UNIVERSITY PARK - Meeting with the media at Beaver Stadium a couple of hours before his first spring practice as Penn State football coach on Monday, Bill O'Brien said it was a three-man race to determine who would be the Nittany Lions' quarterback this fall and a starter might not be announced until the night before the season-opener against Ohio.
When the Lions hit the practice field, it looked like that timetable might have moved up considerably.
Danny O'Brien, the 2010 Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year who is in the process of transferring from Maryland, was photographed in a Penn State jacket on the sidelines at Holuba Hall. It is the second time he's visited Penn State.
The younger O'Brien, no relation to Penn State's coach, also had a brief exchange with Penn State student Karisa Maxwell, who was covering the opening of spring practice for The Steve Jones Show.
"Danny O'Brien said Penn State has a great program and this would be a great opportunity for him,'' Maxwell reported via Twitter.
The photo and Maxwell's tweet were picked up by Adam Rittenberg's Big Ten blog for ESPN.
Penn State sports information director Jeff Nelson could not confirm O'Brien's presence. Bill O'Brien was asked for an update about Danny O'Brien's potential transfer to Penn State during his press conference at Beaver Stadium Monday afternoon but declined comment.
"That's like a prospect question, so I'm not going commenting on that right now. It's NCAA rules,'' Coach O'Brien said.
Danny O'Brien would have two years of eligibility remaining and be able to play immediately because he is scheduled to graduate this spring. He had just visited Wisconsin this weekend and also had been to Mississippi. Vanderbilt is another school to which he had been linked.
In two years with the Terrapins, O'Brien completed 342 of 605 passes for 4,086 yards, 29 touchowns and 18 interceptions.
Penn State has gone through two years of uncertainty at quarterback after the graduation of Daryll Clark. Rising junior Rob Bolden has started each of his first two years at Penn State as the starter only to be supplanted each time by former walk-on Matt McGloin, whose play has produced mixed results.
Paul Jones, a highly regarded prospect from the same recruiting class as Bolden, hasn't played at down with the Lions but is in the mix, too, after having apparently ironed out academic problems that kept him off the field last year.
"I'll be really clear on that. It's an open competition. There's no starter. And there won't be a starter named until possibly the night before the [season-opening] Ohio game,'' Bill O'Brien said of the Lions' quarterback situation at Monday's press conference.
O'Brien, though, said he prefers to look at it as a competition and not a controversy.
"We'll mix and match their reps. Each guy will get a chance to rep with the first team,'' O'Brien said. "To this point, I've been very pleased with these guys. They're competitive guys. They're smart guys. They're guys who really want to be coached. They want to be good.''
Coming up with someone to line up under center hasn't been much of an issue in much of Bill O'Brien's coaching career, and certainly not recently working with two-time NFL MVP Tom Brady as an assistant with the New England Patriots the last five season. Earlier in his coaching career as an assistant at Georgia Tech, O'Brien's quarterbacks included Heisman Trophy runner-up Joe Hamilton and 3,000-yard passer George Godsey.
"Well, there were no quarterback controversies in New England,'' O'Brien deadpanned.