Penn State QB Bench to transfer
Steven Bench wanted to compete for the starting quarterback job all summer and into the fall, but Penn State coach Bill O’Brien broke some bad news to him Tuesday.
Bench’s father, also named Steven, said O’Brien told his son “that they were going to go with the other two guys going into the summer.”
Hearing that made Bench re-evaluate his situation at Penn State, and Wednesday he decided to transfer.
The Nittany Lions’ quarterback competition now will come down to junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson, a sophomore, and incoming prized recruit Christian Hackenberg. Bench and Ferguson competed during spring drills, but Ferguson emerged with one edge.
“Coach O’Brien essentially said it didn’t have anything to do with his performance in the spring,” Bench’s father said by phone from Georgia. “They just felt that the other two guys have a bigger upside.”
With Bench’s decision, it would appear to be a certainty that Hackenberg will not redshirt this season. That had been floated as a possibility for months given that the Lions already had two quarterbacks competing.
Now it’s just one, and Hackenberg’s chances of winning the starting job have increased dramatically.
“I have been meeting with all the players this week with my evaluation of where they are at related to football and academics and to discuss what they need to work on this summer,” O’Brien said in a university statement. “After meeting with Steven, he informed me he wants to play elsewhere.
“We want what is best for Steven. I want to thank him for his contributions to the program. We wish Steven the best in the future and will assist him anyway we can.”
Bench, the backup to Matt McGloin last season, posted his decision on his Twitter account.
“I’ve decided to leave Penn State and go to a school that will give me the opportunity to compete for the QB spot and reach my full potential,” he wrote.
Bench later told ESPN.com, “I still love this place, and I wish it didn’t come to this, but I have to make the best choice for me.”
The quarterback also told The Daily Collegian, “I’m not running away from competition” and reiterated his desire to be a starting quarterback.
“Penn State is not the best place for me to do that right now,” he told The Collegian.
“He’s disappointed,” his father said.
Bench will be eligible to play right away at another Division I school. As part of Penn State’s NCAA sanctions, any player who was a member of the team last season has until August to transfer and avoid the usual penalty of sitting out one year.
Bench is from Cairo, Ga., and played for his father in high school.
“If he can land in the South that would be great,” the elder Bench said. “I think to him the main thing is he wants to go somewhere he can compete and be the starting quarterback. He wanted to go to the biggest school that would let him play football, and that’s how he ended up at Penn State.”
Bench and Ferguson both completed 9-of-15 passes in Saturday’s Blue White Game. Bench threw for 99 yards and one TD, while Ferguson threw for 90 yards and two scores.
The quarterbacks appeared to be about even, but O’Brien must have felt Ferguson could be better leading the Lions’ offense. Ferguson threw for 2,614 yards and 22 TDs last season at College of the Sequoias in California.
Bench played in only two games for PSU last season, completing 2-of-8 passes for 12 yards.
“He wanted to play big-time football, and it doesn’t get any bigger than (Penn State),” Bench’s father said. “He embraced all that. When he ran into Beaver Stadium on that Halloween weekend and we’re playing Ohio State in front of 106,000, that’s as good as it gets.
“He embraced Penn State. I feel like the fans and the people there at the school embraced him.”