After Patriots' playoff game, Bill O'Brien makes time to meet Penn State recruits

Posted: January 17, 2012

When Penn State fans heard Bill O'Brien say he would complete his duties with the New England Patriots before he moved full-time into the head coach's office, they thought this would put the Nittany Lions at a disadvantage with undecided high school recruits.

But what they found out was that television loves a good story, and the CBS announcers made frequent mentions of O'Brien, the Patriots' offensive coordinator, and his new job at Penn State during Saturday night's telecast of the AFC divisional playoff between New England and Denver.

So when O'Brien flew Sunday to State College to speak with about a dozen recruits and their families visiting the campus, the publicity combined with the fact that O'Brien's offense played lights-out in a 45-10 rout of the Broncos made him someone they were eager to meet.

"At the beginning, I personally didn't think it would be a good thing because you have to devote so much time to game-planning and meetings," Bob Lichtenfels, East regional recruiting manager for, said Monday of O'Brien's sticking with the Patriots. "But he's balanced. These kids got a chance to talk to him. They seem to be making it work. This is free p.r. for Penn State."

One of the recruits who spoke with O'Brien was St. Joseph's Prep quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg, who texted Monday, "Visit went well thanks."

O'Brien hustled to get a staff in place for last Friday's start of the open recruiting period, and it appeared to pay dividends. Jordan Lucas, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound safety from Worcester (Mass.) Academy who reportedly also was considering Temple, made a commitment Monday night at the end of an in-home visit.

In addition, a report on the Blue-White Illustrated website said Penn State coaches made a personal visit Monday to West Roxbury, Mass., to linebacker Camren Williams and defensive back Armani Reeves. The two players have given what are described as "soft verbal" commitments to the Nittany Lions but have been checking out other schools, including Ohio State and Michigan.

Lichtenfels said that Reeves will visit Ohio State this weekend and that Williams visited the Buckeyes earlier this month. The two are expected to visit Penn State the weekend of Jan. 28, right before national signing day on Feb. 1.

Lichtenfels said a huge benefit to O'Brien and Penn State was the retention of Larry Johnson, the team's defensive line coach under Joe Paterno for the last 16 years.

"He's as good a recruiter as there is in the country," Lichtenfels said.

Three players who gave Penn State oral commitments have decommitted since the child sexual-abuse scandal surfaced after the Nov. 5 indictment of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. That left Penn State with 13 commitments, one of whom - tight end Jesse James of McKeesport, Pa. - registered for the current semester.

Defensive tackle Jamil Pollard of West Deptford High committed on Dec. 29, bringing the number to 14, and Lucas' commitment raised it to 15.

O'Brien's staff also has been busy finding other players. Safety Demetrious Cox of Jeannette, Pa., a four-star recruit who is considering Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan State, among other schools, visited Sunday, according to reports.

New defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who recruited Birmingham, Ala., linebackers Beau Hankins and Harding Harper during a prior stint at Auburn, has offered the pair scholarships to Penn State, said.

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494,, or @joejulesinq on Twitter. Read his blog, Lion Eyes, at


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