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Penn State Football: As Recruits Prep to Start Classes, O’Brien’s Name Linked to NFL

by on January 01, 2013 4:30 PM

So, you’re getting worried about all those reports the NFL is interested in Penn State’s Bill O’Brien?

Imagine if you're a Nittany Lion football recruit enrolling early – with Penn State spring semester classes beginning next Monday, Jan. 7?

“Four freshmen graduated high school early and are getting ready to come to Penn State early,” says recruiting analyst Ryan Snyder of Blue White Illustrated.

“Last month, O’Brien had warned these kids and their parents that they would be hearing a lot about him and the NFL – and to not worry about it. But I know that these kids and their families are hearing these recent reports and they aren’t excited by it. The reports raise some unnecessary questions.”

The four freshmen scheduled to arrive on the University Park campus next weekend and begin classes a few days later as early enrollees are:

-- Richy Anderson, running back (5-foot-11, 180 pounds), Frederick, Md., and the son of former Penn State and NFL running Richie Anderson.

-- Adam Breneman, tight end (6-5, 228), Camp Hill, Pa., and an outspoken leader of the incoming freshman class.

-- Anthony Smith, defensive back (6-1, 186), Wayne, Pa., who most recently attended Valley Forge Military Academy.

-- Jordan Smith, defensive back (5-11, 180), Washington, D.C.

Junior college transfer quarterback Tyler Ferguson (6-5, 210) has already signed his letter of intent, Penn State has announced. Ferguson previously played at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif.

Their scholarships will count toward Penn State’s 2012 totals, and not the 2013 numbers that start accruing on the Feb. 6, 2013, National Letter of Intent Day and are limited to 15 under the NCAA sanctions.

And, should the players arrive on campus and O’Brien wind up leaving, they have an out like their teammates — but only until they sign a binding letter of intent. Under the sanctions, any Penn State football player is permitted to transfer from PSU to any college football program and be eligible to play immediately – as long as the player transfers by the official start of preseason drills in August 2013.

However, a Penn State compliance official said the free waiver rule imposed by the NCAA does not apply to Class of 2013 recruits who sign.

Why the consternation? Well, O’Brien won or was nominated for a host of Coach of the Year honors after guiding the Nittany Lions to unexpected 8-4 record – after an 0-2 start and including a five-game winning streak – in his first season at the Penn State head coach.

O’Brien, 43, was announced as Penn State’s 15th head coach on Jan. 6, 2012, succeeding interim coach Tom Bradley, who filled in after the late Joe Paterno was forced out last November in the wake of the Sandusky child abuse sex scandal. O’Brien has coached at four colleges – Brown, Duke, Maryland and Georgia Tech – and spent five seasons with the New England Patriots (2007-2011), most recently as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, before coming to Penn State.

In the past few days, O’Brien’s name has been linked to several head coaching vacancies in the NFL, according to some very reputable national sources. Currently, NFL franchises in Arizona, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, Philadelphia and San Diego are seeking new head coaches.

Reports about NFL interest in O’Brien included those by:

Peter King of Sports Illustrated, who on Monday Tweeted: “Happy Valley alert: I hear Bill O’Brien is strongly considering interviewing with an NFL team."

Jason La Canfora, CBS Sports: “CLE, AZ, PHI and SD all interested in Penn State’s Bill O’Brien according to pro and college sources. Pursuit begins this week.”

Chris Mortensen, ESPN: “As NFL owners and executives revisit the success of college coaches at the pro level, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien may be on more short lists than Oregon’s Chip Kelly and that would include the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles, according to league source.”

O’Brien is reportedly under a long-term deal with Penn State that pays him $2.3 million per season, but would require him – or a new employer -- to pay Penn State upwards to $9 million if he left the Nittany Lions this offseason.

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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