The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

January 2, 2014

College football: What does O'Brien's exit mean for PSU's players?

STATE COLLEGE — What Bill O’Brien’s exit means for the 2014 recruiting class he had already begun assembling remains to be seen.

Since recruits starting school in the fall don’t sign letters of intent until February, the players that have verbally committed to play at Penn State for O’Brien may change their tune in the coming weeks. In addition, the threat of key player transfers is also hanging over the team’s head. Here’s a look at the key people to watch in the aftermath of O’Brien’s departure.

Thomas Holley, defensive line: The Brooklyn, N.Y. recruit — an Under Armour All-American — is the highest rated among’s Penn State’s incoming class and verbally committed to Penn State two weeks ago, according to reports. However, one of the major reasons for Holley’s commitment was his “admiration for the Nittany Lions defensive line coach Larry Johnson,” according to the New York Daily News. With Johnson the new interim head coach, that could mean Holley will stay on, especially if Johnson, who has been with the program for 20 years, remains on the coaching staff.

Christian Hackenburg, quarterback: The top-rated passer in last year’s class just finished his freshman season at Penn State and received rave reviews, including Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. However, O’Brien was one of the major reasons for Hackenberg coming to Penn State and now that he’s gone, Hackenberg’s father told the Harrisburg Patriot-News, he’s in “wait-and-see mode.” Erick Hackenberg, a former quarterback at Susquehanna University, continued: “Until we have all the information, we have to wait. I’m not saying he will or won’t (return) — and that sounds bad, but it’s neutral.”

Chris Godwin, wide receiver: Another of the four verbal commits playing in the Under Armour All-American game this week, Godwin apparently was a fan of  wide receivers coach Stan Hixon at Penn State. However, Hixon is reportedly going to Houston with O’Brien, which may put Godwin’s commitment in jeopardy.

Mark Allen, running back: A three-star recruit from Maryland, Allen enthusiastically reaffirmed his commitment to Penn State in a series of tweets posted Wednesday: “It’s my job as a leader of this 2014 recruiting class to keep our class together ... I’m going stick by Penn State’s side. Regardless the new head coach, I will be attending Penn State.”

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