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Big Ten Football Preview 2015: Three Key Players For Penn State

It's put up or shut up time for junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

This week, Maize n Brew previews the Penn State Nittany Lions in 2015. We kick it off by taking a look at the three key players for the team on the field this upcoming season.

Christian Hackenberg, Junior Quarterback

Hackenberg struggled during his sophomore year in Happy Valley, but finished the season with arguably the best game of his career, throwing for 371 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Many see Hackenberg as a possible number-one pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but he will need a nice bounce back year. His struggles last season can largely be chalked up to a new offensive system and poor protection up front.

Head coach James Franklin said it best:

When you get hit that much, you start falling into bad habits.

Look for Hackenberg to have a really nice bounce-back season. He has a huge arm and his best football is still ahead of him.

The Offensive Line

Hackenberg's protection up front last season was poor. The unit allowed 44 sacks and even more hits on its quarterback and was a big part of the offense struggling.

The good news here for Penn State is that they are more experienced and return four starters from last season in Brendan Mahon, Angelo Mangiro, Brian Gala, Andrew Nelson with JuCo transfer Paris Palmer projected to slide in at left tackle.

Anthony Zettel, Senior Defensive Tackle

Zettel was a first-team All-Big Ten performer for Penn State last season and led one of the best defenses in college football. There is no reason to expect anything less this season and Zettel will be the guy that opposing offenses have to account for.