BREAKING: I can confirm that QB Michael O'Connor intends to transfer out of the #PennState program.— Ryan Snyder (@RivalsSnyder) December 11, 2014
As first reported by Ryan Snyder of Blue White Illustrated and later confirmed by many others, Michael O'Connor indeed will be transferring from Penn State. O'Connor red-shirted this past season, and was listed as third on the depth chart behind Christian Hackenberg and Penn State's other true freshman QB Trace McSorely.
O'Connor came to Penn State, a highly touted pro-style QB. Originally from north of the border, O'Connor transferred to recruiting powerhouse IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL), where he studied under the tutelage of former NFL quarterback, Chris Weinke. He was the 14th ranked pro-style QB in the country, and the 34th best player out of the talent-rich state of Florida.
O'Connor originally seemed destined to become a Michigan State Spartan, and Dantonio was the favorite to earn his signature on National Signing Day. Before Michael had the chance to pledge his allegiance to Sparty though, Chris Durkin committed to be Connor Cook's understudy. He eventually decided to verbally commit to Bill O'Brien and Charlie Fisher, giving the Nittany Lions another quarterback built to excel in O'Brien's pro-style passing attack. O'Connor briefly considered re-opening his commitment with the coaching change, especially with Durkin's eventual flip to Virginia Tech, but with his early enrollment timeline, ultimately chose to stick with the Lions.
O'Connor came to Penn State last winter to begin his training as Hackenberg's incumbent, and performed fairly well in the Blue/White game. When fall practices began though, former Vanderbilt QB/S commit Trace McSorley was the one who wound up catching the eyes of Franklin, Donovan, and Rahne, ascending to the backup role on the depth chart.
From that point on, it always seemed as if O'Connor was destined to take his talents elsewhere, and those beliefs have finally come to fruition. While this will undoubtedly add more fuel to the "Franklin wants a dual-threat QB" fire, this really just comes down to a talented QB wanting to play. It seemed that this wasn't going to be the case at Penn State. I won't pretend to be in the minds of the coaches, I don't know the exact reasons why they prefer McSorley. Maybe it simply came down to familiarity, as they had recruited him to Vanderbilt as well.
As far as how this might affect future recruiting, theoretically, it does open up another spot on the depth chart. As of right now, next year should be Hackenberg-McSorely-Crook-Stevens (red shirt), with the 2016 lineup adding in Jake Zembiec, and potentially in for a huge overhaul if Hackenberg leaves early. Penn State has continued its recruitment of 2016 names like Brandon McIlwain and Dwayne Haskins, but there's no denying that both have probably become less interested now that Zembiec has joined the class. If either one wants to come in and join the competition though, there is certainly room to do that. This move also frees things up a bit for more 2017 QB's, like #1 pro-style QB Hunter Johnson (Brownsburg, IN) who has serious Penn State interest.
No matter what happens next, it's always a shame to see a kid come to a school to chase his dream, and realize that he won't get to catch it. Thankfully for O'Connor, he has plenty of eligibility left to make an impact wherever he ends up, even if that school is another D1 program and he is forced to sit out a season first. We here at Black Shoe Diaries wish Michael all the best with his future, and are happy to have had him as part of the Penn State family.