As the dust is beginning to settle and the acceptance phase creeps in, the professionalism and enthusiasm shown by O’Brien thus far is quite admirable. Only six days into his new (part-time) full-time job, the wee hours of his regime have already shown a few positive signs.
And it will be in the wee hours of the morning of this coming Sunday when the 42-year-old former Ivy Leaguer will arrive in State College for an even more important weekend than the one during which he met the Penn State universe. This upcoming weekend is State’s biggest of the year in terms of hosting football recruits, and of course the most important aspect of the upcoming 48-hour stretch will be how these kids react to and interact with their potential future head coach.
Among the group of prep players who had already given verbal commitments to State before the Jerry Sandusky allegations came about, several have never wavered in their allegiance no matter the choice of Paterno’s eventual replacement. But they are no less important than those still on the fence. If anything, it’s equally important to make a positive lasting impression on that bunch as the one which, for PSU fans, will hopefully be impressed upon the “still undecided” group.
The first minor coup achieved by O’Brien occurred late Wednesday when he swayed Demetrius Cox to visit Penn State this weekend rather than go to Columbus as he’d originally planned. Yes, the fact that Urban Meyer limited the number of official visitors per weekend played a part in Cox’s decision. But O’Brien will take it – any win regardless of the size is a good one at this point. Being in the right place at the right time is half the battle.
Cox is a defensive back from the same high school in the western part of the Commonwealth which produced quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who of course spurned Paterno several years ago in favor of the Buckeyes. While it’s hard to believe that in the short time since Pryor’s recruitment was ongoing the two border rivals have gone from Paterno vs. Jim Tressel to now O’Brien vs. Meyer, the new faces in the same places will become quite familiar with the other in the coming years.
In addition to Cox, who here is a list of the recruits scheduled to visit Happy Valley this weekend:
►Derek Dowery: 6’4” defensive tackle from Virginia
►Brian Gaia: 6’3” defensive tackle from Maryland
►Austin Johnson: 6’4” offensive lineman from New Jersey
►Jake Kiley: 6’1” defensive back from New Hampshire
►Eugene Lewis: 6’2” wide receiver from Pennsylvania
►Skyler Mornhinweg: 6’3” quarterback from Pennsylvania
►Jamil Pollard: 6’4” defensive lineman from New Jersey
►Anthony Stanko: 6’5” offensive lineman from Ohio.
►Nyeem Wartman: 6’3” linebacker from Pennsylvania
►Brent Wilkerson: 6’4” tight end from Maryland
Of this group, the only two – along with Cox – who have not given a verbal commitment to Penn State are Wartman and Wilkerson. The dynamic duo of this potential class, of course, is defensive back Armani Reeves and linebacker Camren Williams. The latter committed to PSU very early on in the process back in March of 2011 and was the centerpiece who recruited other players for Paterno and Bradley to come on board with him. But Williams relegated his commitment to the ever-popular “Soft Verbal” after the scandal broke in early November. The fact that linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden is staying with the program will most likely lead Williams to re-affirm his initial feeling and fax his Letter of Intent to Lasch Building on February 1.
While Reeves and Williams are the core pair, the most important piece in terms of the upcoming four years is Mornhinweg. After Matt McGloin says goodbye to State College following next season, the cupboard is bare. It is quite obvious, at least at this point, that Rob Bolden is not the answer. He has regressed steadily ever since his very impressive showing in the 2010 season opener against Youngstown State – a game in which he started after only being on campus for several weeks as a freshman of the most green kind. Paul Jones might be the next Robert Griffin III or Randall Cunningham, but we’ll probably never find out. Jones cannot get his act together on the academic side and most likely will never see the field at Penn State unless he develops an overnight case of Bill Shakespeare.
Therefore, looking ahead, Mornhinweg has a clear path to the starting job under center beginning with the 2013 season as a redshirt freshman. No matter where his father ends up coaching in the NFL next season, Mornhinweg would be hard-pressed to pass up the chance to be developed under and coached by O’Brien.
It should be a very interesting and productive Sunday morning brunch for O’Brien and the young men he hopes to lure to campus. As for what the recruits will do on Saturday night while O’Brien is on the sideline in suburban Boston calling the plays for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots? Well, comfortable couches and a 60-inch television screen with solid snacks at Lasch watching their future coach certainly can’t hurt the cause.
***Editor’s Note: Some information on recruits contained herein was used from our friends at www.fightonstate.com.***