UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State football coach Bill O’Brien has earned his fifth recognition as a finalist for a national coaching honor with his selection as one of six candidates for the 2012 Bear Bryant Coach of the Year.
The ESPN Coach of the Year, O’Brien also is a finalist for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year and the Maxwell Football Club’s Collegiate Coach of the Year. The first-year Nittany Lion mentor also was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and is among six candidates for the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year.
O’Brien is among six finalists for the 2012 Bear Bryant Coach of the Year, being joined by James Franklin (Vanderbilt), Urban Meyer (Ohio State), David Shaw (Stanford), Bill Snyder (Kansas State) and Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M).
Sponsored by the American Heart Association and Marathon Oil, the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year will be announced at the 27th annual event Jan. 17, in Houston.
O’Brien was named the Big Ten’s Dave McClain Coach of the Year (media) and Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year (coaches). He was just the seventh first-year head coach to earn the Big Ten-Dave McClain Coach of the Year in the 41 years it has been awarded. O’Brien also was selected national Coach of the Year by ESPN College Football analyst Kirk Herbstreit.
Named Penn State’s 15th head football coach Jan. 6, 2012, O’Brien led the Nittany Lions to victories in eight of their final 10 games, earning an 8-4 overall record and a 6-2 mark in the Big Ten, with the only losses coming to division winners Ohio State and Nebraska. Penn State capped the season with a 24-21 overtime victory over eventual Big Ten Champion Wisconsin on Senior Day. O’Brien’s eight wins are the most by a first-year Penn State coach in the 126 years of the program.
Penn State reeled off five consecutive victories after an 0-2 start, as O’Brien tied George Hoskins (1892) and Dick Harlow (1915) for the most consecutive wins by a first-year Nittany Lion coach. Penn State also won its initial three Big Ten road games, making O’Brien just the fifth Big Ten coach since 1950 to win his first three conference away contests.
O’Brien engineered a dynamic, fast-paced offense that featured the Big Ten’s passing leader (Matt McGloin), top receiver (Allen Robinson) and a running back (Zach Zwinak) who gained 100 yards six times in eight Big Ten games and 1,000 yards for the season. Penn State led the Big Ten in total offense (437 ypg) in conference games and was second in scoring offense (32.6 ppg) and second in pass offense (283.1 ypg) against Big Ten foes this season.
Penn State gained more than 500 yards of total offense three times in conference play, topped by 546 yards vs. Indiana, its highest total against a Big Ten foe since gaining 557 yards against Michigan State in 2008.
O’Brien helped Penn State earn two All-Americans (Jordan Hill and Michael Mauti), six first-team All-Big Ten selections and three individual conference award winners:
-- Michael Mauti, Big Ten Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year
-- Allen Robinson, Big Ten Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year
-- Deion Barnes, Thompson-Randle El Big Ten Freshman of the Year
O’Brien came to Penn State after five years on the New England Patriots’ coaching staff, serving as the quarterbacks coach from 2009-11 and as offensive coordinator last year in helping the Patriots to the AFC Championship and a berth Super Bowl XLVI. O’Brien began his coaching career at his alma mater, Brown University, in 1993-94. He then coached at Georgia Tech (1995-2002), Maryland (2003-04) and Duke (2005-06) before joining Bill Belichick’s New England staff.
The Bryant Awards honor excellence in coaching while raising funds to fight heart disease and stroke, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers. Bear Bryant himself suffered a heart attack prior to his death in 1983. Funds raised benefit research, community education and outreach programs of the American Heart Association. For more information on the Bryant Awards visit www.bryantawards.com.
Season tickets are available for the 2013 season. The Nittany Lions will host three teams that finished in the 2012 BCS Top 25: Michigan (Oct. 12-Homecoming), Nebraska (Nov. 23) and Kent State (Sept. 21). Purdue, Illinois, Virginia and Eastern Michigan also will visit Beaver Stadium next year.
For information on joining the Nittany Lion Club and purchasing season tickets, as well as club seating in Beaver Stadium, fans can call 800-NITTANY from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays.