Big Ten Breakdown 2012: Penn State Nittany Lions Part 1, Overview

David Fidler Correspondent IJune 11, 2012

Team Overview

For the first time since Lyndon Baines Johnson was in the White House, there will be a new head football coach prowling the sidelines in State College.

Unfortunately for a great many people, the passing of the torch didn't go smoothly.

In fact, there was no passing of the torch.

I won't go over all the grisly details, as they have been and continue to be well-documented (via ABC News).

What matters, for my purposes, is that the Penn State head coaching vacancy was described by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as a "toxic situation," Phillysports24X7 referred to the search itself as "a fiasco of the highest order" and according to CBS Boston, PSU alumni were "not happy" with the ultimate hire.

Happy or not, that ultimate hire was former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.

Since the hiring, O'Brien has done everything in his power to please fans and open up recruiting trails. Nonetheless, as any football fan knows, nothing will please fans and alumni like bringing home wins.

Which brings us to the 2012 season.

It is difficult to know what O'Brien will bring to the table, as O'Brien is known as an offensive guru. However, under Joe Paterno, Penn State—aka Linebacker U—was a defensive mecca. That's not to say Paterno couldn't produce offenses, but over the last 10 years, the Penn State offense has been decidedly inconsistent.

Will O'Brien continue the PSU tradition of staunch defenses and conservative, sometimes under-performing offenses, or will he follow in the offense-first Patriots mold—top-10 NFL scoring offense every season since 2004, with only four top-10 scoring defenses during that time?

Team Breakdown

2011 Record: 9-4

2011 Conference Record: 6-2

2011 Home/Away/Neutral Record: 5-2/3-2/0-1

2011 Record vs. Ranked Teams: 0-4

Record Last Five Seasons: 47-18 (tied for 17th-winningest FBS program over that period of time)

Conference Record Last Five Seasons: 27-13

Home/Away/Neutral Record Last Five Seasons: 29-7/16-7/3-3

Record vs. Ranked Teams Last Five Seasons: 5-14

Best Record Last Five Seasons: 11-2 (2008 and 2009)

Worst Record Last Five Seasons: 7-6 (2010)

Number of Coaches Last 10 Seasons: Two

Coach Overview

Bill O'Brien, like his predecessor, was an Ivy League man, graduating from Brown University where he played defensive end and linebacker.

He began his coaching career at his alma mater, before moving on to Georgia Tech.

O'Brien moved up the ranks in Atlanta, beginning as a grad assistant, then coaching running backs, after which he became offensive coordinator under head coach George O'Leary in 2001 and Chan Gailey in 2002.

In 2003, he went to Maryland where he coached running backs under Ralph Friedgen.

In 2005, he took the job of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Duke, where his offenses averaged a paltry 16.1 and 14.9 points per game.

In 2007, he moved onto the NFL, working as an offensive assistant—aka gopher—for the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick. In 2008, he earned a promotion to wide receiver coach and then quarterbacks coach in 2009-2010.

In 2011, he became the offensive coordinator, where he oversaw Tom Brady throw for over 5,000 yards in a season for the first, and thus far only time in his career.

The greatest concern about O'Brien is that he has no head coaching experience. In this respect, he follows the same path as former New England Patriots OC and former Notre Dame head man Charlie Weis.

Where he differs from Weis is that he has spent over 10 years of his coaching career in the NCAA.

Coming next Tuesday, an overview and breakdown of Penn State's offense.


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