Well, this is not ideal. You're going to hear a ton of opinions about O'Brien over the next couple of days, so I'm not going to go into a ton of detail on what I think about him (also because I'm not entirely sure about what I think). I don't fault him for leaving, because the NFL has always been his dream. The Texans job is a pretty amazing job (Great defense, #1 pick, great receivers, great area, great hospitals), so I doubt he will get a better opportunity than this. The one thing I will say, though, is that it seems that O'Brien did not do everything possible to get into contact with all of the recruits to let them know what might happen, and that rubs me the wrong way.
That being said, I'm going to use this space to give you a little insight into what other options these guys may have should they decide to decommit, and how likely it is for them to do so. I think mostly everyone will wait until a new coach is named to make any decisions, although those slated for early enrollment may be exceptions to this due to their time constraints. A HUGE factor in these guys' decisions will also be which assistants stay, and which ones take off. So far, it has been reported that Stan Hixon is going to be joining O'Brien in Houston; John Butler has been rumored to be going as well. We'll update as need be about which coaches are staying and going (and I'll tweet about it).
One thing that will work in Penn State's favor, for the time being at least, is the recruiting dead period that will run until January 15. This dead period means that no coaches may make home visits to recruits, and no official visits can be taken. Phone calls can be made, but that's about it.
**Be sure to continue checking back into this article, as I am updating it every time there is new information about each player (Ex: Thompkins, White, O'Connor already have had updates)
Tarow Barney (DT)- Signed letter of intent. He's staying no matter who is hired.
Thomas Holley (DT)- Holley's main recruiter was Larry Johnson, whom he grew very close to during his recruitment, and is one of the main factors he committed here in the first place. Holley plans on waiting to see who the new head coach is going to be (as most will) before saying anything definitive, but the fact that Johnson was made interim head coach is certainly helpful on that front. Should Holley begin to waver, expect a who's who of top programs to jump back into the mix--with Florida obviously being the biggest threat.
Chris Godwin (WR)- Godwin thinks very, very highly of Coach Hixon, and his departure to the NFL could cause him to reconsider his Penn State commitment. He is waiting it out to see who the next head coach is (and more importantly, who the new WR coach is), but he is undoubtedly disappointed. Both he and De'Andre Thompkins were very excited to work with Hixon, so Penn State could quickly find themselves in recruiting trouble without him. He holds offers from lots of big name programs (Ohio State, South Carolina Stanford, VT to name a few), but Vanderbilt is also said to be planning on pressing hard for him, should he decommit.
Mike Gesicki (TE)- I reached out to Mike asking for his opinion on the situation, and he told me that he had no comment surrounding O'Brien's departure. He is surely disappointed, as the use of the tight end position is clearly O'Brien's calling card. It will depend on the new head coach, but I would not at all be surprised to see Gesicki back out and re-evaluate his situation. Should that happen, it's pretty much a done deal that he will instead become an Ohio State Buckeye. Mike is probably the commit I am most concerned about losing at this point. Mike also had this to say.
Coach Obrien is still my man, he's gonna draft me in 4 year. Everything happens for a reason. #thankgod 🙏— Ⓜ️G (@mikegesicki) January 1, 2014
**Update- In talking with Mike, he's a big fan of Al Golden, and is really hoping for his hiring to be Penn State's next head coach. I would assume that would mean he is staying no matter what, should that happen.
***Further Update- Mike is staying committed, per Lions247
De'Andre Thompkins (WR)- As with Godwin, Thompkins seems very upset about losing coach Hixon, maybe even more so than O'Brien. De'Andre's family didn't say that he is going to decommit, but based on the coaching hire there is a good chance he steps back and looks at his options again. Thompkins and O'Connor are the two I am most worried about leaving after Gesicki. Penn State needs to be absolutely sure they find a stud WR coach to replace Hixon, because it's clear how big of an impact he has had in recruiting. Thompkins is the stud return man and potential Sammy Watkins-like receiver threat that Penn State has been missing, so losing him would be a huge blow to the class. North Carolina could be a major threat should that happen.
