PSU's Hackenberg still mum on future
Christian Hackenberg is willing to get nostalgic about his favorite games or first time at Beaver Stadium. He's eager to face the "great challenge" that Michigan will bring to Penn State on Saturday. But the junior quarterback isn't quite ready to discuss his future beyond this season.
Penn State will recognize 19 players Saturday scheduled to make their final appearances at Beaver Stadium. Hackenberg is not among them, as he has not announced his intentions beyond this season.
Hackenberg said in August that he would not address his future and stuck to that Tuesday at the team's weekly press conference. Asked if he has considered whether Saturday's game would be his last at Beaver Stadium, Hackenberg said, "not really" before returning the conversation to the present.
"I'm just focusing on it one week at a time, doing what I need to do to make sure I'm the most prepared I can," the quarterback said. "And then, right now for these seniors, to go out and play as well as I can and make sure that as a team we're really rolling and doing what we need to do.
"It's a great challenge that we have this week against Michigan. They bring a lot of stuff to the table. So we're really excited about that, and I think that's where all of our heads are right now."
Hackenberg still has time to decide, as the deadline for early entrants to declare for the 2016 NFL draft is Jan. 18. His pre-draft evaluation will be vital: Hackenberg is projected as a second-round pick, according to nfldraftsscout.com, and the fourth-best quarterback prospect overall.
In the meantime, Hackenberg grew nostalgic Tuesday when asked about his three years at Penn State. His top games were wins over Michigan and Wisconsin in 2013 and last season's Pinstripe Bowl.
His first home game, against Eastern Michigan in 2013, also holds strong in his memory.
"That feels like forever ago, but it really wasn't," Hackenberg said. "It was awesome to be able to come out as a freshman, have kind of a lot of guys around me make plays. It was a great experience. It's one of those things you really never forget. Your first college game at home.
"… And now it's one of those things that doesn't change. Walking out of that tunnel is special every Saturday, and it's something that you look forward to, and it's something that is kind of ingrained in your brain as you move forward."
Coach James Franklin said Hackenberg has grown into his role as a leader and second-year captain, a situation Franklin said the quarterback was "forced into" because of the team's dynamics in 2014. Now, Hackenberg is comfortable with his role at Penn State.
"I think he's grown probably as much as any player in the country in terms of leadership, in terms of adversity, in terms of all the things that he's been through in a very, very short period of time," Franklin said.
Hackenberg was asked one more question regarding his future: specifically, how he would like to be remembered at Penn State. His answer focused on his fellow players.
"I just want to make sure, in terms of teammates' eyes, that they knew that I went out there and left it all on the field, played with a fiery competitor inside of me, and really, really let it all hang out," he said. "That's kind of how I try and play. That's how I try and live my life."
Key week for Barkley: Franklin acknowledged that freshman running back Saquon Barkley, who missed two games with an ankle injury, played through the lingering effects of it for the next four games. Yet during that stretch, Barkley had three games with at least 140 all-purpose yards and rushed for 194 against Ohio State.
Franklin said that Barkley still isn't 100 percent, though the bye week helped.
"He's a dynamic player and doesn't necessarily, physically or mentally, look like a freshman at times," Franklin said. "So we want to continue to build on that."
Prepare for longer lines at Beaver Stadium: Penn State announced additional security measures for Saturday's game against Michigan, asking fans to arrive 30 minutes earlier to facilitate entry into Beaver Stadium.
The university said Tuesday that it has taken the measures following last week's attacks in Paris despite "no known threats against collegiate stadiums, according to the Department of Homeland Security." Security will be increased for a concert Friday at the Bryce Jordan Center as well.
Fans can expect longer lines at stadium gates because of security checks, including pat-downs. Penn State also is asking fans not to bring bags into the stadium. Clear, one-gallon plastic bags for medical needs and personal items are allowed and will be inspected.
"While we know this may be an inconvenience for some, we ask for everyone's patience so that we can get fans into the stadium in time for the Senior Day ceremonies and the noon kick," Mark Bodenschatz, Penn State associate athletic director for facilities and event management operations, said in a statement. "The safety and security of our community is our No. 1 priority, and everyone's help is needed."
Beaver Stadium parking lots will open at 7 a.m. Gates open at 10 a.m. The Senior Day ceremony is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m.