June 12, 2013
Head coach Bill O'BrienRob Carr/Getty Images
When Penn State quarterback Steven Bench announced his transfer to South Florida on May 23, the quarterback depth on the Nittany Lions' roster looked emaciated.
Most head coaches in Penn State's situation would have been satisfied to add a few bodies with lively arms to the roster. Keeping your head above water for the next few years would have been a sensible team goal.
Not for head coach Bill O'Brien.
After Bench transferred, O'Brien had only two options at quarterback, and neither had thrown a pass at the FBS level. But then he signed junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson, who enrolled in January, and 5-star Christian Hackenberg.
Hackenberg was the top-ranked pro-style passer in the class of 2013. He had reported offers from Alabama, Florida, Miami, South Carolina, Stanford and Tennessee.
Ferguson transferred from College of the Sequoias (Visalia, Calif.), where he threw for 2,614 yards and 22 touchdowns in 10 games.
With those additions, Penn State's QB situation improved. But over the weekend, it became better still.
On Saturday, Michael O'Connor committed to Penn State. The 4-star quarterback from the class of 2014 had reported offers from Michigan State, Mississippi State, Missouri, Rutgers and Vanderbilt.
How is O'Brien keeping quarterbacks from committing to Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier and Mark Dantonio?
At some point, O'Brien's pitch to prospects may need to be accompanied by a sad trombone. The school's scholarship reduction includes 10 initial and 20 total scholarships through 2016, according to ESPN's Adam Rittenberg. The team will only have 65 players on scholarship until 2017. There are no bowl possibilities for the next three years.
Yet the elite quarterbacks continue to be sold on O'Brien, mainly because he has extensive NFL experience. He served as the New England Patriots' quarterback coach from 2007 to 2011 and served as offensive coordinator in 2011, coaching quarterback Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLVI before moving on to Penn State in 2012. More from GoPSUSports:
Under O'Brien's tutelage, Brady has thrown for 5,235 yards (No. 2 in NFL) and 39 touchdowns this season, as the Patriots won their final eight games.Under O'Brien's direction, Brady became the first unanimous Associated Press MVP in 2010 in leading the Patriots to an NFL-best 14-2 mark.
For a quarterback who wants to play in the NFL, O'Brien has all the qualifications of a great mentor. Penn State started out 0-2 last year and things looked bleak. But the team won eight of its next 10 games, including a 24-21 overtime win against Wisconsin, the eventual Big Ten champion.
O'Brien has already proven he can win under trying circumstances. His ability to tap into a quarterback's potential and unleash it is now being realized.
In 2011, quarterback Matt McGloin played in all 12 games, starting the final five. He finished with 1,571 passing yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions. Under O'Brien's guidance the following year, McGloin passed for 3,271 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions.
O'Brien accomplished that with a former walk-on quarterback.
The Nittany Lions still need to add one more quarterback. With scholarship restrictions now in play, O'Brien is going to have to make do with what he has. He will probably exceed our expectations again this fall. Anyone want to bet against him?
O'Brien is college football's Quarterback Whisperer.
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