Last Saturday marked the ten week anniversary of the Bill O'Brien era at Penn State. So why not take a way-too-early look at how the new coach has fared?
Sure, he hasn't set a foot on the Beaver Stadium surface in a meaningful context, but there is more to college football than the actual gameplay. BOB has been recruiting, speaking, and interacting with media, fans, and boosters in his first ten weeks. By most accounts, he has done quite well (at post, Penn State had the 11th best Class of 2013, according to 247Sports.com).
Some of your esteemed writers and contributors gave their feelings on BOB's hire, and how he has handled himself over the past 70 days. Save for one Incomplete grade (thanks for following the rules, Devon), the responses were entirely positive.
Chris: After the interminable coaching search, I was initially quite disappointed at the hire and BOB's insistence on finishing out the season with New England. However, he began to shake that opinion on the day of his first Penn State press conference. He kept LJ Sr. and Ron Vanderlinden on the coaching staff. He's said all of the right things in the media, with respect to both the previous coaching staff and his vision for the program. His hire of Craig Fitzgerald as strength coach has been a massive and immediate success. The remainder of his coaching staff has been aggressive and energetic on the recruiting trail. Finally, he's shown a willingness to open up the program from a media access and public relations standpoint, which is something that the stodgy Penn State program has needed for decades. It's early, but consider me impressed. Grade: A.
Kyle: BOBCLAP. Grade: A.
Mike: This is all based on just two months with Bill O'Brien at the helm, so... I'd say considering my first reaction to the hire was that of curiosity, and less disappointment or excitement, O'Brien has just made me that much more interested in seeing what he can do with this program. The coaching staff he put together is better than most give him credit for ("Argh! He just hired his friends!"), while the recruiting success early for 2013 is beyond what 99.9% of the "experts" expected. His public image is really the perfect fit for Penn State, especially when the program is in need of a leader who won't take sh*t from anyone, but is also very good at projecting that positive attitude to lift Happy Valley out of the rut. This could change depending on how the rest of the off-season goes, never mind the regular season when the staff sees the elephant. But judging by the players' reactions (and lack of immediate transfers), and the community's general embrace of "BOB," the man easily gets an A for the Spring Mid-Term.
Tim: Needless to say, I was initially beyond pissed when O'Brien was announced as the head coach. The main source of my anger was Dave Joyner and the committee's sandbagging of the search, waiting nearly two months before hiring a guy who likely could've been hired in just a few short weeks.
While I am not ready to issue an apology for being critical of the way the search was run, I will say that I could not be happier to have my initial skepticism of BOB look completely ridiculous. From his introductory press conference, to his coaching staff choices, to the current kick-ass recruiting haul that's only just beginning, BOB is delivering a giant F U to folks like me (and probably yourself, as well) who were highly cynical to begin with. I realize he has yet to take the field as a head coach at any level of football, but if his gameday head coaching abilities are anything like what we've seen in the offseason, there is little reason to doubt the man. Grade: A+++++
Cari: I was initially skeptical about the hire, but most of that skepticism surrounded the coaching search itself and the relative unfamiliarity with Bill O’Brien--to be honest, even though I somewhat follow the NFL, like so many of us, I hadn’t even heard his name until it came up in conjunction with this job. So far, he’s said and done everything he’s needed to say and do with respect to the program as a whole and the current team in particular, and his recruiting is off to a hot start. That being said, he hasn’t coached a down yet, so I’m loathe to give him an A. We’ll see how much (if at all) that changes after the blue/white game; as of now, I’m giving him a very solid B+.
Devon: It's hard to separate the hiring of Bill O'Brien from what he'd done since taking the job. In a vacuum, it seems like this has been a home run hire. He's said all the right things, promised to continue Joe Paterno's legacy in just about every conceivable way, and really embraced the Penn State ideal. But beyond that, he's also recruited like a madman, even if you count finishing the 2012 class with quantity moreso than quality. But none of this matters one tiny iota if he can't chalk it up on the field, and none of his college experience hints that he can at a level even close to how he's recruited. I'm cautiously optimistic about the O'Brien regime--which is a huge step up from where I was when he was hired--but until he proves that his offense can work at the NCAA level, I'm going to have to remain a little leery. I like BOB, but he still has to prove to me that he can win games, because his past experience isn't enough to give him the benefit of the doubt. Grade: Inc.