Judging by the Internet message boards, Penn State fandom is in an uproar over the hiring of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien as the Nittany Lions' new football coach.
The early reactions of the people who are in the best position to change Lion fans' opinions of O'Brien over the next few seasons - potential recruits - has been much more mild, though, and, in some cases, even positive.
"So far, the recruits seem interested in the idea of having someone that has worked with such a big-name athlete like Tom Brady,'' said Ryan Snyder, who covers recruiting for BlueWhite Illustrated and its Rivals.com-affiliated website. "Multiple offensive prospects have said that they're excited to meet him during their scheduled official visit on Jan. 13. With that said, they've noted that it'll be the coaches he surrounds himself with that will be most important.''
Snyder was in contact with - or contacted by - about half of the 14 members of Penn State's current 2012 recruiting class in the 18 hours following the news of O'Brien's hiring. Although several are being recruited by or visiting other schools, the vast majority were taking a wait-and-see approach and some even had good things to say about the move.
Sean Fitz posted in an article on Lions247.com that he was receiving a similar response.
No players that had verbally committed to the Lions had pulled their pledges immediately after hearing the news.
"I think it's great,'' defensive back recruit Jake Kiley of New Hampshire said of O'Brien's probable hiring. "I'll be able to meet him, hopefully, when I come up for my official visit [on the weekend of Jan. 13].''
The intrigue has extended beyond those currently in the fold. During practice for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, uncommitted five-star receiver Stefon Diggs told a Rivals.com writer that he would be interested in hearing from Penn State now; previously, the Lions had little involvement with the Maryland star. One-time Lion wideout recruit Adrian Coxson of Baltimore, who ended up at Florida before transferring to Maryland, posted on Twitter that he had renewed interest in heading to University Park.
Several top underclassmen also said they liked the choice, including blue-chip defensive end DaJaun Drennon of New Jersey and elite tight end Adam Breneman of Cedar Cliff. Breneman took notice of the success Patriots tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski had with O'Brien calling New England's plays.
"Bill O'Brien is a great offensive coach and loves to throw to the tight end. For me as an athlete, I don't think there could have been a better hire,'' Breneman said. "Hopefully he is able to retain a few members of the current staff, since I already have good relationships with some of the current staff.''
What happens with some of the current assistants might be crucial in determining how things play out for Penn State between now and signing day. Several of them have continued to work the recruiting trail hard for the Lions and have forged strong relationships with prospects.
"What will ultimately be the most important factor, in my opinion, is what happens to Larry Johnson, Ron Vanderlinden and Bill Kenney. Those three assistants have done the bulk of recruiting this year, so if all three are let ago, I believe Penn State could lose a few commits,'' Snyder said. "Kermit Buggs is important, too, and even, to some extent, Dick Anderson.''
Snyder said he has heard there is a possibility that at least Johnson and Vanderlinden would remain on board. One recruit who wished not to be identified didn't want to see O'Brien make a complete break from the past.
"I hope he's going to keep it the PSU way,'' the recruit said. "If not, I don't know. I'll have to think things over.''
O'Brien does have some things working in his favor. Aside from his five years at New England, his entire coaching career has been in the college ranks. Although he originally is from the northeast, most of his coaching experience is in the south and Atlantic coastal regions, including two years as recruiting coordinator at Georgia Tech. The two classes he brought to Atlanta never had a losing season or missed a bowl game.
In addition, two names mentioned as possible members of O'Brien's staff - Mike Cassano and Charles London - could help open recruiting doors to Florida and Georgia.
The best indicator of how things might go for O'Brien on the recruiting front will be next weekend, when Kiley and a number of other Lion recruits are scheduled to be in Happy Valley. O'Brien has a playoff game in Foxboro, Mass., on Jan. 14, but his ability to be in University Park at some point will say a lot.
It should be noted that former Patriots assistant Charlie Weis juggled recruiting and an NFL playoff run with reasonable success when he was hired as Notre Dame's head coach.
"If he can somehow make his way down to Penn State on the 13th or 15th, I think that will go a long way,'' Snyder said. "If O'Brien isn't in State College at all during that weekend, I think that will be a major turn off to some of the commits.''