Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg is using predraft workouts to rebuild his stock after a lackluster 2015 season, but he’s also placing blame for that performance at the feet of his former head coach with the Penn State Nittany Lions, James Franklin.
According to Robert Klemko of the MMQB, Hackenberg has told some NFL teams in interviews that Franklin was at fault for his declining numbers:
Per two personnel sources on two separate teams who have shown interest in drafting Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, the quarterback has said all the wrong things in interviews when asked to explain his declining sophomore and junior numbers (a combined 28 touchdowns and 21 interceptions). Hackenberg has shifted blame to coach James Franklin, who took over in 2014 when coach Bill O’Brien departed for the Texans.
One talent evaluator told Klemko that even though what Hackenberg said is “probably true, you don’t want to hear a kid say that.”
Hackenberg looked like a budding superstar during his freshman season at Penn State under head coach Bill O’Brien in 2013 but was never able to build on that success after Franklin took over.
Despite the drop in production from 2013 to 2014, there was still optimism around Hackenberg as an NFL prospect coming into last season, as Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Burke noted in September:
Of all the players on this list, Hackenberg could have the most realistic shot of skyrocketing into the top five. He was far from the only one to blame for his disappointing 2014 season, but those struggles did expose some concerns, specifically with his accuracy (or lack thereof). The so-called “tools” are all there: 6’4″, big arm, experience in a pro-style system, intelligence. Hackenberg probably winds up going in Round 1 somewhere.
Burke ranked Hackenberg 36th overall on his preseason big board because of his potential.
Fast-forward five months, and Burke’s Feb. 29 big board did not list Hackenberg among the top 100 prospects in the draft.
It’s hard to deny Hackenberg’s physical attributes as a quarterback, but two years of declining performance are not going to endear him to NFL teams. Throwing his college coach under the bus is another obstacle he will have to overcome with one month before the draft.