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.
Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.
Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.
And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.
“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”
Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.
You know how I know we’re gradually creeping up on the end of another regular season? Watch lists are being whittled.
The first major honor to do so is the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is given out annually to the best quarterback who is a college senior or fourth-year junior. The preseason watch list was 30 quarterbacks strong; the newest list has been cut in half to 15.
The most recent list includes one of the top Heisman contenders (TCU’s Trevone Boykin) and the top two nationally in passing yards (Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty), as well as a quarterback who’s closing in on the all-time FBS record for rushing touchdowns (Navy’s Keenan Reynolds).
The Pac-12 leads all conferences with three watch listers, followed by two each from the AAC, ACC and Big Ten. The SEC has as many players (one, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott) as the FCS (North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz).
Last year’s winner was Marcus Mariota of Oregon.
Trevone Boykin, TCU
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Brandon Doughty, WKU
Everett Golson, Florida State
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Cody Kessler, USC
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Carson Wentz, N. Dakota State
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Travis Wilson, Utah