O'Brien Building Bridges

Penn State's new head coach is already forging relationships with high school coaches across the Keystone State and beyond.

"We've got to get out there and let these (high school) coaches get to know us."

This is a point new Penn State coach Bill O'Brien stressed to Fight On State in a recent conversation focused on recruiting.

Although he's only been full-time as Penn State's head football coach for just over a month, O'Brien is already focused on this premise, building relationships across the Keystone State with high school coaches.

It started the day he was announced as Penn State's head football coach. O'Brien made a point to carve out time from his packed schedule to meet with the 40 or so high school coaches meeting on the University Park campus to select the 2012 Pennsylvania Big 33 squad.

O'Brien and his staff also immediately recognized the importance and value of continuing Penn State's annual Coaches Clinic. This year's event will take place March 30-31 on the University Park campus and feature lectures, discussions and demonstrations on a wide array of football topics, units, positions and techniques.

The event will be hosted and led by O'Brien and his staff. It will also feature sessions with strength coach Craig Fitzgerald and director of athletic medicine Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli.

As one program observer explained, "[Coach O'Brien] immediately saw the opportunity this provides not only reach out to coaches, but also welcome them to campus and show them what the program can do for their players."

O'Brien's early interactions, although limited, were impressive enough to earn him an invitation to give the prime-time keynote at the annual Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association Coaches Clinic held in Pittsburgh recently. Four other PSU staffers presented at the weekend event, including Larry Johnson, Ted Roof, Stan Hixon and John Stollo.

O'Brien also was invite to present at the Nike Coach of the Year Clinic in Pittsburgh Feb. 25. There he presented to coaches on topics like the importance of communication to success and quarterback mechanics.

O'Brien also presented at the annual Nike Eastern Pennsylvania Coach of the Year Football Clinic March 1-3. O'Brien was one of three BCS head coaches invited to speak, along with Nick Saban of Alabama and Larry Fedora of North Carolina.

He's also been invited as a featured speaker at the 15th annual Football Awards Banquet sponsored by the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame on Sunday, March 25.

"You have to do a good job of building trust with the high school coaches and the parents and the prospects and the champions of the kids," told FOS back in January.

Part of this approach includes an increased focus and presence across the home state. As O'Brien explained, "Every guy (on the staff) will have an area in Pennsylvania."

O'Brien's focus is to defend the home turf and "stop letting Ohio State and Michigan come in here and grab Pennsylvania guys."

As an aside, O'Brien reportedly also has an invitation out to high school coaches to attend Friday practices during the spring period.

However, the PSU staff is not limiting its view on the Keystone State alone. The coaches are also setting their sights on expanding their reach into other locales, like Florida, Georgia and Ohio. In fact, Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden each presented at the Glazier Football Clinic in Cleveland March 2. As an interesting aside, while schools like PSU, West Virginia, Illinois, LSU and SMU had coaches presenting, Ohio State had no representatives listed on the three-day event schedule.

Also, O'Brien participated in the Big New England Coaching Clinic in Newport, RI. O'Brien was one of the few BCS head coaches at the event and was the keynote speaker March 3. He spoke for two and a half hours on New England's tight end usage, and quarterback fundamentals and drills. O'Brien shared the stage with coaches from the NFL's Giants, Bengals and Bills.

So far, O'Brien and his staff have shown they not only understand the importance of relationships to achieving success, but they have also shown they knows how to go about constructing those relationships.


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