Penn State sophomore Christian Hackenberg went into the season as one of the hottest quarterbacks in the nation, praised for his poise, his arm and his mechanics.
In May, NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks wrote that "NFL scouts are already salivating about his potential at the next level."
But with one regular-season game left for the Nittany Lions, things have become so bad that his father is being asked if Christian is going to transfer.
"I won't even touch that," Erick Hackenberg told lancasteronline.com. " ... I don't really have a comment on that at all. I think that's a lot of conjecture. ... It's the outside, looking in. Out of respect to Coach (James) Franklin and the team, out of respect to Christian and everybody else, that's not fair to a lot of people, so I'm not going to touch that. That's something that doesn't even need to be talked about at this point. He loves being at Penn State."
Hackenberg (6-foot-3, 234 pounds) is the prototype dropback passer, but when you're running a pro-style attack, as Penn State is, it helps if your running game is productive and your offensive linemen can protect the quarterback. Neither is the case at Penn State: The Nittany Lions average just 109.6 rushing yards per game -- 116th nationally -- and the offensive line has allowed a Big Ten-high 39 sacks; that number is fifth-most nationally and just one off the school record.
Penn State has two games left, Saturday's regular-season finale against Michigan State and a bowl appearance, and is on a pace to rush for 1,425 yards for the season. Three running backs in the Big Ten already have exceeded that number.
Hackenberg threw for at least 300 yards in each of the first three games this season, including a school-record 454-yard day against UCF in a season-opening win. But he has exceeded 200 yards just twice since, and threw for a season-low 93 yards in last week's loss to Illinois. He has eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions on the season, and three of the TDs came in one game, against Akron. In seven Big Ten games, he has four TD passes and eight interceptions.
Hackenberg threw for 2,955 yards, 20 TDs and 10 interceptions last season, when he completed 58.9 percent of his passes as a true freshman. He had four 300-yard games and five outings with multiple TD passes. He is at 2,411 yards, with a 55.3 completion percentage, through 11 games this season.
Despite the struggles, Erick Hackenberg said his son is handling it well. "He won't get ruined physically," he told lancasteronline.com. "He's not getting ruined mentally and (is) just using it as a learning experience. ... No matter how bad something is, there's always something good to be pulled from it. It's finding that, surviving and moving forward."