New Penn State Football Coach O’Brien Meets Nittany Lions
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — A smiling Matt McGloin’s eyes lit up when asked about new Penn State coach Bill O’Brien’s star pupil at his other job.
After finishing up his duties as the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach of the New England Patriots through the NFL postseason, O’Brien will leave Tom Brady, and join McGloin full-time in Happy Valley.
O’Brien’s second day as Penn State’s new leader included a standing ovation after being introduced at a basketball game, and his first meeting with McGloin and his new players.
So, it’s now time for McGloin, the Nittany Lions starting quarterback, to start studying up on film of Brady, the Patriots’ standout signal-caller.
“That’s it right there. That’s enough … It couldn’t get any better,” McGloin said Sunday when asked how much it would help to be coached by someone who tutored Brady.
What else did McGloin like about the New England offense?
“I don’t know, that Brady threw for like 5,000 yards,” McGloin said with a chuckle.
That’s 5,235 yards to be exact. And Brady isn’t done. In fact, O’Brien was scheduled to fly back to Massachusetts on Sunday night to help Brady and the Patriots prepare for the Denver Broncos. New England had a bye this week after securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and learned late Sunday that Denver — a 29-23 overtime winner over Pittsburgh in the wild-card round — would be the opponent.
O’Brien will likely remain with the Patriots the rest of the week, though he’s also expected to name the rest of his Penn State coaching staff within a few days.
“I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” O’Brien said Saturday after his introductory news conference about his travel schedule. “I’ll be on the move.”
Just like during a whirlwind weekend in which he was announced as the successor to fired Hall of Famer Joe Paterno. Division I’s winningest coach (409 victories) was ousted by school trustees two months ago in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
O’Brien’s five-year contract, finalized Friday, included base compensation starting at $950,000, with a 5-percent increase each season. O’Brien will also collect another $1 million a year for radio and television work, as well as a $350,000 Nike contract.
By Sunday, he was doing radio and TV interviews during the basketball team’s 88-82 loss to No. 12 Indiana. As O’Brien ventured into the stands to shake hands with pep band members and students, the crowd erupted into cheers of “We Are … Penn State!”
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to get started,” he said Saturday.
That enthusiasm apparently carried over into Sunday’s team meeting. Afterward, players expressed relief that a turbulent two months that began with the departure of their beloved coach had finally ended with a new leader eager to start a new era in Happy Valley.
“Very enthusiastic. Tough, tough football coach,” guard John Urschel said. “We were all excited to talk to him … especially the guys on the offense.”
In between, the Nittany Lions had to put up with countless questions and rumors about who might be their next coach. The players, who just returned from semester break, learned about O’Brien’s hiring watching television or through Twitter postings.
“It’s like a big monkey is off our backs,” tailback Silas Redd said. “We can focus on the team and getting ready for next season.”
As for his impressions of his new coach, Redd said O’Brien’s demeanor reminded him of someone with a military background — even though O’Brien apparently doesn’t have such experience.
“The way he’s tough minded. His leadership qualities. He really has a strong way of getting you to pay attention to him,” Redd said. “We’re ready to rally behind him.”
So, too, is former Penn State linebacker Brandon Short, who in a statement Sunday said he planned to reach out to O’Brien and pledge his full support.
Short and fellow former standout linebacker LaVar Arrington had helped organized a petition supporting interim coach Tom Bradley’s candidacy for the job.
Before O’Brien was officially named coach Friday night, Short had said he would consider severing his relationship with the school if someone without Penn State ties was hired, and that there might be a backlash from other former players.
“Out of a sense of frustration and deep loyalty for Penn State, I was overly harsh in some of my comments regarding the hiring of Coach O’Brien,” Short wrote in an email Sunday. “I want Coach O’Brien to succeed at carrying on the proud tradition of Penn State.”
Short maintained that he thought the selection process would have been better served if the search committee had more involvement from former players, and that he thought Paterno and the program had received unfair criticism over the last two months.
Paterno testified before a state grand jury investigating Sandusky, and prosecutors have said he is not a target of the probe. Sandusky is awaiting trial after pleading not guilty last month.
As for the rest of O’Brien’s staff, linebacker Michael Mauti said Sunday that his position coach, Ron Vanderlinden, appeared likely to return. Another holdover from former Paterno’s staff, defensive line coach Larry Johnson, has already said he is coming back.
Having Vanderlinden and Johnson should help Penn State with recruiting while O’Brien finishes up with the Patriots. The returnees will also help to maintain some continuity on defense.
“It’s encouraging to me,” Mauti said. “Our front seven is a big part of our defensive success.”
Tennessee Titans quality control assistant coach Charles London has also accepted an offer to join O’Brien’s staff as running backs coach, London told The Tennessean of Nashville on Saturday. O’Brien and London worked together at Duke, and London’s head coach with the Titans was former standout Penn State lineman Mike Munchak.
Bradley, a 33-year veteran of the staff and defensive coordinator since 2000, is expected to leave, as is Paterno’s son, quarterback coach Jay Paterno.
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