O'Brien won't publicly name a starting QB before Syracuse kickoff

Penn State head football coach Bill O'Brien. (AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Nabil K. Mark)

It’s official.

Penn State coach Bill O’Brien will not divulge publicly the identity of the Nittany Lions’ starting quarterback for Saturday’s season-opening game against Syracuse prior to the opening kickoff.

O’Brien had been hinting for almost a week that he would keep his selection of either sophomore Tyler Ferguson or freshman Christian Hackenberg close to the vest. But at his first teleconference of the season on Tuesday, he declared to the media, “You’ll find out who the quarterback is on the first play of the game against Syracuse.”

O’Brien wouldn’t say if he had in fact made his decision, or whether his coaches, his players or the two contenders for the job knew what that decision was already.

About to begin his second season on the Penn State sideline, O’Brien said he understood that naming a starter publicly was important to the fans.

“The game of football, in many ways, it’s obviously for the players and the coaches,” he said. “But it’s for the fans. It’s a spectator sport. And I get that, and I love the Penn State fans.

“So I’m not trying to do it to bust anybody’s chops. I want to do what’s best for the football team right now, the 2013 football team, and I want to do what’s best for the guys involved, and I want to do what’s best for Penn State. And what’s best for Penn State right now is for you to find out when we take the field for the first snap of offensive football against Syracuse.”

O’Brien said the ages of the contestants – the 19-year-old Ferguson and the 18-year-old Hackenberg – also have something to do with his course of action.

“That’s part of it,” he said. “Christian just got here a month ago, a little bit more than that. Tyler was here in January. Last year you had a seasoned guy (Matt McGloin) who had been through a lot here at Penn State, he was going into his fifth year. It was a totally different story last year.

“Again, it’s more about what’s best for the team. The team understands the direction that we’re headed within the (football) building there at Lasch, and they know where we’re going. So that’s what’s important.”

O’Brien also didn’t tip his hand as for naming a starter at two other positions that are running dead even – offensive right tackle (Adam Gress and Garry Gilliam) and safety (Ryan Keiser and Malcolm Willis). But each contender at those two spots will play a lot of football, he said.

--Joe Juliano