Intense and Confident, O’Brien Says He’s Ready for “Unbelievable” Chance at Penn State
First impressions won’t help Bill O’Brien win a single football game — not directly, anyway — but Penn State’s 15th head football coach knew there was much more at stake Saturday morning. In his introduction as the Nittany Lions’ new coach, O’Brien looked and sounded like a man who understood those stakes. He also didn’t look the least bit intimidated.
Greeting a packed Nittany Lion Inn ballroom with the words “This is unbelievable,” O’Brien came off intense, confident, and fully aware of what he’s gotten himself into. With his wife, Colleen, and the younger of his two sons sitting in the front row and roughly 100 media members crammed in behind them, O’Brien offered a statement and took questions. He covered a lot of ground. Among the highlights:
—He acknowledged the unrest regarding the coaching search among fans and former players, reading from a letter he’d written in which he asked for the chance to earn Penn Staters’ respect: “There is so much pride in Penn State, and we will never take that for granted, ever.” (It’s worth noting that LaVar Arrington and Brandon Short, former players who were most critical of the search that led to O’Brien’s hiring, have begun walking back their comments, and the Football Letterman’s Club on Saturday released a letter welcoming O’Brien and pledging support.)
—He spoke of growing up admiring Penn State’s program and image, and Joe Paterno in particular. Of his fellow Brown alum, O’Brien said, “I can’t wait to meet him at some point.”
—He said he planned to complete his coaching staff in the next “two or three days,” and while not ruling out any other members of the current staff, announced that Nittany Lion defensive line coach and ace recruiter Larry Johnson Sr. will be retained. (Longtime defensive coordinator Tom Bradley released a statement Saturday all but confirming his time at the program has come to an end.)
—He spoke briefly of his football philosophy, promising a “game-plan offense” — a phrase that immediately had the message boards buzzing, and which seems to imply innovation and adaptability to what opposing defenses present — and a continuation of Penn State’s reputation for dominant defenses.
There’s much, much more, and if you missed it, you can watch O’Brien’s press conference — including introductory remarks from University president Rod Erickson and acting athletic director Dave Joyner — in its entirety on BTN.com. I imagine we’ll be writing about Coach O’Brien once or twice in the coming days and weeks as well.
Ryan Jones, senior editor