Bill O'Brien Penn State: Nittany Lions Finally Confirm O'Brien Hire

Thad NovakCorrespondent IJanuary 6, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 01:  Bill O'Brien of the New England Patriots looks on from the sideline in the second half against the Buffalo Bills on January 1, 2012 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

When Joe Paterno was fired in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual-abuse scandal, one of the questions raised was who would get the unenviable task of taking over a newly-tainted program from one of the most revered coaches in college football history. Tonight, after extensive speculation, we have the answer.

According to assistant athletic director Jeff Nelson (via Twitter), Bill O’Brien has officially been named as the next head coach of Penn State football. O’Brien arrives from the New England Patriots, where he served as both offensive coordinator and QB coach this season (and where he will remain until the conclusion of the team’s playoff run).

Considering the nature of the pit the Nittany Lions must dig themselves out of, it’s little wonder that the school went with a complete outsider to take over the program. Whether O’Brien is the right man for the job, though, is a bit of a mystery at this time.

Although he has extensive college coaching experience, O’Brien has never been a head coach at any level. His success running the Patriots attack certainly speaks well of his ability as a play-caller, but his biggest concern at Penn State will be the very different challenge of recruiting.

Of course, the Nittany Lions will also benefit plenty from O’Brien’s skill as a QB coach. If he can turn either Matt McGloin or Rob Bolden into a viable starter under center, he’ll make his own transition to the head coaching spot a great deal easier.

Leading Penn State back from a horrifying scandal or replacing Joe Paterno would be difficult enough tasks on their own. Together, they’ll make O’Brien’s job the toughest in college football in recent memory, possibly ever.

If he succeeds, though, he’ll start building a legend of his own in Happy Valley.