**Update: De'Andre has reaffirmed his commitment to Penn State. Rejoice.
I am and will be a Nittany Lion. Enough said. #WeAre— De'Andre Thompkins (@Calle_Alectia) January 3, 2014
Michael O'Connor (QB)- O'Connor was very visibly disappointed by the news of O'Brien leaving. He will now be coming to a school that does not have the head coach or the QB coach that he was recruited by (O'Brien and Fisher). He wants to wait to see who fills those vacancies before he makes a decision, but the early returns do not look good. He is scheduled to enroll early this semester, but seems prepared to push that date back to the fall if a coach is not in place by then (January 13). Ever since Chris Durkin flipped him commitment from Michigan State to Virginia Tech (poor Andrew Ford), they have been hot after O'Connor. If you remember, O'Connor was their primary target way back when, and was actually seemingly leaning towards the Spartans for a while. If he decides to decommit, I believe he's as good as gone. If that does occur, I think the new staff may throw an offer Ford's way, but that's way too much speculating for me at this moment in time.
**Update- O'Connor will be delaying his enrollment. This is bad sign, as he has essentially showed that he is reconsidering his commitment. Enter Michigan State.
Marcus Allen (S)- Allen has gone on record as saying he is 100% committed to Penn State. He spoke very emphatically with Sean Fitz of Lions247 about how he feels about his commitment to Penn State, which you can read right here. He also has this tweet.
I love my 2014 class of PSU ....we have that brothers connection and we didn't even enroll to PSU yet ❗❗❗— Marcus Allen (@Chico_Ehhh) January 2, 2014
Troy Vincent (CB)- I've seen that Vincent is still firm in his commitment for now. However, if he does decommit, there's a large group of teams that may jump at the chance to gain his services. Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Pitt, and Maryland were just a few of the schools who were recruiting him before he committed to Penn State.
Troy Apke (WR)- I don't expect Apke to jump ship, but if he does, look for Pitt to come on strong. Bobby Engram (Pleaseeeeee call him, future Penn State head coach!) has proven to be a very solid recruiter over the years, and with Apke obviously being a receiver he could be a prime target for Bobby's recruiting seduction methods. Apke will also surely hear from his high school teammate and current Pitt commit Alex Bookser. I'm not worried here, but it's something to keep an eye on.
**Update- Troy is staying committed, per Lions247.
Johnathan Thomas (RB)- I haven't heard much about Thomas yet. We will let you know, but Charles London leaving makes it a possibility he leaves. He's already the 3rd running back in the class, so he may feel there are better opportunities elsewhere.
**Update- Per Liones 247, Johnathan is staying with his commitment.
Troy Reeder (LB)- Troy Reeder is reportedly staying committed, although with no Vanderlinden (who was his lead recruiter as well), no O'Brien may throw a wrench into those plans. I think he's good to stay, but we'll see. Troy had a few thoughts to share, that seem to point towards him staying.
Everything happens for a reason. It's time to move on #PSU #WEARE— Troy Reeder (@troyreeder9) January 1, 2014
National signing day in a month and have no idea who my head or position coach will be... #BringBackRon #LinebackerU #PSU— Troy Reeder (@troyreeder9) January 1, 2014
**Update- Troy has announced his intentions to stick with his verbal commitment, per Lions247.
Noah Beh (OT)- Beh is also reportedly firm with his commitment. If he were to decommit, Boston College would likely come calling as they were the other half of his original final 2.
Nick Scott (RB)- With how early Scott committed to PSU, I'd be shocked to see him leave now. We'll see, but he's been a Penn State commit for a longgggg time now.
**Update- Nick is sticking with his commitment, per Lions247.
DaQuan Worley (CB/RB)- DaQuan has said that he wants to do everything possible to stay at Penn State, but his currently torn ACL puts him in a bad situation. If a brand new staff comes in, they likely will not know much about his unique talent on both sides of the ball. Hopefully LJ (and anyone else who will be retained) can relay to the new staff members his skill. I don't think he'll decommit, but Pitt and Rutgers could be looming if he does.
