If Michigan sacks Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg three times on Saturday, the third will mark the 100th time he has been sacked in his three battered years under center for the Nittany Lions. That constant pressure has rendered Hackenberg with one of the same scouting concerns that fell on Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler when he came out of Vanderbilt University, according to an NFL scout.
"His accuracy hasn't been good and his anticipation hasn't been good. He can make some great throws but you can tell he's not comfortable back there. He got beat up so bad last year, he was like a pinata," the scout told The Morning Call. "I think he can be repaired. But you have to wonder. It's kind of like Cutler. He's still trying to make throws off his back foot. Why? He got the crap knocked out of him at Vanderbilt. I think this kid has a chance, but he's in such a bad situation. Their offense doesn't suit him very well."
Hackenberg was sacked 44 times as a sophomore in 2014, the most of any FBS quarterback, and this season hasn't been much better. He's been dropped 32 times this year, and with regular season games remaining against the Wolverines and Michigan State, plus a bowl game, opposing pass rushes are on a pace to approach that total again.
The divide between Hackenberg's performance and his highly regarded potential as a pro seems to only get wider as he continues to struggle. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah attended Penn State's 23-21 loss to Northwestern on Saturday and came away unimpressed with the junior. Jeremiah also found Penn State's pass protection -- Hackenberg was sacked twice -- to be more than adequate on Saturday.
There is no question Hackenberg has thrown the ball under immense pressure for much of his PSU career.
But if he is now throwing like a pressured quarterback whether he is under pressure or not, his best play might be to return to the Nittany Lions next season and show NFL scouts a more assured presence.