The Nittany Lions, hurt by transfers that arose out of sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, went 8-4 in O'Brien's first season, leading to a plethora of awards for him. The Maxwell Club also honored their 31 seniors with the Thomas Brookshier Spirit Award for their leadership.
One condition of the sanctions is that any football player can transfer to another program and not have to sit out a year, a provision that remains in effect until the start of preseason camp in early August. O'Brien said the way to deal with the transfer rule is to be honest with each player.
"They know what we expect academically, socially, and football-wise," he said. "We're very aware of it. It's something that we definitely try to stay on top of. But what we do is, we just make sure that the kids understand where they stand in our program."
O'Brien said he has been pleased with recruiting despite penalties that included a four-year postseason ban and reduced the number of scholarships from 25 to 15 per signing period (starting with last month's Class of 2013) and 65 for the program (starting in 2014).
Right now, O'Brien is in the middle of preparations for spring practice, which begins on March 18 and concludes with the annual Blue-White Game on April 20.
O'Brien and other notables were honored at Friday night's annual awards dinner.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o received two honors - the Maxwell Award as the nation's top college football player and the Chuck Bednarik Award as defensive player of the year.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano and new Arizona head coach Bruce Arians, who filled in on an interim basis while Pagano was undergoing treatment for leukemia, shared the Greasy Neale Award as NFL coach of the year.
Other winners were Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (Bert Bell Award as NFL player of the year), Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome (Reds Bagnell Award for contributions to football), and Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene (Brian Westbrook Award as tristate college player of the year).
Penn State offensive lineman Eric Shrive was honored for his work with Penn State's Uplifting Athletes chapter and its fund-raising efforts for the Kidney Cancer Association.
Contact Joe Juliano at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @joejulesinq.