Bill O’Brien didn’t orchestrate a massive on-the-field turnaround at Penn State. In fact, the Nittany Lions had one less victory in 2012 (eight) than a year ago (nine). O’Brien didn’t win those games with a bunch of talentless players, either. While the departure of running back Silas Redd to USC was a bummer for Penn State, the team still had a 1,000-yard rusher (Zach Zwinak) and receiver (Allen Robinson). That’s not even mentioning PSU’s veteran-laden defense. Penn State wasn’t the most talented Big Ten team, but it certainly wasn’t the worst.
But O’Brien did lead Penn State through its roughest year in history following the Jerry Sandusky scandal and was thrown under an NCAA bus of postseason bans and scholarship reductions. Still, O’Brien surpassed all expectations outside of Happy Valley and coached up Matt McGloin, once dreadfully inconsistent, to one of the better quarterbacks in the Big Ten.
For all his efforts, O’Brien has been awarded the Maxwell Club Coach of the Year over Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly and Kansas State’s Bill Snyder.
“Coach O’Brien has engineered a tremendous season for the Penn State football program while overcoming obstacles that many considered to be insurmountable,” said Maxwell executive director Mark Wolpert in a statement. “The team’s 8-4 record is a great testament to the hard work of Coach O’Brien and his staff, and also to the dedication shown by the student-athletes involved in the football program at Penn State.”
The Maxwell Club will honor O’Brien at a ceremony on March 1.
If you’ve visited this site often enough, you know that O’Brien was my pick for coach of the year long before the season ended. The confidence and stability he’s been able to provide the Penn State program during such turmoil was only complimented by the improvements the team showed on offense at times this year. PSU has a tough road ahead, but there’s no doubt in my mind that O’Brien’s the coach that can get through it.