Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien has been faced with questions about a potential move to the NFL almost from the start of his head coaching career at Penn State it seems, but one current NFL coach seems pretty sure the Nittany Lions head coach is not leaving for a return to the NFL any time soon.
Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone, former head coach at Syracuse, said in a conference call Wednesday he expects O’Brien to stick with Penn State, according to a report by USA Today. Marrone and O’Brien were both assistant coaches at Georgia Tech under current Central Florida head coach George O’Leary and have been friends ever since. If any coach had an inclination of what O’Brien had planned for the future, O’Leary and Marrone might be the best bets. Of course, this does not mean it is a given O’Brien sticks at Penn State.
With the NCAA cutting back on the scholarship portion of the sanctions levied against the program starting with the next recruiting class and the possibility of a reduction in the postseason ban at some point in the future, the job as head coach at Penn State is starting to get easier, for lack of a better word. What was once deemed a toxic position by some has started to clean up each of the past two years as Penn State paces toward the end of the NCAA sanction period. O’Brien has been admired by many of his peers in the college coaching game and continues to impress those who follow the NFL. As pointed out by Pro Football Talk over the summer, the contract situation for O’Brien is beginning to make it more affordable for potential suitors with NFL coffers. O’Brien has a pretty good job where he is at Penn State and he has said all of the right things about the position since he was introduced as the head coach. He speaks highly of the program, the university and has won over a split community and fan base through difficult times with grace and determination. He has worked hard to make Penn State football what it currently is today by leaving his own stamp on a program with a deep and rich, as well as recently tainted, history. He has the attitude of a coach looking to continue building a program in to a championship contender, which could be likely once Penn State gets back to full strength with scholarships.
I have been asked this many times over the last year and a half. It is my belief that O’Brien will one day coach in the NFL, and I will not be surprised if that day comes before his current contract at Penn State expires. O’Brien has been held in high regard by NFL media and apparently NFL franchises. If he continues to lead Penn State to winning football games in spite of NCAA sanctions, his profile will continue to improve and NFL franchises in need of a coach will continue to keep tabs on the former Patriots assistant coach.
The biggest issue the NCAA is tackling at the moment is an easy one to pick out: transfers. Coaches have chimed in about potential changes and new rules have been enacted but even as we approach the Media Days portion of the calendar next month, transfer talk has been one of the hot topics across all major sports at the collegiate level.
Perhaps that interest is one reason why the NCAA released a new study this week looking into the numbers of one particular category of players: graduate transfers. While the number of actual graduate transfers remains relatively low (about 1% of the total number of student-athletes), the number itself continues to skyrocket year-by-year as more and more players take advantage of rules that allow them to graduate and play immediately at their next school.
According to the NCAA, that number of grad transfers is five times bigger in 2017 than it was in 2011 for men’s sports alone and football in particular saw the number of players moving around nearly double from 117 total in 2016 to 211 the following season. The rates are higher in men’s basketball but the overall number is naturally much bigger in football given the vastly bigger roster size.
Data for 2018 was naturally not made available since we’re just in the middle of the year but a similar increase wouldn’t be too surprising to see given the number of big names that have made headlines prior to the upcoming season. That includes players like Michigan’s Wilton Speight (to UCLA), Cal’s Tre Watson (to Texas), Notre Dame’s Jay Hayes (to Georgia) and Alabama’s Brandon Kennedy (to Tennessee) all among those taking the grad transfer route. It seems like nearly every week we see one or two players announce their intentions to take a similar path.
While we might not have 400+ players listed as graduate transfers in football when 2018 comes to a close, it certainly doesn’t appear that this trend will be slowing down anytime soon and the coaches that are complaining about this brand of “free agency” in college football will just have to get used to the new reality of player movement in light of a number of new NCAA reforms on the subject.
Tough news out of South Bend this week as redshirt freshman linebacker David Adams is leaving the Notre Dame football program as a player to take a medical exception. He tweeted a lengthy statement discussing the departure on his Twitter account Tuesday night:
The Pittsburgh native was a former three-star recruit coming out of high school and was an Under Armour All-American. He redshirted during his first year with the team in 2017 but will sadly not suit up for the team going forward.
The list of injuries Adams tweeted about shows why this isn’t super surprising news given that he had suffered, among other things, concussions, a torn left labrum, a torn rotator cuff, a knee injury and severe patellar tendonitis. He will remain on scholarship at Notre Dame but won’t count against the football team’s 85-man limit going forward.
Though Adams was expected to help contribute some depth to the Irish defense this year, the team is pretty set in the middle of their defense at linebacker on the two-deep but could see incoming recruits Jack Lamb and Bo Bauer take some snaps earlier than expected if somebody else gets hurt.
It didn’t take that long to hear John Currie’s name mentioned for another Power Five gig.
The former Kansas State athletic director who memorably was run out of the same position in Knoxville following a messy coaching search at Tennessee has reportedly made the cut at Maryland and will be interviewed as one of three finalists at the school. Per the Baltimore Sun’s Don Markus:
Former Terps AD Kevin Anderson had taken a six-month sabbatical late last year from the position but eventually resigned in early April to formally vacate the job. Evans has been acting as athletic director ever since Anderson’s departure and has been with the school since 2014. That figures to give him a bit of a leg up on the other two candidates and it doesn’t hurt that he also has previous AD experience from his time at Georgia from 2004 to 2010, even if the ending was not the one he wanted in Athens.
As for Currie, his name being a finalist is notable given the messy divorce he had at Tennessee that saw him earning $75,000 a month during a paid suspension that he was placed on after nearly hiring Mike Leach to become the next Vols football coach. He formally split with the university in March (with a nice $2.5 million check) and has been lecturing at various schools ever since.
It remains to be seen which direction Maryland eventually goes but it seems pretty clear that the school isn’t going for an under the radar hire given the names on their shortlist.
Next spring you may very well be able to see a former San Antonio Gunslinger-turned-Pac-12 coach across the sidelines from a former San Antonio Rider turned-Pac-12 coach… in San Antonio.
If you’re throughly confused or don’t know the semi-pro teams that have operated in the state of Texas over the years, the former would be referring to new Alliance of American Football head coach Rick Neuheisel and the latter is referring to Mike Riley, who according to longtime NFL reporter and current SiriusXM host Alex Marvez is apparently leaving his gig as an assistant at Oregon State to be a head coach again with a new AAF franchise.
Riley re-joined the Beavers coaching staff this offseason as assistant head coach and tight ends coach, helping out his former QB Jonathan Smith in Corvallis after he was let go from Nebraska. His third stint on the sidelines for OSU does not appear to be a lengthy one based on this report though it’s possible he could coach the upcoming 2018 season with the team before going to Texas since the AAF does not start until February of 2019 as a unique new spring league.
The move does mark a return to San Antonio for Riley, who has spent plenty of time in the area over the years and was once the head coach of the Riders (a World League of American Football team) for two seasons in 1991 and 1992. Interestingly enough, that first coaching staff had now-Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst on it and saw current Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett become the starting quarterback.
Oregon State has not confirmed Riley’s departure or his temporary replacement if there is one but one figures to hear more details at a press conference for the AAF tomorrow.