A week ago, the Penn State quarterback situation stood pretty much where everyone figured it would, with the comparatively more experienced Tyler Ferguson taking most of the first team snaps in practice.

Evidently, his true freshman competition is turning up the heat.

Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien deemed the race between Ferguson and gifted prospect Christian Hackenberg "very even" on Thursday, a sign of the progress Hackenberg has made in his first week of practice.

"I spoke to both guys this morning and I told them I couldn't be prouder of where they're at right now and how they've worked," O'Brien said. "They both have had a lot of good moments. They've both made their share of mistakes. It's very even right now, so we'll let that play out a few more days."

O'Brien said during the Big Ten Media Days in July that he'd like to name a quarterback before the end of camp and, perhaps, as soon as two weeks in.

But he has since said it may take a bit longer.

Asked Thursday if he had a date in mind to finalize the starting spot, O'Brien said he didn't before adding he's "close." Still, he cautioned fans not to expect the player who ultimately wins the competition to play practically every snap, as Matt McGloin did last season on the way to his record-breaking campaign.

"The one thing about it, just so everybody is clear about this, is that whoever I name as a starter, the next guy has to be ready to go and more than likely will play this year," O'Brien said. "Let's not put a huge amount of stock into who the starter is. That guy will start the game, but the other guy is going to play football for us this year."

Even if Hackenberg doesn't win the starting quarterback job, there is one true freshman who appears guaranteed to see plenty of playing time.

O'Brien confirmed that massive tight end Adam Breneman will not redshirt this season. In fact, he's counting on him to help bolster an already deep group of tight ends.

"He's had a good camp," O'Brien said. "Smart player, tough kid, good hands, he can run. He'll be playing."

Breneman will join Kyle Carter, Matt Lehman and Jesse James in the tight end rotation, which could be one of the best in the nation.

O'Brien said former West Scranton star lineman Eric Shrive had his best practice of the preseason on Wednesday and is firmly in the hunt for playing time along the offensive line.

"He made a lot of improvement (Wednesday) and he's been playing guard and tackle for us," O'Brien said. "So that was good to see."

The line seems like one of the few positions that is both experienced and deep for the Nittany Lions heading into the Aug. 31 opener against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium. O'Brien said he is happy with the play of his three interior linemen - center Ty Howle and guards John Urschel and Miles Dieffenbach. Donovan Smith, a sophomore, seems to have the left tackle spot locked up. Angelo Mangiro is working as the backup at center and guard, and Shrive is at guard and tackle. But he's battling for playing time at right tackle with Adam Gress and Garry Gilliam.

Contact the writer: dcollins@timesshamrock.com