Adam Breneman and Christian Hackenberg were the two highest-ranked signees in Penn State's 2013 recruiting class, the first full recruiting class for head coach Bill O'Brien, who promised to remain head coach during their entire career. He was gone after one season.
"I remember him saying, ‘If you guys come, I will stay here for your entire career,' " Breneman, a former four-star tight end recruit said on his new podcast, The Adam Breneman Show, Life In The Red Zone. "I vividly remember that. And we obviously know what happened after our freshman year, when Coach O’Brien left and went to the Houston Texans. Bill O’Brien leaves, and our world gets turned upside down again."
O'Brien was hired in early January 2012, two months after Joe Paterno was fired for his role in the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and immediately faced crippling sanctions, including scholarship reductions and a postseason ban. Despite the state of the program, he landed the nation's 33rd-ranked recruiting class in 2012 (and the fourth-ranked class in the Big Ten), which included Breneman and five-star quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
The following January, one year after his introduction, O'Brien interviewed for NFL head-coaching jobs, though ultimately returned to Penn State, saying, "I'm not a one-and-done guy. 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."
Turns out, he was a two-and-done guy. O'Brien left Penn State for the Texans in January 2014.
"The thing that stuck with me is that he said he would see us through throughout the process,” Hackenberg said on the podcast.
While it's common for coaches to break promises and O'Brien might've had every intention of fulfilling that promise, it's still an unsettling revelation from former players who helped rebuild the program.