The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

August 27, 2013

College football: Fisher, Hackenberg, Keiser to play roles

Fisher, Hackenberg, Keiser to play roles

Daily Item

---- — By Todd Hummel

For The Daily Item

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Peruse the Penn State University depth chart that was released on Monday in preparation for Saturday's opener at MetLife Stadium with Syracuse and, for a young team, most of the positions seem to be decided.

However, both positions that don't have a starter listed -- quarterback and safety -- have a local connection.

Of course, Nittany Lion fans realize the most important battle of fall camp is coming under center as the battle to replace Matt McGloin quickly boiled down to sophomore Tyler Ferguson and freshman Christian Hackenberg.

Hackenberg is the son of former Susquehanna University quarterback Erick Hackenberg and the Nittany Lions' quarterback coach is Warrior Run graduate Charlie Fisher.

Fisher and O'Brien are entering into their second season working together.

"Anytime you do something a second year at a place, it makes it easier. There is a comfort level with the staff and with Coach O'Brien's expectations," Fisher said. "My job is to coach those guys and make sure they are prepared."

Fisher raved about both Ferguson and Hackenberg and how much work they've already put in to earn the job.

"They keep great notes and both are very diligent about their preparation," Fisher said. "Christian, as freshman, gets it. He understands the process of developing your game. He's talented, but he works at it. That's fun as a coach."

That kind of work ethic is what the Penn State coaching staff is looking for at quarterback. McGloin didn't come to Happy Valley with exciting measurables, but his performance last year and in the preseason with the Oakland Raiders this summer has shown what kind of coaching the quarterbacks get at Penn State.

"(Smarts and work ethic) are a big factor to be the quarterback here at Penn State," Fisher said. "You have to be smart in our offense and have the work ethic to put the time in to learn it. We really look at that side of it when we recruit."

Of course with a father that played college football and his grandfather a long time high school coach in the Coal Region, Christian Hackenberg has grown up around the game, which certainly helps in his readiness for the college game.

"Absolutely if your dad and grandfather have been around the game and you are around the game your whole life, it's a great help," Fisher said. "You grow up hearing the language (of football). It plays a big factor."

The other undetermined starting position on the Penn State roster comes at safety where Selinsgrove graduate Ryan Keiser is fighting for the starting spot with Malcom Willis.

During media day back on Aug. 8, Keiser was just looking forward to helping the Nittany Lions in any way possible.

"I just looking to help the team out in any way that I can," Keiser said. "Be it defense or special teams, I'm just competing as hard as I can."

Keiser will again hold for field goals and extra points this year for Penn State.

Not surprisingly, the three local freshmen run-ons -- Lewisburg's Brandon Smith, Mifflinburg's Michael Wiand and Warrior Run's Austin Fielder -- didn't make the opening three-deep depth chart.