"Look, I'm not going to get into predictions or anything like that," he said. "But I think our program, with the two-year sanctions that we've been under and things like that, with the limited amount of guys we could offer [scholarships] and guys that left the program, I think our program stands on pretty solid ground right now."
O'Brien spoke about recruiting and said he didn't feel there were any "busts" in the 16-member Class of 2013, including eight redshirted players whom the coach said "were really good players." Among those who have played, quarterback Christian Hackenberg has taken almost every snap from day one, while tight end Adam Breneman and linebacker Brandon Bell (Oakcrest) have improved.
O'Brien also mentioned the valuable experience gained by players such as sophomore cornerback Jordan Lucas.
"Jordan didn't play a lot for us his first year, now he comes in and he's one of our better players," he said. "We have a lot of veteran players that have played a lot of football for us, that are coming back next year that we feel really, really good about."
The Nittany Lions need a win over Wisconsin, a team with a punishing ground game and a defense that ranks in the top 10 in FBS in most major categories, to finish with a winning record. O'Brien also would like to see the seniors close out their careers on the positive side, and his underclassmen finish strong.
"It's a chance for our younger players and veteran players who are coming back next year to go out there against a very good football team and play well," he said. "So it's an important game for that, and we're focused there."
Nittany notes. O'Brien said cornerback Adrian Amos (sprained foot) looks likely to play Saturday but added, "We'll see how that is." He said running back Bill Belton (shoulder, illness) and return man Von Walker (concussion) should be able to play while running back Zach Zwinak was "banged around pretty good" last week as he rushed for 149 yards against Nebraska. He said Zwinak "looks to be OK for the game." . . . Wide receiver Allen Robinson, who is in the top 10 in FBS in receptions and receiving yards, fell short of being named one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award given to the best player at his position.