New Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said he’s “moving forward” with his team’s recruiting efforts in the wake of the alleged Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal and firing of the late Joe Paterno.
O’Brien already has two 4-star commitments for 2013, with QB Christian Hackenberg of Fork Union, Va., pledging to Penn State on Tuesday. The Nittany Lions scrambled last month to sign 19, including QB Steven Bench of Cario High School.
Bench said a few classmates “made jokes” when he committed to Penn State but that generally everybody else was supportive of his decision. Bench and his parents addressed the Sandusky and Paterno issues with the new staff, and were satisfied with the answers. O’Brien has made it clear that he’s a new coach going in a new direction.
“I will say this: We were not at Penn State when that happened,” O’Brien told the AJC. “There’s a lot of special people here at Penn State that are involved in the investigation of what occurred. But we’re here now, and we’re moving forward.
“To be honest with you, we feel great about where we’re at right now with recruiting. We’ve got a real good jump on next year’s class, and we feel like there’s a lot of people receiving us well out there, as it’s related to Penn State football.
“Again, we’ve got a great staff and we talk about the future. We’re not looking in the past. We’re moving forward.”
Bench is just the beginning of Penn State’s relationship with Georgia’s top prospects. The Nittany Lions are making Georgia a priority after hiring Ted Roof as defensive coordinator. Roof was a football star at Georgia Tech and Central Gwinnett High School, and has recruited the state forever. He was Auburn’s defensive coordinator last season and also had a coaching stint at Georgia Tech. O’Brien was an assistant at Georgia Tech from 1998-2002.
New Penn State coach Bill O'Brien: "We’ve got a great staff and we talk about the future. We’re not looking in the past. We’re moving forward." (AP)
“We’re going to do what’s right for Penn State,” O’Brien said. “We’re going to go out and find the guys that fit the Penn State profile, which is a good student, a tough and hard-nosed football player, guys that play smart football, and men that understand what it means to be part of a team.
“And whether they’re from Georgia or Pennsylvania, we’re going to find them and recruit them to Penn State.
Ted Roof echoed his boss’s sentiments: “Recruiting is all about relationships and the product you’re presenting. I just happen to know a lot of folks in Georgia and I’ve recruited parts of the state for, I don’t know, 25 or 26 years. After playing high school football in Georgia, I certainly have an appreciation to what football means in that state.”
Here are a few questions with Penn State’s new coach, Bill O’Brien:
- How much success do you think you will have recruiting against SEC schools in the Southeast? “All we’re going to do is go down there and talk about the things Penn State has to sell, which is academic diversity, a chance to play a great football schedule in front of 108,000 fans, and a great staff. We have guys on this staff that have won four national championships. So we have a lot to sell here. We have a great student body. We’re looking forward to getting out there and talking about Penn State as much as we can.”
- Your opinion of over-signing? “We’re in the process of evaluating our roster right now. We’re trying to get a real hold on what exactly our needs are for next year. And then, at that point, we’ll make a decision on whether we’ll do what you’re talking about. There’s some definite advantages in doing that. Right now, we haven’t made a decision on whether we’re headed in that direction.”
- On if he knows anything about the so-called Big Ten’s “gentlemen’s agreement” to not recruit players committed to other conference members that Urban Meyer called “nonsense”? “I don’t get into any of that. You’d have to ask Urban Meyer about that. I just know we’re going to go out and talk about Penn State. We’re going to recruit for Penn State. We think we’re a very unique place here and we’re going to go out and find players that fit what we’re looking for what we’re looking to do. And again, that’s to find kids who will play tough and hard-nosed football and will go to class and get a degree. I don’t know about ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ or anything like that. I just know I’m fortunate to be a football coach at a great place.”
- His Penn State recruiting sales pitch to Georgia prospects? “We’re a program that is going to do things the right way, off and on the field. We’re a program where guys are going to go to class and get a meaningful degree to do anything they want in this world … We play a great schedule in a conference that is very competitive. If you win the conference, you’ve got a chance to play for the national championship … We’re looking for a certain type of guy. A guy that’s willing to come up here, study hard and play good football. That’s why we’re in Georgia trying to recruit those type of guys. We’ve got Ted Roof, who is in the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame. We couldn’t have a better guy recruiting Georgia. Like he said, recruiting is about relationships. One of the reasons I wanted to hire Ted is his ability to foster relationships with prospects. Kids in Georgia will get the chance to know him in the near future.”
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