Christian Hackenberg declares for draft after suffering injury

Quarterback Christian Hackenberg's Penn State career has ended with an injury.

The enigmatic junior announced after Saturday's TaxSlayer Bowl that he intends to enter the 2016 NFL Draft. Hackenberg suffered a shoulder sprain Saturday, Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said after the game. Franklin said he doesn't think the injury is "anything really serious."

Hackenberg left the field in the second quarter of the game and was ruled out for the rest of the the contest. Georgia defeated Penn State, 24-17.

Hackenberg fell hard on his right shoulder at the end of a run in the second quarter and was favoring the shoulder after the hit. He stayed in the game, but went to the sideline several plays later. Hackenberg went to the locker room and was replaced by backup Trace McSorley.

Hackenberg returned to the Penn State sideline in the third quarter in street clothes.

Hackenberg can now turn his attention to draft prep, where he'll be one of the more intriguing talents under evaluation.

While he has prototypical size and many of the traits NFL teams look for in a franchise quarterback, Hackenberg's performance often hasn't matched his billing as a prospect. After showing great promise under Bill O'Brien as a freshman in 2013, Hackenberg's production has declined under Franklin, who became PSU's head coach after O'Brien left to become the Texans' coach before the 2014 season. Poor pass protection has also played a role in his struggles.

In what is being interpreted as a slight against his coach, Hackenberg failed to mention Franklin when he thanked Penn State fans and staff while declaring for the draft. If the omission of Franklin was intentional, it would confirm that there's friction between the QB and his coach, as has been perceived since 2014, when Hackenberg failed to show the development expected of him. It's worth noting that Hackenberg thanked O'Brien, who hasn't coached Hackenberg since 2013, before mentioning anyone else in his remarks.

Hackenberg's relationship with Franklin certainly will be scrutinized by NFL teams as they perform their due diligence on the QB. He becomes the fourth underclassmen quarterback to declare for the draft, joining Cal's Jared Goff, Ohio State's Cardale Jones and Memphis' Paxton Lynch. Michigan State's Connor Cook and North Dakota State's Carson Wentz are two of the top senior quarterbacks in the 2016 draft field.

When NFL teams weigh his impressive tools against his game tape, Hackenberg figures to be as confounding as any prospect available.

Hackenberg won't be the only underclassman Penn State will have to replace. Nittany Lions defensive tackle Austin Johnson announced Saturday that he intends to enter the draft. The redshirt junior said he expects to be drafted within the first two rounds.

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