ESPN's Dilfer says Penn State's Hackenberg has 'franchise' potential
ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer delivered a sharp defense of Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg during a radio appearance Wednesday. He also sounded a critical note about Penn State's offense.
Dilfer, who worked with Hackenberg at the Elite 11 quarterback camp, told the "Mike and Mike" show that Hackenberg and Cal's Jared Goff are the two quarterbacks with "franchise-quarterback potential" and compared Hackenberg to Troy Aikman.
Further, Dilfer said not to "write off Hack," particularly once he leaves Penn State.
"Once he gets out of that situation, which is not a good situation at Penn State, scouts and GMs and coaches will drool over Christian Hackenberg," Dilfer said. "He's very, very, very similar to Troy Aikman. They're the same body type, thrower, personality, competitors.
"You go back and look at Troy Aikman coming out [of college], look at Christian Hackenberg, they're very similar. I think it's going to be Hack and Goff both going in the top five. They're really the two that have franchise-quarterback potential."
Asked about Dilfer's comments, Penn State coach James Franklin said "a lot of people have opinions."
"I'm worried about the people in our locker room, people in our building, people at practice every day," he said.
Dilfer echoed what Big Ten analyst Matt Millen said before the season began. Millen also called Hackenberg a top-five NFL draft prospect to whom Franklin had to adapt, rather than vice versa.
"The question is going to be, in Year 2, how well does the staff adapt to Hackenberg," Millen said. "Not how well does Hackenberg adapt to the staff. Because Christian is a top-five pick. If you take that and make it adapt to you, you've made a coaching mistake.
"Here's the good news. Christian is very bright, and now that [James Franklin and his staff] have had him for a year, they know him a lot better. They've had an offseason to work with him. All those things are in Penn State's favor. Now, you adapt your offense to what he can do. Christian has the skills to do well. Let him do it. Don't handcuff him."
BARKLEY'S STATUS: Running back Saquon Barkley could return from an ankle injury to play Saturday against Army, though Franklin won't say definitively either way. The coach, however, noted the difference between injured freshmen and injured seniors.
"Each situation is unique and different," Franklin said. "Obviously, if you're a senior and have played a lot of football and you haven't practiced that week, you can play. As a freshman, it's much harder to do that."
A NEW PLAYER: On his weekly radio show Thursday, Franklin introduced the public to new defensive tackle Immanuel Iyke. A former Marine, Iyke is 27 and joined the team through recent walk-on tryouts. He was the only player among the 150 at tryouts to receive a roster invite.
NOTEWORTHY: Defensive tackle Anthony Zettel was nominated this week for the Orange Bowl Courage Award. Zettel made a career-high seven tackles and recovered a fumble in the Lions' win over San Diego State. He played one day after the death of his father, Terry. Redshirt freshman running back Johnathan Thomas has been in the rotation at practice this week and could see his first career action against Army West Point. Penn State leads the nation with 18 sacks. Individually, defensive end Carl Nassib leads the nation with seven.