Penn State coach Bill O’Brien is on the offensive, making the media rounds to show a strong face for a Niittany Lion program that was walloped by NCAA sanctions because of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse cover up. And maybe it is paying off as many coaches salivate at the opportunity to extract players from his roster.
At least 25 players have committed to staying and not abandoning the program. And the word that the No. 1-ranked high school quarterback, Chistian Hackenberg, plans to visit Penn State and give the school consideration has to bolster the collective self-esteem of Penn State supporters.
Hackenberg plans to visit the Penn State campus as part of a fact-finding mission before he determines if he will attend the school, his high school coach said Wednesday.
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound Hackenberg committed to Penn State in February.
“There’s so much that we just don’t know right now,” Fork Union coach Micky Sullivan said. “He’s got to get as many answers as he can before moving forward. For Christian, this is one of the most important decisions of his life.
“As of now, he’s still a Penn State recruit.”
Sullivan met with Hackenberg and his family after the NCAA announced severe sanctions, including a $60 million fine, four-year bowl ban and significant scholarship reductions, on the Nittany Lions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Sullivan said they came up with a list of questions to ask O’Brien and other university officials on the visit.
Hackenberg, obviously, is a main piece to O’Brien’s 2013 recruiting class. Two other key members of that class, Greg Webb of New Jersy and cornerback Ross Douglas of Ohio have withdrawn their commitments
“He’s still conflicted, but it’s important he has a second chance to re-evaluate all of this,” Sullivan said of Hackenberg. “I think he’ll come back from Penn State with a better idea of how to best handle everything.”
Sullivan said several college coaches have inquired about Hackenberg but declined to name specific schools. He said the quarterback and O’Brien formed a strong bond during the recruiting process.
“He’s been brought up to understand that his word matters,” Sullivan said. “When he says something, he means it.”
O’Brien said earlier this week that he “feels good” about the state of the program’s recruiting.
“We’re going after a certain type of player,” O’Brien said. “We’re going after a tough kid. We’re going after a high-character kid, and we’re going after a kid that wants to get a great education.
“That’s what we’ve been doing, and we feel really good about where we are in recruiting right now.”