Today's links: O'Brien staying is a very good thing

First he’s gone, then he’s staying. It has been a crazy few days tracking the saga of Penn State’s Bill O’Brien. But, according to many reports last night, O’Brien is staying in State College, Pa. So, let’s begin Friday’s daily links right there.

Had O’Brien left, it would have been a crippling blow to the program as it begins to wade into the toughest period of the severe NCAA sanctions. But with O’Brien back, I think the Nittany Lions have a shot to not fall off the “football cliff” the next four to five years

Let’s review.

Penn State 2012 Results 
Date Opponent Result / Time
9/1 vs. Ohio 14 – 24
9/8 at Virginia 16 – 17
9/15 vs. Navy 34 – 7
9/22 vs. Temple 24 – 13
9/29 at Illinois 35 – 7
10/6 vs. 24 Northwestern 39 – 28
10/20 at Iowa 38 – 14
10/27 vs. 9 Ohio State 23 – 35
11/3 at Purdue 34 – 9
11/10 at 18 Nebraska 23 – 32
11/17 vs. Indiana 45 – 22
11/24 vs. Wisconsin 24 – 21

There was a report that O’Brien had interviewed for the Cleveland Browns job earlier this week. And a CBS Sports report said O’Brien was “likely gone to the Eagles or Browns.”

Well, again, rest easy, Penn State Nation: O’Brien will return for a second season after a surprisingly successfully 8-4 debut that netted him Big Ten Coach of the Year honors. In an exclusive interview with David Jones of The Patriot-News, O’Brien made it clear.

“I’m not a one-and-done guy,” O’Brien, who led the Lions to an 8-4 mark in 2012, told Jones.

“I made a commitment to these players at Penn State and that’s what I am going to do. I’m not gonna cut and run after one year, that’s for sure.”

Thanks for your loyalty, Bill! Nice to have someone we can believe in.

***

Following a massively disappointing 4-8 season that ended with a six-game losing skein, change is coming to the Iowa coaching staff with the reported departure of receivers coach Erik Campbell.

No doubt, the wideouts were a disappointment. But, honestly, is switching receivers coaches REALLY gonna make the difference between challenging for the Legends Division or not? No one was beefing about Campbell when he was developing two of the top receivers in Iowa history in Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt. Campbell also groomed some great receivers at Michigan, too, before arriving in Iowa. Oh, well.

***

The issues on the Michigan offensive line were well-documented, as the unit failed to get a consistent push for most of the season. Now, the group could be without four of the 2012 starters, with left tackle Taylor Lewan likely turning pro and left guard Ricky Barnum, center Elliott Mealer and right guard Patrick Omameh all graduating. No doubt, this will be a key area in spring ball.

The lone starter back is right tackle Michael Schofield, who is expected to move to the left side. Ben Braden is expected to take right tackle, while Kyle Kalis looks slotted for a guard spot. Others to watch are Erik Magnuson (tackle), Chris Bryant (guard), Joey Burzynski (center), Graham Glasgow (center) and Jack Miller (guard).

***

The Wisconsin staff is beginning to take shape. And I like it.

There is offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Andy Ludwig from San Diego State; defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Dave Aranda, one of three assistants to come with new Badgers coach Gary Andersen from Utah State. The others: secondary coach Bill Busch and offensive line coach T.J. Woods. Defensive line coach Chad Kauha’aha’a comes from Utah. Running backs coach Thomas Hammock and secondary coach Ben Strickland were retained from Bret Bielema’s staff. Andersen still needs to hire a receivers coach and a tight ends coach.

***

Count Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez among those who want the program to take the next step.

Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star points out that Martinez will be a senior in 2013, a three-year starter without a conference championship or even a bowl win. “I think everyone’s getting impatient,” Martinez told Sipple. The offense will be fine in 2013 with 16-of-22 on the two-deep back. But what about the defense? That’s the key. If you are scoring in Lincoln or Omaha or Scottsbluff—and we know you are—it’s 13 years and counting since the Huskers won a conference title.

Speaking of Nebraska, it has a new sheriff in A.D. Shawn Eichorst, as Tom Osborne is stepping down. And as Eichorst steps into the office, he sees no big problems to fix.

***

Look, I like the prospects for the Minnesota hoop team as much as anyone. But Amelia Rayno of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune wonders if the No. 9 Golden Gophers are—brace yourself—underrated. The conclusion: Minnesota is exactly where it belongs for now. But, golly, it’s fun to debate in early January.

***

Ohio State has a nice hoop team. But if it wants to be a serious Big Ten contender, it needs to develop production inside.

Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch says the Buckeyes have a premier scorer in Deshaun Thomas. They have a deep and dynamic backcourt led by Aaron Craft. Yet, they are a dark horse because of their question mark in the middle. Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel, are you listening? Where have you gone, Jared Sullinger?

***

After that ugly loss at Purdue, Loren Tate of the Champaign News-Gazette says the forecast for Illinois might not be all that sunny.

He’s correct, of course. An over-dependence on three-pointers and lack of interior production are the Illini’s dilemma. That 12-0 start seems like years ago.

***

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: Yes, be afraid of Michigan … very afraid.

My take: That is a fair question. Let’s ask Bill.

My take: The offense does have some major questions, but I think the defense will be OK.

My take: I wish Bruce Feldman was making this Tweet up, but—alas—he is not.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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