By Tim Owen
For The Daily Item
STATE COLLEGE -- Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien isn't ready to name a starting quarterback yet, but the announcement is just days away.
O'Brien met with reporters before Tuesday's afternoon practice session and said both candidates -- freshman Christian Hackenberg and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson, a sophomore -- are still competing to be the starting Nittany Lion signal caller. But O'Brien wants to announce a starter this week, in order to give him a full week of preparation before the season opener against Syracuse on Aug. 31 in MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
"I told the team this yesterday: These are two of the best young quarterbacks I've ever coached," O'Brien said. "Tyler is 19 years old, and Christian is 18. I'd say by the end of the week, we'll make a decision on who will start the Syracuse game."
O'Brien added that even though he'll name a starter soon, the other candidate must be prepared to play. He wants both quarterbacks to see playing time early in the season.
O'Brien wouldn't concede who had the edge in the two-man race, but he added that he has confidence in both quarterbacks.
"I've never had more fun coaching quarterbacks than I've had coaching these two guys," O'Brien continued. "They're bright guys. They work at it, they compete in practice, they've got good demeanors, they've got good huddle command. I've had a lot of fun coaching both of these guys."
Zwinak to play
First-string running back Zach Zwinak, who rushed for 1,000 yards in 2012, is expected to play in the opener vs. Syracuse.
Zwinak injured his left wrist in the Blue-White Game in April and the injury required surgery. He rehabbed the left wrist throughout most of summer workouts and began preseason practice wearing a red jersey, meaning his contact with other players was limited. That was quite an adjustment for Zwinak, considering he's 240 pounds and known for his bruising running style. So even though defenders weren't allowed to hit him, he was still trying run them over.