Wednesday, January 1, 2014
PSU recruits shaken by O'Brien news
By Jeremy Crabtree
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Michael O'Connor will never forget New Year’s Eve 2013. It was the day his life was turned upside down.
Just 10 days before he was scheduled to arrive as a midterm enrollee at Penn State, the four-star quarterback from Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy is unsure what his future holds after reports surfaced that Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien will be the next coach of the Houston Texans.
“I think it's sad,” said O'Connor, the nation’s No. 5 pocket passer. “I thought he was committed to Penn State, but he has to do what's best for him, and now I have to do what's best for me. I wish Coach O'Brien all the best at Houston. He's a great head coach, and I know he'll do great things there. But I'm just not sure right now. No head coach. No offensive coordinator. No quarterback coach. I'm in a tough position right now.
“I'm raw emotionally now. It's just tough. It's tough.”
ESPN 300 quarterback and Penn State pledge Michael O'Connor is "in a tough position" as Bill O'Brien is apparently headed for the NFL.
Before Wednesday’s practices at the Under Armour All-America Game, O'Connor and the three other Penn State commits playing in the game were noticeably shaken by the news.
O'Connor and four-star athlete De'Andre Thompkins (Swansboro, N.C./Swansboro) were expected to report for freshman orientation on Jan. 11 and classes were scheduled to start on the 13th. They already had their living situations figured out, had their schedules lined up and even had started to pack their bags back home. But now they’re uncertain about their next step.
“I’m just taking it slow, just watching and see what happens,” Thompkins said. “I'm not really all the way into Penn State where I can't get out of things. I'm not already taking classes. I've not signed a letter of intent. I'm just watching to see what happens."
Four-star defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) had a similar reaction, and said it's possible he could decommit.
"It’s possible, but I want to sit down with my family before I would ever make that decision. Just to get their thoughts on it, and when I get to that bridge we’ll go from there," he said. "I would sit down with my family and get their thoughts before I made a move, on whether that would be to stay or go to Florida. I wouldn’t jump into that."
Four-star receiver Chris Godwin (Middletown, Del./Middletown) said he hasn’t heard from the Penn State coaches yet, but other schools were quick to reach out following the breaking news.
“So far I've heard from schools like Vandy and Florida,” Godwin said. “They've just tried to touch base, nothing really too major. They were just trying to get in contact with me after the news.”
Thompkins said he has also already heard from Florida, one of the top schools on his list before he pledged to the Nittany Lions. O'Connor said he’s hasn't heard from any other schools yet, but Michigan State was a school that stayed in contact with him throughout the recruiting process.
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All four Penn State commits, including four-star defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln), said they are in a similar mindset with the news just hours old. All four said they are going to focus on the final preparations for the UA Game, and once they get past the game, they will fully digest their status with Penn State.
“I can't go in this game and worry about Penn State or I will get my head knocked off,” Thompkins said. “I'm just really trying to focus on this game. After the game, then I'll deal with this.”
They were also in agreement, however, that although O'Brien was a major factor in their recruitment, they still consider themselves Penn State pledges.
“A decent amount of my original decision was based on Coach O'Brien,” Godwin said. “But the majority of it was based on my relationship with [assistant coach Stan] Hixon, the school itself, the academics standard it has and how I felt on campus. I will definitely consider going to Penn State without Coach O'Brien there. I think all of us here will still. We know Penn State has a lot to offer, even without Bill O'Brien.”
ESPN.com's Tom VanHaaren contributed to this report.