There's at least one person who couldn't be happier about Penn State's impending hiring of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien as its next head coach.
Cedar Cliff junior tight end and Penn State recruit Adam Breneman expressed some doubts about the Penn State coaching search just a few weeks ago. He said the time it was taking Penn State to pick a coach allowed some of the other schools on his list - which includes a who's who of the nation's top programs - to creep up and challenge Penn State for the top spot.
The scandal and uncertainty surrounding the program muddied the once-clear-cut decision for Breneman, who called himself a life-long Nittany Lions fan. Now that Penn State has all but made its decision on its new coach, Breneman said some of those doubts are starting to go away.
"A big part of my decision-making process is the offense that I'll be playing in," Breneman said. "With what Coach O'Brien has done with his tight ends, I don't think there could've been a better hire for someone of my position."
As the offensive coordinator for the Patriots, O'Brien has broken the mold a bit with the way he utilizes his tight ends. Second-year tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have combined to catch 169 balls for 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns.
That isn't to say the tight end position will be featured as much in whatever offense O'Brien brings with him to Penn State, but it's difficult for Breneman to hide his excitement.
In his junior season, Breneman was the feature receiver for a Cedar Cliff team that thrived on airing it out. Breneman caught 70 passes for 1,102 yards and 11 touchdowns this year, earning him a spot on the Pennsylvania Sports Writers All-State team. Breneman used his 6-foot-5, 220 pound frame to reel in 60 balls for 863 yards and eight touchdowns in his sophomore campaign.
The prospect of being able to put up those same numbers in college is enticing.
"It's awesome what (the Patriots) do, you don't see that too often," Breneman said. "An offense that throws the ball to the tight ends as much as it does is a very attractive offense for me."
Much of the ire that the O'Brien hiring has drawn from former players and other alumni is that O'Brien doesn't understand Penn State. A graduate of Brown - also Joe Paterno's alma mater - O'Brien has 11 years of coaching experience in the ACC as an assistant at Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke. He coached at Brown for two seasons after graduating in 1992 and has spent the last five seasons as an assistant with the Patriots.
Still, none of those experiences compare with taking over a program like Penn State or filling the shoes of a coach like Paterno. But Breneman hopes that the Nittany Lion faithful will at the very least give their new coach a chance.
"Right now Penn State is in the middle of a big healing process and I know that there's been a lot of negative comments out there, but I really don't think the negative comments are necessary," Breneman said. "I think Bill O'Brien deserves a shot at it. From what I've heard he's a great guy and I think if anyone can turn this program in the right direction, it's him."
Penn State is scheduled to hold a press conference Saturday and the fate of the rest of the Lions' coaching staff is unknown at this point. Many have suggested that the only move left for Penn State is to clean house and start over with whoever O'Brien decides to bring in.
Whatever happens tomorrow and in the days coming, Breneman is at least happy that Penn State has finally selected its new coach and can begin to move on.
"I'd like to see some of those coaches stay just because I've built up previous relationships with them," Breneman said. "I think the university is gonna do whatever it has to do to get this program back on track. If that's keeping the coaches or not, I'm still gonna support whatever they chose to do."