- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien remains "very close" to naming a starting quarterback, and he echoed earlier statements on Mike & Mike by saying a decision between Tyler Ferguson and Christian Hackenberg will come by the end of the week.
"These are two of the best young quarterbacks I've ever coached," O'Brien said Tuesday afternoon from Penn State's practice field. "Tyler is 19 years old and Christian is 18, and I'd say by the end of the week we'll make a decision on who will start the Syracuse game. But I would say both guys will play this year."
O'Brien isn't opposed to plugging in the backup for a handful of plays in the opener either. Although 2012 starter Matt McGloin threw all but eight passes for the Nittany Lions, the head coach said this year's plans would be different.
"The guy who's the starter is going to play the majority of the snaps, but I think it's important when you have two young guys -- it's a totally different situation from last year -- is that whoever the backup is needs to get his feet wet a little bit," O'Brien said. "So why not play him a series or two?"
Ferguson missed about a month of voluntary workouts, but the head coach said the juco QB still boasted the edge during the first week of camp. By the second week, however, Hackenberg had tied up the race. And now, in the third week, O'Brien still said the position battle is too close to call.
The second-year head coach wants to see each quarterback grab more reps these next few days, have the opportunity to throw equally to all the receivers and see how they fare against different looks. He declined to name what distinguishes the two signal-callers, but he said fans and the media should have their answer in the near future.
"It's important for each guy to continue to earn their stripes and continue to gain the respect of his teammates," O'Brien said. "Until I feel really good about where that's at, I'd say it's very close.
"I will name somebody. I'll tell you guys."