By Michael Donovan
Trent Dilfer owns a Super Bowl ring thanks to his service for the Baltimore Ravens in 2000, so he must know something about what it takes to play quarterback in the NFL.
So when Dilfer, who is now an ESPN analyst, speaks people listen.
And he thinks Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg is another Troy Aikman, a player with top-five talent when it comes to the NFL draft.
Dilfer said Wednesday that Hackenberg and Cal’s Jared Goff both could go in the top five picks of the NFL draft, presumably in 2016 if Hackenberg chooses to leave the Nits’ program after the 2015 season.
Dilfer also referred to Hackenberg’s “situation at Penn State” when breaking down the quarterback’s game.
Said Dilfer: “Christian Hackenberg, once he gets out of that situation, which is not a good situation at Penn State, scouts and GMs and coaches will drool over Christian Hackenberg.”
Dilfer’s comments are all the more interesting given the fact that the 6-4, 228-pound Hackenberg has struggled to put up big numbers through four games at PSU this season. He’s thrown for 668 yards and four touchdowns and is completing just 52.8 percent of his passes.
The question typically asked is this one: Is the problem Hackenberg or is it the system of James Franklin and offensive coordinator John Donovan?
Hackenberg, a five-star recruit, chose Penn State in 2013 due to the presence of Bill O’Brien, the former New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator who left the Lions’ program after the 2013 season.
But in that one year with O’Brien, Hackenberg threw 20 touchdown passes and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
During the 17 games since, Hackenberg has thrown for 16 total touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
Dilfer compared Hackenberg to NFL Hall of Famer Aikman, who was the No. 1 pick (Dallas) in the 1989 draft after playing in college at Oklahoma and UCLA.
“He’s very, very, very similar to Troy Aikman,” Dilfer said of Hackenberg.
“They’re the same type of body, thrower, personality, competitors. You go back and look at Troy Aikman coming out (of college), look at Christian Hackenberg, they’re very similar.
“I think it’s going to be ‘Hack’ and Goff, (who) will both go in the top five … they’re really the two that have franchise quarterback potential.”