Twenty Nittany Lions Earn 3.5 GPA; 34 Returnees Own Cumulative 3.0 GPA or Higher
Nittany Lions Host East Division Foes Maryland, Michigan State and Ohio State in 2014
Nittany Lions To Play at Meadowlands For First Time Since 2000; 71st Meeting vs. Orange
Nittany Lions open 2013 vs. Syracuse on Aug. 31
Nittany Lion season-opener set for Aug. 31 at MetLife Stadium
AP Photos: Football vs. Wisconsin
AP Photos: Football vs. Indiana
Penn State vs. Purdue - AP Photo Gallery
AP Photos: Football vs. Ohio State
Football vs. Ohio State (Oct. 27, 2012)
To call Bill O'Brien's first year as a head coach "great" would be a vast understatement.
A thesaurus is unable to contain all the superlatives that could be used to describe the overall efforts by O'Brien, his staff and the Nittany Lion squad members during his thrilling, challenging and memorable first season as head coach at Penn State.
Named the Nittany Lions' 15th head football coach on January 6, 2012, O'Brien quickly and effectively established the foundation and shared his passionate vision for the new era of Penn State Football during his initial eight months on the job.
After two narrow losses to open the season, the resilient Nittany Lions responded the following Monday with one of their best practices of the season to set the tone for the final 10 games. A 34-7 victory over Navy in Week 3 not only was O'Brien's first career victory but served as a launching pad for the remainder of the season. Penn State won eight of its final 10 contests and earned a 6-2 mark in the Big Ten Conference, finishing second in the Leaders Division.
Penn State capped its remarkable season with a 24-21 overtime victory over eventual Big Ten Champion Wisconsin on an emotional Senior Day, with 31 committed and dedicated seniors introduced before the game. O'Brien's eight wins were the most by a first-year Penn State coach in the 126 years of the program and led to a plethora of accolades for his leadership, coaching acumen and commitment under unprecedented conditions.
In his 20th year of coaching, but his first as a head coach, O'Brien was selected the 2012 Bear Bryant Coach of the Year, ESPN Coach of the Year and the Maxwell Football Club Collegiate Coach of the Year. He also was a finalist for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year and the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). O'Brien also was among the finalists for the 2012 Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year, a prestigious honor presented to a metropolitan Pittsburgh sports figure.
O'Brien also was named the Big Ten's Dave McClain Coach of the Year (media) and Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year (coaches). The Brown University graduate was just the seventh first-year head coach to earn the Big Ten-Dave McClain Coach of the Year in the 41 years it has been awarded.
Penn State reeled off five consecutive victories after the 0-2 start, as O'Brien tied George Hoskins (1892) and Dick Harlow (1915) for the most consecutive wins by a first-year Nittany Lion coach. Among the wins was a 22-point fourth quarter explosion to hand No. 24 Northwestern its first loss. Penn State also won its initial three Big Ten road games, making O'Brien just the fifth Big ten coach since 1950 to win his first three conference away contests.
The Nittany Lions' offensive coordinator, O'Brien engineered a dynamic, fast-paced offense that featured the Big Ten's passing leader (Matt McGloin), top receiver (Allen Robinson) and a running back (Zach Zwinak) who gained 100 yards six times in eight Big Ten games and 1,000 yards for the season. McGloin broke nine school passing records and won the Burlsworth Trophy and Robinson shattered the Penn State season record with 77 receptions.
His vision includes building a "big, fast, physical football team able to play in all kinds of weather." And it will be a football program that is part of One Team, with the football squad and staff, Intercollegiate Athletics, the University, Penn State alumni and fans, residents of State College and all communities that are home to a Penn State campus working in unison to continue to build upon Penn State's mission to improve the lives of the residents of Pennsylvania and beyond.
O'Brien's personality, vision, passion, work-ethic, respect for the past, excitement for the future, and no-nonsense approach have resonated with and enthused every constituency he has met, from prospects and their families, to the football lettermen, Penn State alumni and fans and communities across the Commonwealth.
O'Brien's experience as a former collegiate player and a college and professional coach and the knowledge gained by working with some of the nation's premier offensive minds has prepared him for his first season as a head coach. His coaching experience includes 14 years at the collegiate level and five years spent as an offensive assistant coach with the National Football League's New England Patriots.
Working with then-offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen, O'Brien served as the Yellow Jackets' running backs coach from 1998-2000, with GT finishing no lower than third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing all three seasons and beating rival Georgia three consecutive times. O'Brien was promoted to Georgia Tech's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2001 and assistant head coach in 2002. In 2001, he helped George Godsey break school season records with 3,085 passing yards and 249 completions and lead the ACC in passing yards (257.1 ypg). He completed 64.8 percent of his passes, threw 18 touchdown passes and ran for four scores in 2001.
