Bill O’Brien knows there are Penn State faithful who are weary of talking about the program’s future.
He has heard people wonder whether his coaching staff will be able to attract productive recruits during the sanction-era.
But the first-year coach still believes Penn State has a lot going for it.
The Nittany Lions’ coach said Tuesday he understands recruiting for the next three years — when the bowl-ban and recruiting restrictions are still in place — is not going to be easy. Yet, O’Brien said because of the season’s positive start and the feedback he’s received from outside the program, he’s confident that attaining talented recruiting classes will not be an issue.
In response to a question about recruiting, O’Brien spent almost three minutes explaining why he believes the future of the program is bright.
“When the sanctions happened, I know that everybody said, ‘Uh-oh, here we go. What’s going to happen to Penn State?’ ” O’Brien said.
“At home games, we’ve had between 40 and 50 prospects here. So, what are we talking about here?”
O’Brien said, with the first five games this season being aired on national TV, the publicity has reminded the country that Penn State is still a prominent team.
After a 0-2 start, the Lions have rattled off three straight wins headding into a matchup with undefeated Northwestern on Saturday, which will also air on ESPN.
“People enjoy watching this team play because of the effort with which they play,” O’Brien said. “They play like their hair is on fire every play.”
O’Brien said all 32 NFL teams have sent scouts to the Lions’ practices this season, which is another bargaining chip with recruits.
Junior linebacker Glenn Carson said he appreciates that the scouts are still coming in full force.
“It is nice to have them around, knowing that there are NFL scouts looking at you and [they] are going to continue to give us the opportunity to go to the next level,” Carson said.
The linebacker added that, from the start, O’Brien has always been open with his players about how difficult the future would be.
O’Brien has remained honest when talking about recruiting, admitting that trying to attract certain positions will be difficult.
“With the scholarship reductions, if you have a great punter or place-kicker out there that you’d like to compete in recruiting with, you have to offer him a scholarship and that’s going to affect your overall numbers,” O’Brien said. “So that’s a strategy that we’re talking about every day.”
The coach said he isn’t a “genie” and can’t accurately foretell how this season, let alone future seasons, will develop.
However, O’Brien said he’s sure of one thing: Penn State is a special place where talented players will continue to land.
“This is a place where you can play great football with great kids as teammates,” O’Brien said. “You can get a fantastic degree. You can play in front of 100,000 people.”