In the wake of what’s become a questionable and nasty divorce from now-former head coach Bill O’Brien, Penn State continues its search for a new leader, with some of the nation’s biggest names emerging.
In a column published by The Patriot News on Wednesday, O’Brien was quoted as unleashing expletives on supporters of the late Lions coach Joe Paterno and even foreshadowed his departure.
O’Brien was introduced as the new head coach of the Houston Texans on Friday, returning to the NFL after two years spent rebuilding a State College program suffocated by sanctions and still healing from the child sex abuse scandal that rocked college football.
O’Brien went 15-9 overall, counting a huge 43-40 quadruple overtime victory over Michigan and a 31-24 takedown of Wisconsin to end the 2013 season, all in the face of limited scholarships and recruiting.
Even in the face of criticism from “Paterno-era people,” O’Brien squeezed plenty out of the limited Nittany Lions, and his replacement will be asked to do the same -- a challenge that could scare off some of the better young coaches around the country.
Earlier this week PennLive reported Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Miami’s Al Golden as the frontrunners for the position. And the NFL Network mentioned a possible push for recently let-go Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano.
Franklin has popped up in numerous coaching searches throughout the season, including the USC and Texas jobs. Formerly a wide receivers coach with Maryland and the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, Franklin later made his name as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach with Kansas State and the Terrapins before Vanderbilt hired him in 2011.
Considered one of the top young coaches in the game at 41, Franklin lifted the Commodores to two consecutive winning seasons in the ever-crowded SEC.
Franklin put together a 23-15 overall mark with an 11-3 SEC record. In the two seasons before Franklin, Vanderbilt had gone a combined 4-20 overall, with a 1-15 conference record. Franklin could also steal some top prospects from the talent-rich SEC.
A PSU alum, Golden holds the added advantage of more head-coaching experience, and he knows what it's like to tangle with an angry mob of boosters and fans after spending the last three years in Miami.
The News relayed a story from Cane Insider on Thursday that said Golden is currently remaining “quiet” about his future. However, the same report says Penn State has not formerly offered Golden the job and he’s expected to make his final decision shortly. Golden tallied a 22-15 record and one ACC Coastal title in three years.
Despite a tenure marred with locker room issues and a perceived struggle to relate to his players, Schiano could hold the biggest recruiting advantage after his two-year stint with the Bucs. Even though reports suggest he wants to stay in the NFL, Schiano’s biggest successes have come at the collegiate level.
He completely rebuilt Rutgers, compiling a 68-67 record with six winning seasons, including five bowl-game victories over 11 total years.
It’s important to note that Schiano might have been taken out of the running yesterday, which was cause for a Twitter celebration by many Nittany Lions supporters.