O'Brien was reunited with Friedgen in 2003, joining his Maryland staff as running backs coach. The Terrapins finished second in the ACC in rushing in his first season and defeated West Virginia, 41-7, in the Gator Bowl. Following two years in College Park, O'Brien served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Duke in 2005 and '06 before joining the Patriots' coaching staff.
Born in Dorchester, Mass. O'Brien was raised in Andover, a Boston suburb. He played linebacker and defensive end at Brown from 1990-92, graduating in 1992 with a double concentration in political science and organizational behavior management.
O'Brien and his wife, Colleen, have two sons, Jack (10) and Michael (7).
What They're Saying About Bill O'Brien
"They're getting a great man, I'm so sorry to see him leave. They're getting the real deal. He's a passionate guy. He knows the game and is a great people person. He's not afraid to speak up, whether it's (Bill) Belichick, (Tom) Brady, myself or something isn't right and that's what you need. He's one of my favorite people to come through this system. He and his wife (Colleen) and their whole family are just first class. Whoever chose him at Penn State is a very wise person."
"Over the course of his long coaching career, Bill O'Brien has met every personal and professional challenge head on with great passion and competitiveness. I expect Bill to draw on his deep background in college football and the NFL to continue attracting and developing top players. For five years, Bill's outstanding work with our quarterbacks and entire offense has led to record-setting performances. His presence and command before our team has grown into that of a inspirational leader. This is a great match between a storied program and a old-school football coach. Bill will be up to the task and I couldn't be happier for him, Colleen and the O'Brien family."
"Billy has been a great coach and friend. We have a great relationship; probably a very unique relationship in that we communicate all the time. I always enjoy working with him and he's done an incredible job with this team and this offense. He expects nothing less than our best."
"Coach O'Brien is a great coach to play for and I'm very fortunate to have played for him these first two years of my NFL career. He has helped me immensely."
"Bill O'Brien brings a lot of energy and fire to an organization. I think being in a head coaching position, that type of personality will allow him to do very well."
"As an offensive coordinator you can have a little fire. You can have a little passion about the game, and that's what he has."
"For me to know him personally and understand what kind of person he is and what kind of coach he has been while I've been here, I think it's a great move. He's an extremely passionate coach. This is important to him and I think you can expect great things out of him."
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Bill O'Brien. Having been around him, I could tell that he eventually would be discovered and move on to great things. A few characteristics that I admire most about Bill O'Brien are his accountability, his professionalism and his ability to motivate. Penn State has found a spectacular coach."
Coach O'Brien Connects With Penn State Football Lettermen
Several Penn State Football lettermen had an opportunity to meet and/or speak with new head football coach Bill O'Brien when he was introduced on campus on January 7. Below are their thoughts after speaking with the Nittany Lions' 15th head football coach in the program's storied 125-year history.
"I recently had an opportunity to speak with Coach O'Brien. I was impressed during our conversation by his passion, his values, the respect and understanding of Penn State football he possessed and his enthusiasm about leading the program in the future. In addition, the fact that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, two men who in my opinion are at the top of the football world in their respective professions, speak so highly of him as a coach and play caller says a great deal to me about our new football coach at Penn State."
"I had an opportunity to speak with Coach O'Brien and am thoroughly impressed. He has great knowledge of the tradition and history of Penn State football. He is going to reach out to the former players. He has great presence and leadership qualities and it was easy to tell he is committed and can't wait to get started. I'm excited and I am going to support Coach O'Brien and the program any way I can. I think Bill will do a great job."
"As a football alumni and a member of the Nittany Lion Club I was very impressed with the thoughts and strategies that Coach O'Brien shared with us. I was especially glad to hear the respect he has for our previous players, culture and traditions."
"After having a chance to meet Coach O'Brien I believe our program is in good hands. He values the same things all the former players do -- tradition, graduating players and winning the right way. It was apparent that Coach O'Brien would have fit in well as a player in our locker room."
"My brother (Larry) and I had an opportunity to meet Coach O'Brien and we were thoroughly impressed. We wanted him to know the lettermen fully support him. He understands the traditions of the program, going all the way back to my grandfather (Bob Higgins) through what Coach Paterno accomplished. He brings a great deal of infectious enthusiasm. He is excited to get started and we are excited to support him and the team."
"Congratulations to Coach O'Brien on his selection as the head coach of the Penn State Football program. We are fortunate to have someone with his academic, athletic and coaching credentials leading our program and continuing the Penn State tradition of success in the classroom and on the field. Coach... you have already proven yourself already and we are delighted to have you as part of the Penn State family. We Are...Penn State!!"