The first-year Nittany Lion mentor last week was named the Big Ten’s Dave McClain Coach of the Year (media) and Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year (coaches).
O’Brien is joined as a finalist for the 2012 Eddie Robinson Award by: Gary Andersen (Utah State), Dave Doeren (Northern Illinois), Brian Kelly (Notre Dame), Urban Meyer (Ohio State), Will Muschamp (Florida), David Shaw (Stanford), Bill Snyder (Kansas State) and Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M).
The FWAA membership will vote this week and the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year will be announced on Dec. 13.
The FWAA has selected a national Coach of the Year every year since 1957, with the award being re-named in 1997 for former Grambling coach Eddie Robinson. Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno earned the honor in 1978, 1982 and 1986.
Named Penn State’s 15th head football coach on January 6, 2012, O’Brien became 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.
Also on the Watch List for the Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year, 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. 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 (437.0 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 six first-team All-Big Ten selections and three individual conference award winners: - Michael Mauti (Mandeville, La.) was the Big Ten Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year; - Allen Robinson (Southfield, Mich.) was named the Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year; - Deion Barnes (Philadelphia) was the 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 Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,200 men and women who cover college football for a living. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include gameday operations, major awards and its annual All-America team.