time, the coach shed a little light on his thought process in not publicly announcing a starter. O’Brien said the youth of both players — Ferguson is 19, Hackenberg is 18 — played a role in not wanting to add any hype to the decision.
And though the strategic advantage is limited because neither player has played a down of major college football, O’Brien acknowledged that it never hurts to keep an opponent in the dark about personnel.
Likewise, O’Brien said two other starting jobs — right tackle and free safety — won’t be revealed until after kickoff Saturday.
Regardless, Adam Gress and Garry Gilliam will both play at tackle while Malcolm Willis and Ryan Keiser will split time at safety.
O’Brien said both Gress (knee) and linebacker Ben Kline (shoulder) are at full participation in practice and both will play against the Orange.
One player who will not be with the team is true freshman defensive back Neiko Robinson, who has left the team and won’t return.
Though he would not go into specifics about the situation, O’Brien stressed that it was not a disciplinary issue and he praised Robinson’s character.
“He’s a fantastic kid,” O’Brien said. “It just didn’t work out here at Penn State. He will end up somewhere, but he won’t be at Penn State.”