Antoine White (DT)- I reached out to Antoine about the situation, but he doesn't feel comfortable enough to comment at this time, and I don't blame him at all. We'll find out more on his front as time goes on, but I have a strong feeling he and Holley will be tied together during this process. Both have developed great relationships with Larry Johnson, and both talked to each other a lot when Holley was still uncommitted. If one leaves, I suspect that would have some influence on the other. Antoine has a great head on his shoulders, is one of the more intelligent high schoolers I've spoken to, and would be an ideal Penn State athlete. But this is a tough situation, so we'll just have to see what happens. Michigan State, Duke, and Maryland all had legitimate interest before his commitment. Based on some of his tweets, it does seem that he is leaning towards staying.
You can only handle what is in your control. My future is in my control and that's what I have to handle, and my job is to protect it.— Antoine White (@antoinewhite53) January 1, 2014
We got this bro, get the glue out. We gotta seal this class together!! @jasoncabinda— Antoine White (@antoinewhite53) January 1, 2014
**Update- Antoine reaffirmed his commitment via twitter, and will still be enrolling early this semester.
I am a Nittany Lion, and will be enrolled and on campus January 11th. No more questions.— Antoine White (@antoinewhite53) January 4, 2014
Mark Allen (RB)- I did get a chance to speak with Mark about the situation. He told me the following...
Of course I'm a little upset but I have to understand that it's a business. I would have loved to play for him as my head coach for my 4 years of college, but it didn't work out. Since it won't be now, hopefully I get a chance to play for him in the future
Clearly, Mark is a firm commitment, and look for him to be one of the more vocal leaders working to keep the class together along with our next topic of conversation, Jason Cabinda.
Jason Cabinda (LB)- Jason has been named as one of the members of the 2014 class working to keep everyone together. It's awesome to see these kids stepping up the way that so many other Penn State athletes and recruits have had to over the past 2 years or so. He's a true Penn Stater, and I for one can't wait for him to get here. A few tweets to share here (they're private, so not of the picture kind):
@jasoncabinda: Everyone has dreams... Best of luck to coach O'Brien with the Houston Texans. Penn State wouldn't be where they are without him #WEARE
@jasoncabinda: Me and @antoinewhite53 are gonna hold this class down #jerseystrong
Chasz Wright (OT)- Chasz famously committed while O'Brien was playing musical chairs with his chair in Lasch and his humid, sweaty desk chair in Houston. I suspect he knew this was a possibility, and he was most likely looking to come somwhere he could make an immediate impact. With Penn State's offensive line depth, that's certainly possible in Beaver Stadium. He's set to enroll early, and will do so next week.
Donte Raymond (LB)- Haven't heard much here. I'll let you know when I do. He also holds a Delaware offer.
Troy Stivason (K/P)- Troy isn't a scholarship recruit, but I was able to reach him for comment so I'm including it here.
Yeah, of course it's tough, but football is a business and I respect every decision the man makes! Penn State is one huge family. Nobody is going to outwork this class and this team! Anxious to see who our new coach is but that's not going to slow me down of the rest of this class. I'm still 100% committed to Penn State.
And that's that for the current committed class. I've also got some bonus thoughts for you! From Ryan Bates (OT) (Archbishop Wood (PA)), who is widely thought to be a prime candidate to be the first to commit for the 2015 class:
I mean it really sucks to see him go! It does change some stuff, but I still like the school in itself. You can't really choose a school on how the coach is. Coaches come and go. And especially the head coach. When I'm in college I'm going to have very little contact with the head coach.
Also from 2015 LB Jake Cooper (Also Archbishop Wood), who is still waiting to pick up his offer from Penn State. Although in my opinion, that offer is far overdue...
I think it's a shame. Anytime you lose a coach like that the program takes a hit especially because coach O'Brien was doing a great job with the team. I think PSU will find a great coach so I'm not too worried.
And that's that. Hope this helps shed some light on the current situation of the commits. I will add that the recruits we we are still going after will certainly be swayed by the new coaching hire as well. Most of them will also wait to make their decision until said coach is named. Watch Shawn Boone especially. The staff had also been reaching out to those currently committed to other schools seeing if they could flip them (such as Alex Bars), so those talks will most likely break off with the new staff coming in (hopefully soon).
For more recruit reaction, visit the Lions247 page here ($) and the PennLive article here for more info. Also of interest, is some current player twitter reactions put together by ESPN's Nittany Nation which you can read here. Go State.