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Hackenberg eager to get to work

Christian Hackenberg hit several of his targets during his time off last month.

Hackenberg thinks Franklin's offense won't be much different from O'Brien's.

The kind with antlers, that is.

The Big Ten Freshman of the Year spent some of his time away from football hunting deer -- "I killed a few," he said, grinning -- and returned to State College last week with a new coach and what will be a new offense.

The Nittany Lions' starting quarterback is ready for the challenge.

"I'm just kind of chomping at the bit to get to work again," Hackenberg said Wednesday.

Hackenberg flourished under Bill O'Brien's offense, setting 10 Penn State freshman records and throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. He gradually became more familiar with O'Brien's complex playbook as the season progressed and believes learning it will benefit him even as he learns a new offense.

"I feel like a lot of that stuff is going to translate," he said. "It's going to help us down the road, it's going to help me down the road. I feel like what Coach Franklin's bringing in, from what he's told me, it's pretty similar to a lot of the concepts, the verbiage. I think that getting that type of coaching early on is going to help me adjust to whatever type of system comes in here."

Hackenberg said he took a bit of time to look back on a hectic four-month span that began with him beating out Tyler Ferguson for the starting job and ended with him shredding Wisconsin for 339 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-24 upset win. There were plenty of peaks and valleys in between.

"I sort of felt like there was a lot of ups and downs as I've said, but it was a great learning experience for me, a great learning experience for all the young guys that got some playing time," he said. "Moving forward, I think it's something we can definitely build on."

Hackenberg said he was "excited" for Allen Robinson, who elected to leave Penn State early for the NFL after hauling in 97 passes, but that the Nittany Lions were more likely to spread the ball around in 2014 even if he had returned.

"I think we have a lot of young guys we really didn't have a chance to see last year -- Geno Lewis, Richy Anderson," Hackenberg said. "We'll see how they handle the spring."

Ferguson, the team's only other scholarship quarterback this past season, left the team after the season and transferred to Louisville. Among the Nittany Lions' five early enrollees is freshman quarterback Michael O'Connor, who was coached at the IMG Academy by former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke, who coached Hackenberg at last year's Under Armour All-America Game.

"He's going to have to be ready to play," Hackenberg said. "I know he's going to come in here and compete and I'm excited about that. Just having us be able to complement each other at practice and me giving him some tips from last year that I learned, and just help him move forward and progress as a player."

Hackenberg is still about a month shy of his 19th birthday, but with the departures of Robinson, John Urschel and Ty Howle, will instantly absorb one of the leadership roles of what will be a young Penn State offense.

"I know I'm still a freshman -- upcoming sophomore -- but I feel like I've got a lot of the guys' trust and they have mine," he said. "So I feel like that mutual respect really sort of takes that away, and when we're here, we come in here as equals and we all go to work."

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