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Final Thoughts: Danny O’Brien, Wisconsin and Penn State

As Nittany Lions Den’s resident Danny O’Brien tracker, I felt like I should make a final comment on his re-recruitment. I’d been hoping for a while now that he’d be the immediate upgrade at our quarterback position, and I fully acknowledge that I think Wisconsin now has the edge for the Leaders Division title next season.

I do take umbrage with one thing that Danny Boy’s coach said about his decision-making process. I think all Nittany Lions fans would do well to help dispel this myth.

O’Brien’s high school coach, Todd Willert, said that Wisconsin had more talent and depth than Penn State and this was a key factor in why he chose the Badgers now. While no one can debate Wisconsin’s success the past two seasons, the talent currently on Wisconsin’s roster isn’t as strong as Bret Bielema made him believe.

Recruiting rankings must be taken with a grain of salt, but if you must consider them, I figure a composite of numerous services is best. Phil Steele’s magazine does such a ranking every year, using about a dozen different tallies to make his own. Ignoring this past year (where two-time Rose Bowl participant Wisconsin did no better than scandal-ridden Penn State in the recruiting rankings), Wisconsin never showed up in Phil Steele’s composite Top 25 in any of the past four seasons (’08-’11 classes). Penn State, on the other hand, came in 19th, 14th, 4th, and 25th (from 2008 to 2011).

Penn State fans have lamented our recruiting efforts, drawing especially unfavorable comparisons with Ohio State’s recruiting. But, if the “stars” have anything to do with college football success (LSU, Alabama, and USC certainly would contend that they do), then PSU has more talent, not less, than Wisconsin.

Considering last year’s on the field results, Penn State and its consistent top-25 classes underperformed with a 9-3 record. Wisconsin overachieved (as they historically have done) with their never-ranked roster of athletes and a 10-2 regular season.

If O’Brien wanted to give an accurate rationale for choosing Wisconsin and Penn State—with most other factors being equal, as his coach expressed—he should have said that he expected Wisconsin to develop its offensive talent better than Penn State could. That would be historically sound logic.

(Of course, Wisconsin’s new offensive staff is completely new this year [and a sizeable downgrade at best] whereas Penn State’s offensive staff can’t help but be an improvement over the last staff’s track record. You can’t blame Danny for missing this fact.)

Only time will tell. Penn State can show O’Brien how much more talented they are than his Wisconsin team when Danny comes to town on November 24. I know I’ll be excited to welcome him back to State College.

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