Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/17/14
Back in July when the NCAA levied harsh and unprecedented sanctions on the Penn State football program following the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal, many thought that the Lions would struggle to recover-if ever. Five months later on National Signing Day, the Nittany Lions landed 17 commitments, with eight of those coming after those sanctions were lowered on the program and a top-40 class according to Rivals.com. How did they do it? Easy, it was all about their coach Bill O’Brien, and an unlikely source: the recruits themselves. O’Brien held the 2013 class together in part because he’s a terrific coach, and in part because players want to play for him in Happy Valley. It takes a special person to convince and persuade people to be innovators, groundbreakers-especially young kids. Bill O’Brien is one of those people. After the sanctions were levied in July, Penn State’s cavalcade of prospective 2013 recruits flocked to State College for answers from O’Brien himself. He met with the players, then their parents. He overviewed just what restrictions his program had been hit with; a four-year bowl ban, a scholarship reduction and endless shame in the present and future. With no promise of a week in South Florida for a bowl game for three of the players’ four years of eligibility, O’Brien convinced all but one of them to remain a Nittany Lion. “I think it’s an amazing job done by Bill O’Brien in light of all the obstacles he had to overcome since July when the sanctions came down to what he’s done now,” Rivals.com director of recruiting Mike Farrell said yesterday. “It’s really remarkable. I think it’s probably the most underappreciated recruiting job of the year.” But the second-year coach also had some help from the recruits themselves, as local commit Adam Breneman and top-rated quarterback recruit Christian Hackenberg both did their fair share of recruiting of their peers in order to build a post-scandal footing for Penn State. Breneman even orchestrated the now-famous recruit trip to see O’Brien in July. There’s no doubt that other players were encouraged when they saw top-flight recruits staying loyal to their commitments to the Nittany Lions. It didn’t hurt that the Nittany Lions excelled on the field in 2012 despite losing some prominent players to the NCAA’s transfer exception that allowed Lions to transfer anywhere without penalty. Playing without it’s leading rusher and receiver from 2011, the Lions finished 8-4 and 6-2 in Big Ten play following an 0-2 start. If not for the postseason ban, they would have been playing in the Big Ten Championship game in January with a shot at the Rose Bowl. Anyway you slice it, Penn State has done an incredible job since being bulldozed by the NCAA in July, and with Bill O’Brien and his stellar recruits on board both on and off the field, things are looking just fine in Happy Valley. Here’s the full 2013 class per Rivals.com: Signed Letter of Intent Name Pos Ht/Wt Stars Rank Richy Anderson RB 5-11/180 19 Brandon Bell LB 6-1/220 42 Adam Breneman TE 6-5/228 3 Curtis Cothran DE 6-5/225 21 Parker Cothren DE 6-5/265 NR Tyler Ferguson QB 6-5/210 NR Kasey Gaines DB 5-10/160 NR Christian Hackenberg QB 6-4/212 2 DaeSean Hamilton ATH 6-0/182 42 Tanner Hartman OL 6-4/247 NR Zayd Issah ATH 6-3/210 NR Brendan Mahon OL 6-5/315 3 Andrew Nelson OL 6-5/265 69 Neiko Robinson DB 6-0/173 54 Garrett Sickels DE 6-4/245 4 Anthony Smith DB 6-1/186 NR Jordan Smith DB 5-11/180 NR The names here that stand out are obvious, as the Lions nabbed either the nation’s top or second-ranked quarterback in Christian Hackenberg (Fork Union, VA), the nation’s third-ranked tight end (that Bill O’Brien loves) in Adam Breneman (Cedar Cliff, PA), a top-four offensive lineman in Brendan Mahon (Randolph, NJ) and another top-four defensive lineman in Garrett Sickels (Little Silver, NJ). Not lost in the shuffle though are a wealth of three-star recruits who will see time and make an impact quickly for post-sanction Penn State. Make no mistake, Nittany Lions fans, this list of names are ones that you’ll grow to know well in the coming seasons.  
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

49ers waive Jonathan Martin

Former MLBer Curt Ford assaulted, told to ‘go back to Ferguson’

Russell Westbrook was very ‘confused’ by media after loss

NCAA 'concerned' over Indiana's 'religious freedom' bill

Report: James frustrated with Love’s inability to fit in


Shane Victorino rips radio hosts for twisting Hamels trade talk

Jerry Jones on Greg Hardy: He's paid a 'terrific price'

Senators to fans: Stop throwing hamburgers on the ice

Revis: Patriots' offer 'wasn't in the ballpark' of what he wanted

Confirmed: Lionel Messi is not as tall as Gheorghe Muresan

Jags: Blake Bortles is 'everything we hoped for'

Alonzo Mourning confirms “Who wants to sex Mutombo?”

CC Sabathia attempting to get healthier by getting … fatter?

You can bid on Andrew McCutchen’s recently cut locks

Is Chuck Pagano receiving the Jim Harbaugh treatment?

Wideouts wearing out their welcome

Dean Smith willed $200 to each of his former players

10 best coaches who have never been to the Final Four

Five under-the-radar American League MVP candidates

Michigan sent recruit Naseir Upshur’s girlfriend a letter

Five MLB teams that could disappoint in 2015

Ranking the NFL’s biggest ongoing controversies

Randy Gregory tested positive for marijuana at NFL combine

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Five under-the-radar AL MVP candidates

Michigan sent recruit's GF a letter

MLB teams that could disappoint

25 years ago, the best Sweet 16 of all time was pure madness

The 2015 bad quarterback carousel

17 facts to know before the Sweet 16

Agent: Sam was horrible at veteran combine

Keeping judo ‘pure’ in Europe means keeping MMA out

The Sweet 16 should be seen as success

On the Browns, Hard Knocks, questions and narratives

Sweet 16 West Region preview

Sweet 16 Midwest Region preview

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.