Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Qb's Focus Can Be on Himself for Change

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Qb's Focus Can Be on Himself for Change

Article excerpt

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Christian Hackenberg, like the rest of his teammates, took a couple weeks after the Pinstripe Bowl to relax and get his legs back under him.

As much as a break was needed physically after absorbing 44 sacks and completing his second season as Penn State's starting quarterback, so, too, was a mental rest. With no playbook in sight and no film study to get to, Hackenberg and his father spent part of his two weeks away from football doing one of the pastimes they enjoy most: deer-hunting.

"My dad and I both killed one," Hackenberg said Wednesday, with a grin. "Meat in the freezer."

As much as the he tried to recharge before returning to campus for winter strength and conditioning, the plays - a lot of them - kept running through his head. He said it was a good problem to have. He'd watch other bowl games making mental notes about his own performance, one where he, at times, didn't play as well as he would've liked and threw a career-high 15 interceptions, but also was tasked with bringing along an inexperienced offense and playing the role of problem-solver.

"I think my mind was in a lot of places last year," Hackenberg said. "I kind of lost the ability to sort of focus on myself when I need to in a sense that making sure I'm doing my job, and a lot of these guys have done a great job of holding me to that standard this offseason, this spring."

There's an increased comfort level with rest of the Nittany Lions' grasp of the offense. With more experienced teammates, Hackenberg can focus on himself and doesn't have to worry about bringing others up to speed.

"When you get hit that much, you start falling into bad habits, you start drifting, your footwork's not as clean, falling off throws, things like that," coach James Franklin said. "Last year, really, he was so focused on everybody else and trying to help them that it stunted his development in some ways. …

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