O'brien as promised gets staff together quickly
Penn State's new head man in charge Bill O'brien has put together his coaching staff for the hopefully new look Nittany Lions. The present New England Patriots offensive coordinator promised he would put together the best staff for Penn State and that he would do it swiftly. He wasn't lying about the time frame, but as far as the best staff for Penn State is concerned, only time will tell on that subject. Until then, there's only one thing left to do, which is to analyze O'brien's hirings.
O'brien, who brings an offensive mentality to State College, has said that he wants to run the offense in 2012, so the likelihood of an offensive coordinator being hired looks to be slim.
One of the more notable hirings that O'brien made at Penn State was the addition of Ted Roof.
Roof is best known for his stint at Auburn where he served as defensive coordinator during their National Title run in 2010. The bad news is Roof was released this season after a young Auburn squad ranked just 81st in the country in total defense.
Penn State fans won't tolerate an 81st-ranked defense, but with the likes of Larry Johnson, Sr., and Ron Vanderlinden coaching the defensive line and linebackers Roof will have a lot of help shaping the defense for next season. One positive fans can take away from the hiring of Roof is that he's obviously been around talented players and knows how to win with his previous experiences coaching the Tigers.
Staying with the defense, O'brien has brought in John Butler from South Carolina who served as the special teams coordinator. Butler was only at South Carolina for one year before before O'brien made him the defensive backs coach for the Nittany Lions in 2012. The Philadelphia native spent time coaching with Minnesota from 2007-2010 as linebackers coach and special teams coordinator and coached at Harvard from 2003-06 as safeties coach. Butler did his graduate assistant work with Texas under Mack Brown in 1997 and 1998.
O'brien's associate head coach and wide receiver's coach will be former Buffalo Bills wideout coach Stan Hixon.
Hixon has 32 years of experience coaching and has helped develop NFL star receiver Stevie Johnson the last two seasons in Buffalo. Hixon also served as wide receivers coach for LSU in 2003 when they won the BCS National Championship and Georgia Tech from 1995-99 where he met O'brien.
Hixon brings the ability to develop talented wideouts into pro receivers and that can only help the recruiting strategy for PSU as it moves forward. Hixon has a big, strong, and fast receiver in Justin Brown to develop for next season, so we'll see how good he really is based on Brown's performance in the upcoming year.
Coaching the running backs will be Charles London. London was a quality control coach with the Tennessee Titans this season and also coached with O'brien at Duke. London served as a pro scout for the Eagles in 2010 and offensive assistant with the Bears from 2007-09.
John Strollo has come over from Ball State to coach the tight ends. Strollo has spent most of his time coaching at the FCS level and has also coached at nearby Lafayette. Strollo also coached with O'brien at Duke. While at Ball State last season Strollo's offensive line allowed less than one sack per game.
Maybe the most important hire made by O'brien is the hiring of Mac McWhorter.
McWhorter, who has come out of retirement, spent nine years coaching the offensive line at perennial power Texas. McWhorter will have his hands full with what has seemed to be a problem in recent years at Penn State, which is their offensive line play. McWhorter helped Texas to win the BCS National Title against USC in 2005.
The quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions in 2012 will be George Godsey. Godsey played under O'brien at Georgia Tech and threw for almost 6,000 yards in two years. Godsey is coming over from the Patriots as he worked under O'brien as an offensive assistant. Godsey, much like McWhorter, will also have his hands full with a pair of struggling quarterbacks on the Nittany Lions roster.
The head coach is hired, the staff is complete, and soon the recruiting class will be finalized. The ship is almost set to sail for 2012 and there are sure to be some rough seas ahead for O'brien. How the players and staff handle those troubled waters will certainly decide the fate of the Penn State program moving forward.