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Monday, June 10, 2013
O'Brien reels in another blue-chip QB

By Brian Bennett

Penn State might be operating under some heavy NCAA restrictions, but the Nittany Lions have one thing going for them in their pursuit of high-profile quarterback recruits: head coach Bill O'Brien.

O'Brien, who managed to turn Matt McGloin into a 3,000-yard passer last season, signed the nation's No. 1 quarterback in Christian Hackenberg in February. And over the weekend, he landed another one in Michael O'Connor out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

ESPN.com ranks the 6-foot-5, 223-pound O'Connor as the No. 3 pocket passer in the 2014 class and the No. 123 prospect overall. The scouting report Insider on him reads:
"O'Connor is going to be a fun guy to track. Has one of the higher ceilings of development this class has to offer. A player that has tremendous upside physically and he is a resourceful player when things break down."

As NittanyNation's Josh Moyer writes Insider, O'Connor's commitment was critical for Penn State, which is very thin at the quarterback position after Steven Bench transferred to USF. O'Brien enters the 2013 season with two quarterbacks who have never played a down of FBS football in Hackenberg and junior-college transfer Tyler Ferguson. But, Moyer notes, the Lions offered a scholarship to O'Connor back in April before they knew Bench would leave, so this is a guy they wanted all along.

Things could get interesting with O'Connor and Hackenberg being just one year apart. Since it will be difficult to redshirt Hackenberg this year, O'Brien might do so with O'Connor next year to provide some separation between the players. But who knows if the depth problems will let the plan unfold, or which quarterback turns out to be better.

Penn State now has 11 commitments for the 2014 class, a year in which it can only sign 15 players because of the sanctions. O'Brien has to make the best out of limited scholarship opportunities, but it's clear that top quarterbacks want to play for him.