The Nittany Lions finished up the 2012 season nicely last week, coming away with a 24-21 overtime victory over the always tough Wisconsin Badgers. The win puts Penn State at an 8-4 record this season, which is above and beyond what most sports analysts and even Nittany Lion faithful expected out of PSU this season. Bill O'Brien's teachings of a more aggressive and high-paced offense along with a totally different weight training regiment have agreed well with this crop of Penn State players. Looking back throughout the season one could argue that Penn State could be sitting at 9-3 or even 10-2 record, but 8-4 it is and I think most would agree that Penn State supporters should be proud of that accomplishment.
So now that the season is over and Penn State is seen in the media's eye as overachieving the banter has begun as to whether Bill O'Brien is going to bolt for the NFL. Afterall, O'Brien came into a seemingly impossible situation, especially after the NCAA sanctions and transfers of some of the Nittany Lions top offensive weapons and took the Nittany Lions to 8-4 (6-2 BIG 10). He also landed top quarterback recruit Christian Hackenberg and top tight end recruit Adam Breneman in that time. After the sanctions people tried to make Penn State seem like a land for misfit toys, instead O'Brien is bringing in talent and showing them with on the field results that if you come to Penn State you'll be a success and more importantly people will notice.
O'Brien's first reward as far as hardware goes for reaching such heights with the 2012 PSU squad was when he was elected Big Ten Coach of the year earlier this week.
"This is a fantastic honor; it's very humbling," O'Brien said. "Any time you are named coach of the year, it has a lot to do with two groups of people - it's your coaching staff and obviously your players. We have a great coaching staff that did a nice job of keeping everything together and teaching our players. And our players did a great job of going out there every week and playing as hard as they could. It's an honor for our program."
O'Brien also put to rest some of the rumors that he was heading to the NFL in a radio interview on 790 AM "The Zone" in Atlanta.
"I plan on being the head football coach at Penn State (in 2013)," O'Brien said. "That's my plan and that's what I intend to do."
O'Brien's agent Joe Linta told ESPN earlier in the week as well that O'Brien was committed to coaching for the Blue and White next season.
"(O'Brien) is staying, and we've had no conversations with anyone else," Linta said. "In fact, he's leaving at 6 in the morning tomorrow to go out on the recruiting trail."
There is no reason to think that O'Brien's word isn't as solid as oak after all the things he has done so far in his short stay at Penn State. Until he gives people a reason to I see no reason why O'Brien won't be coaching on the sidelines at Beaver Stadium next season.
Now that the 2012 season is over it's never too early to look ahead to 2013 right? I mean honestly what else is there for Penn State fans to do? So let's take a look at who's leaving, who will be replacing those that have left and who is coming in to Happy Valley in the 2012 recruiting class.
Departing from the offense are Matt McGloin and Matt Stankiewitch, whom were both very important to the Penn State success this season. Stankiewitch was arguably the best center in the BIG 10 and McGloin led the BIG 10 in most all passing categories. Now, it's no doubt that McGloin improved this season, but a lot of credit must be given to O'Brien and his offense for taking advantage of what McGloin brings to the table. In past years McGloin was average at best and this season he was a really good signal caller.
So who will replace over 3,000 yards passing and 25 touchdowns? Sophomore Steven Bench or incoming blue chip freshman Christian Hackenberg? I say it's neither because there's a kid by the name of Jake Waters that PSU fans might be wanting to get accustomed to. Waters is a JUCO quarterback and a good one at that and has narrowed his choice of where he'll play ball next season to Kansas State or Penn State. Waters' numbers are staggering as of November 10th he has thrown for 3,100 yards and 39 touchdowns with just three interceptions. If Penn State can land Waters that gives them the opportunity to redshirt Hackenberg for a year while he learns O'Brien's offense. That also gives them the recruiting advantage with the class of 2014, telling them that Hackenberg could be there for years 2014 to 2017 in which only two of those years being years where they can't qualify for a bowl game.
The Nittany Lions will most likely redshirt blue chip tight end Adam Breneman as well with all the talent returning for Penn State at that position next season. One thing is for sure, whoever is behind center for PSU he will sure have a lot of weapons at his disposal. Penn State's single-season reception leader Allen Robinson returns along with his wideout mate Brandon Moseby-Felder. 1,000 yards rusher Zach Zwinack also returns along with his backfield mate Bill Belton. Going into 2013 offense will certainly be a strong suit and with the mind of Bill O'Brien at the helm who knows what kind of numbers the Lions offense could put up next season.
Penn State's defense, which gave up just 19 points per game this season will lose some key elements to graduation.
The PSU "D" will lose BIG 10 first team defensive tackle Jordan Hill, BIG 10 first team linebacker Mike Mauti, second team BIG 10 linebacker Gerald Hodges, defensive end Sean Stanley, defensive end Pete Massaro, and finally cornerback Stephon Morris.
That's a lot to replace, but as usual Penn State should be fine at the linebacker position. Glenn Carson returns, who was the third lead tackler behind Hodges and Mauti as well as Mike Hull and Michael Yanchich. Freshman Nyeem Wartman is expected to contribute next season and Ben Kline will also see some decent reps.
The problem will be replacing some of the talent on the front line and it will be interesting to see if DaQuan Jones, James Terry, Kyle Baublitz, and C.J Olaniyan can step in and play well next season. BIG 10 Freshman of the Year Deion Barnes will surely be ready to take the next step to a premier player at the defensive end position, but it remains to be seen what kind of front four the Nittany Lions can put together.
All this prognosticating is fun, but the 2013 season is a long time away and if last season taught anybody anything about Penn State football it's that anything can happen. So just hang in there Penn State fans, enjoy the successes of the 2012 season and before you know it will be time for the Blue/White game. Until then...