Sure, the Bill O'Brien era at Penn State technically began in the offseason, but Saturday marks his first game as head coach of the Nittany Lions.
O'Brien is the man in charge now. He gets to start a fresh, new chapter in the history of Penn State football. The question is: What will his legacy be when his time at Penn State is finished?
When O'Brien accepted the Penn State job in January, he knew he was walking into a tough situation. He was replacing a legendary coach who was loved by thousands of fans. O'Brien also had to face scrutiny from former players who were upset with the hiring process.
When the NCAA levied sanctions against the university in July, the task of leading the Lions became downright daunting.
The Nittany Lions will give up scholarships for the next four years and will be banned from postseason play during that time period. As if the sanctions were not enough to make the job near impossible, the NCAA ruled that current players could transfer without penalty.
Star running back Silas Redd and starting wide receiver Justin Brown are the two biggest names who left.
O'Brien has seemed to take it all in stride. His commitment to Penn State and the current players has not wavered.
Erick Smith's USA Today article quotes O'Brien when asked about the sanctions:
I could not be more proud to lead this team and these courageous and humble young men into the upcoming 2012 season. Together we are committed to building a better athletic program and university.
Regardless of how the season turns out, O'Brien should be commended for the job he has done. Wins will be nice, but O'Brien seems to have already won over the team and the fanbase.
If the Lions struggle over the next few seasons, O'Brien will most likely not be blamed. Few coaches have faced the adversity that lies ahead at Penn State.
O'Brien could be remembered as the man who brings Penn State out of the darkness, or he could be a relative unknown—just a guy who was there for a few years during the lean years.
If Penn State succeeds over the next few seasons, he will be revered for having one of the greatest coaching performances in history. If they have trouble winning, he could be replaced before his contract runs out. The latter seems pretty unlikely.
He seems to be saying and doing all of the right things so far. Saturday's game against Ohio could be a good indicator of how well the team is prepared for the season.