Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy coach Chris Weinke has nothing but high praise for prized pupil Michael O'Connor, who committed to Penn State over the weekend.
O'Connor is an instinctive and mature leader who can drop back as well as any recruit in the country and throw well on the run, Weinke said. He also comes from a pro-style offense that closely resembles what coach Bill O'Brien has installed at Penn State.
"He can process information quickly, and he understands the game," Weinke said. "He's got great feet. He's got the ability to move around, but he's not a spread type quarterback. He makes plays with his feet, throws well on the run and throws with great anticipation."
"He's very mature for his age and has a presence about him. I don't say this a lot, but he's got that 'it' factor. When he walks in a room, he demands respect, not vocally but in the way he carries himself. He does all the things the right way. He's a 4.0 student. He comes to practice with the right attitude, and he stays after to watch film."
In many ways, O'Connor is ready to compete immediately at the next level. There's just one highly-acclaimed, five-star problem: Freshman Christian Hackenberg is already on campus and awaiting a summer competition with sophomore Tyler Ferguson.
"Obviously he's well aware of who they have on the roster and respects those guys," Weinke said. "That was part of the discussion."
"Michael is not afraid of competition. He wasn't going to shy away from competition. Regardless of where you go, they're going to have quarterbacks on the roster. You've got to go where you feel like you can develop best, where the offensive scheme fits you well and where you'll be comfortable."
O'Connor is set to enroll in January, which will give him all spring to learn the offense and settle into campus life. Hackenberg will have just completed his first season, during which many predict he will emerge as the team's starter.
Hackenberg was a five-star prospect and the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the 2013 recruiting class. He's also mature and bright with a powerful arm and advanced knowledge of the position. Weinke saw those attributes first-hand as an assistant at the Under Armour All-America game last year. He worked with Hackenberg for a week and called him one of the best prep quarterbacks he's seen in a long time.
"They're very similar, very similar," Weinke said. "In terms of arm strength, Christian, at the top end, maybe has a little stronger arm. He's one of the better kids to come out of high school in a long time. [He and O'Connor] are similar in size and stature, similar in approach, not big 'rah-rah' guys, but they lead by example. They both have good feet." "[O'Connor] is very mature for his age and has a presence about him. I don't say this a lot, but he's got that 'it' factor." - Chris Weinke
"I don't see a whole lot of differences in those two guys. They're almost mirror images. That will be fun for those guys to compete against each other and get better."
Both O'Connor and Hackenberg are rarities in their readiness to play in a pro-style offense right away, Weinke said. They fit Penn State's system well, and vice versa, and coaches O'Brien and Charlie Fisher have already proven to be among the best in the country at developing quarterbacks.
"Everything I know about those two coaches, it's been nothing but positive," Weinke said. "When it boils down to it, you have to put those guys at the top of the category in being able to get a quarterback prepared to get to the next level. O'Brien knows what it takes to develop a guy."
Redshirt senior Matt McGloin looked like a completely different quarterback last season. He was a former walk-on and an error-prone, occasional starter prior to O'Brien's arrival, then blossomed into the Big Ten's leading passer.
McGloin threw as many interceptions (five) all season as he did in the 2011 Outback Bowl alone. He's now turning heads as an undrafted free agent with the Oakland Raiders.
McGloin's transformation doesn't look like a fluke, either. O'Brien and his staff are fast building a reputation for preparing quarterbacks for the next level.
O'Brien will find more upside in both O'Connor and Hackenberg and, along with Ferguson, will likely have an open competition for the job.
Even spotting both quarterbacks a head start, don't expect O'Connor to roll over. The soon-to-be high school senior has all the ingredients to make the competition interesting.
"He approaches every day with purpose," Weinke said. "He's a very mature, rare guy at the high school level. He doesn't come along often."