Penn State football assistants hit the road to recruit

At Penn State, coach Bill O'Brien and his assistants are set to hit the recruiting trail.
At Penn State, coach Bill O'Brien and his assistants are set to hit the recruiting trail. (KEITH SRAKOCIC / AP)
Posted: April 25, 2012

Penn State has concluded its first spring football period under Bill O'Brien, but that doesn't mean that he and his assistants can exhale yet.

He and his staff barely had a day to watch tape of the Blue-White Game before seven assistant coaches hit the road in all directions, not only to recruit juniors for the Class of 2013 but to get acquainted with as many high school coaches in Pennsylvania as possible.

"You're allowed seven [assistants] on the road throughout the next four weeks," O'Brien said Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Inquirer. "The primary goal right now is to make sure we have the right guys on our list and make sure that our lists aren't too long because it's hard to recruit 1,000 kids."

After taking over at Penn State on Jan. 6, O'Brien quickly got together much of his staff and started recruiting, trying to boost a 2012 class that had been hit by defections in the wake of the child sexual-abuse scandal that resulted in the indictment of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and the firing of head coach Joe Paterno.

O'Brien wound up with 19 players signing letters of intent, a number thought to be good considering the late start.

For the Class of 2013, the Nittany Lions currently have eight commitments, including Adam Breneman of Camp Hill, Pa., considered the nation's best tight end prospect, and highly touted quarterback Christian Hackenberg of Fork Union, Va.

O'Brien said it also was important this month that his assistants introduce themselves to most of Pennsylvania's high school football coaches.

"Even if the school doesn't have a prospect, we're going to go in there and say hello to the coach and make sure that we do the best we can to establish a good relationship there for the future," he said.

"We'll recruit basically a six-hour driving distance [from State College] and go into Florida and Georgia a little bit."

O'Brien said he isn't allowed to recruit on the road in May, but he will remain busy. In addition to evaluating the spring performances of players, he will embark on the Penn State Coaches Caravan, which makes its first stop Monday in Philadelphia.

The seven-state caravan will be on the road for nine days between Monday and May 16, with two stops a day. While other coaches will be making some stops, including men's basketball coach Patrick Chambers in Philadelphia, O'Brien will make every stop.

"I felt like it was very important for me in this first year to get out as much as I could and meet as many people as I could, especially Penn Staters," he said.

O'Brien's last trip to Philadelphia came during the 2011 season as the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. He hopes Eagles fans notice his new team.

"Philadelphia is a great sports town," he said. "There's a definite rivalry between Philly and Boston but I'm a Penn Stater now. So I'll be looking forward to a nice home crowd in Philadelphia."

Night games. Penn State announced it will play back-to-back night games, Oct. 20 at Iowa (8 p.m. start) and Oct. 27 against Ohio State (6 p.m.) at Beaver Stadium. Those are the first announced kickoff times of the 2012 season.


Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com or follow him on Twitter @joejulesinq.

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