Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What About Bob?

Penn State's new head football coach, Bill O'Brien, fondly referred to as BO'B or just BOB on the Internet, seems to be taking fans and writers by storm.  Initial shucks and awww have given way to more optimistic shock and awe, riding a wave of several high profile recruits already verballed to PSU or strongly considering doing so.

Rich Scarcella (in the York Dispatch) writes:
I like him," Mike Guman said. "I like him."
Guman doesn't know whether O'Brien will be a successful head coach at Penn State. Neither do any of us.
But Guman, ESPN/ABC analyst Matt Millen and many other former Nittany Lions like what they've seen from O'Brien in his first two months on the job.

I've been impressed so far. He seems real, energetic, smart, disciplined and detail-oriented.

O'Brien already has dismissed one player, Shawn Oakman, for "a violation of team rules." He's also instituted "early-bird runs" at 5 a.m. Mondays for guys who cut class.
"We're gonna do things the right way here," he said. "We're gonna go to class and we're gonna play good, tough football. There are certain things off the field that we are not gonna tolerate."
He's replaced longtime strength and conditioning coach John Thomas with Craig Fitzgerald, who directs an Olympic-style lifting program that uses free weights, another change.
So he can talk the talk . . . but can he walk the walk?

Many Internet fans are excited.  In one thread on BWI, we see comments like these:
I truly believe that the crumbling empire is quickly being recontructed with new, younger and energetic life with the hiring of BO'B and his staff. All those kids who would have loved to play at a formerly "vibrant" Penn State, but went elsewhere due to wanting to play under a more energized program, are now seeing that this program has life again. Therefore, I think that the 3 recent commitments we say this week is just the start of a flood of highly talented kids who will commit over the next few weeks and months. Assuming BO'B has this current team show life and vast improvements over the last 2 years, we should see the rebuilding of this empire similar to what Alabama has seen since Nick Saban came there.
Can you pass me some of that Kool Aid?  I will admit that the early recruiting success is exciting, but it remains to be seen whether it can be sustained and whether these kids are still on the list next February.
I believe that the PSU FB "Sleeping Giant" is awakening!
Yeah, and I think the schemes, particularly passing game are/will be a step up; the passing QB and a more sophisticated passing game has become a bigger part of college FB.
I do believe the situation is very analogous to what has happened with the Wrestling Team. All the parts of the machine are there, the remaining question is whether O'B is the same quality mechanic that Cael is.
O'Brien looks like he can get PSU up to date, or even ahead of the curve, in this area.

But not everyone is all in with BOB.  In addition to some realists who responded in the above thread we have guys like Robert Spahn who wrote in the Altoona Mirror Voice of the Fan:
For as much success that O'Brien has enjoyed in Foxborough, he's endured just as much, if not more, failure in his previous stops as a coordinator, including at Georgia Tech and Duke.
O'Brien has been marginal at best when working with quarterbacks not named Tom Brady. The Patriots were already established and boasted three Super Bowl victories within seven seasons before O'Brien ever set foot inside of Gillette Stadium.
One could even argue that O'Brien was unable to generate the points needed in the two Super Bowl appearances the Pats made since he arrived, both of which were offensive duds, according to Patriots' standards.
Now that O'Brien has finally begun his PSU duties fulltime in the wake of the recent Super Bowl loss, the PSU faithful are anticipating an offense that resembles what Brady does with the Patriots.
That is so unrealistic it's almost laughable.
Crystal Ball Run writer Kevin McGuire collects a number of opinions such as:
While he worked in college previously, he was never a sparkling can't miss coordinator, and has never been the head man at any level. Plus, the recent track record of New England Patriots offensive coordinators is none too special. After all, maybe Tom Brady "made" Charlie Weis and Josh McDaniels much more than the other way around.
Still, I like the hire... a lot, actually.

I understand O'Brien detractors but I disagree with them on many levels. First the necessary requirement of head coaching experience is becoming a bit overblown for my liking.
If folks want to belly ache about something get upset with the defensive coordinator hire of Ted Roof, that's the actual head scratcher here. Beyond that I'm pretty pleased with the prospects of what O'Brien has to offer Penn State.
It almost doesn't matter who Penn State hired. In my mind, I don't see any way that it's not a long-term rebuilding process there. I think just about any coach is going to struggle there for the next four or five years. Any discussion of Bill O'Brien has to be evaluated in that context.
Given the general lack of interest from high-profile candidates, O'Brien actually makes for a decent hire.

The idea that this program is "broken" or can't be quickly salvaged doesn't fly with me. Michael laid out the fact that at worst-- worst-- Penn State is still ahead of the curve on basically half the league. And given the resources they have, there's no reason they should fall off pace with Nebraska and Iowa, if not surpass them. Everything is there for that to happen, and for the Nittany Lions to firmly entrench themselves as one of the top 2-3 teams year-in and year-out in this conference.
At this point, we just have to give the man a chance.  Unfortunately, history is not on BOB's side.  The reality is that most programs struggle for a few--if not many years--after a legend is gone.  Although F$U started last season highly ranked, have they returned to the prominence of being in the Top 5 nearly every season like Bowden boasted for almost two decades?  Is Nebraska back?  Alabama took a long time to recover after the Bear.  And after Gene Stallings.  Notre Dame has not had a great year since Holtz was on the sidelines.  Oklahoma after Switzer.  Pitt after Johnny Majors (the first time.)  I could go on and on.
And the schedule this season is not as favorable as perhaps it has been of late.  Ohio and Temple are both coming off bowl game wins.  Navy is a tough opponent.  Virginia lost their bowl game, but spilt the series with us the last time we played them.  In the Big Ten, we have O$U and Wisconsin at home, but road trips to Iowa and Nebraska that will be grueling.  In most years under Paterno, that OOC schedule would be good for 3-4 wins.  Now, I unfortunately could see a 2-2 start before a tough Big Ten schedule.
But that is not a prediction, and hopefully come August I will find my alcohol usual unfounded optimism.
So I leave you now with another BOB (Big Ol' Bear):
Holy Hell, Bob, that's a big ol' bear you got there!
•BOB is Big Ol' Bear, the party size bear.

•Weighs about 27 pounds!

•That's over 5,000 times larger than a regular gummy bear!

•Over 450 servings per BOB

•BOB is carefully hand made by gummy artisans in the USA with the best ingredients

•BOB is gluten-free!

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