Dr. Saturday

Somehow, Bill O’Brien is more interested in the Super Bowl than Penn State recruiting

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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Most college coaches will spend tonight pacing in their bedrooms, race to the office at 5 a.m. and spend most of the day Wednesday hunched obsessively over a fax machine, watching as the fruits and disappointments of years of hard work roll in. At Penn State, the new head coach will get to the recruiting stuff when he gets to it. Then again, none of Bill O'Brien's peers is calling plays in the Super Bowl in a few days:

New Penn State coach and current Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien said he won't pay much attention to National Signing Day on Wednesday.

"I'll get a fax of our signees. I already have a pretty good idea of who they are going to be," he said. "It's really about the Patriots and making sure we're ready for today's practice, tomorrow's meeting and Sunday's game."

OK then. Under the circumstances, I suppose picking up a Super Bowl ring to flash at recruits is worth the sacrifice of a class that had little chance of escaping the vortex of the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal regardless of O'Brien's interest or anyone else's. (That is what motivated his decision to stay on through the Super Bowl, right? For a minuscule recruiting edge? I just assume that's what motivates every coach's decision to do anything.) Even while working two jobs, O'Brien was probably at least as involved in Penn State recruiting as his predecessor was over the last five years.

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And by all accounts, he won't be missing much. Of the seven verbal commitments O'Brien has accepted since he was hired on Jan. 5, four are from relatively anonymous two-star types who weren't offered scholarships by any other Big Ten school; on the other end, the class as a whole includes just two four-star prospects (Plymouth, Pa., wide receiver Eugene Lewis and Westville, N.J., defensive tackle Jamil Pollard), neither of whom was offered by Ohio State, Michigan or Notre Dame. As for the ones who were offered by other schools after the Sandusky scandal broke, they've flocked en masse to Columbus — Urban Meyer has converted four Nittany Lion commits into Buckeye commits in two months, not including five-star Harrisburg, Pa., defensive end Noah Spence, who was long considered a lock for Penn State — and anywhere else that will take them. "Recruiting rankings" haven't existed for very long, but if they did, we could compare this class among the least buzz-worthy crops at Penn State in at least 40 years.

Which is, again, not really Bill O'Brien's fault. Nothing about this transition is usual, or even precedented. And given the option of preparing for a Super Bowl with your Hall-of-Fame quarterback on one hand, or presiding over a fax machine spitting out the signatures of anonymous kids you've barely had time to meet on the other, well, maybe it puts the whole "signing day" thing in a little perspective.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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