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New QBs joining fold for spring

From the time the 2012 season ended to the start of this week, Steven Bench was the lone quarterback on Penn State's roster.

Steven Bench is Penn State's only returning quarterback from the 2012 roster.

But he'll have some company in the weight room this winter, and when the Nittany Lions take the field this spring.

Three of the seven players who joined the team as early enrollees this week are quarterbacks, and head coach Bill O'Brien briefly discussed the future of the position during his Monday news conference in Beaver Stadium.

That conversation began with Bench, who completed 2 of 8 passes for 12 yards and added 18 yards rushing on three carries as a true freshman in 2012. The Georgia native played in just two of 12 contests but was the only quarterback other than Matt McGloin to see action.

"Steven Bench will be back for us, and he’s just a great kid, a bright kid, competitive guy, a lot of energy, really a neat kid to be around," O'Brien said. "He's a coach's son. His dad was a coach down there in south Georgia, and just a neat kid to be around. He'll be the first to tell you he's got a lot of work to do, but really looking forward to working with him when spring practice starts."

Penn State, which saw sometimes-quarterback, sometimes-tight end Paul Jones leave the team in late September, missed out on its top junior-college target, Jake Waters, last month, but wasted little time in landing a commitment from Tyler Ferguson. The four-star prospect (6-5, 210) played one season at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif., throwing for 2,650 yards and 26 touchdowns.

"(I) am really excited about working with him," O'Brien said. "He was a guy that we felt really was smart and productive, and had some great conversations with him, and he's been here the last couple days, and met him and talked to him a little bit. Just really excited about him."

Two run-on quarterbacks enrolled this week as well -- Austin Whipple and D.J. Crook. Whipple's father, Mark, is the quarterbacks coach for the Cleveland Browns and worked with O'Brien for one season on the Brown University coaching staff in 1994. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Whipple played at Pine-Richland High School before spending this past season at the Salisbury School in Connecticut.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Crook played at Hyannis Barnstable High School in Massachusetts -- where he threw 77 career touchdown passes -- before spending this past season at Worcester Academy.

Penn State is poised to welcome Top247 quarterback prospect Christian Hackenberg, who recently played in the Under Armour All-American Bowl and is expected to sign with the Nittany Lions on Feb. 6.

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