UNIVERSITY PARK — Bill O’Brien worked at Maryland for two years. He has coaching friends across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Players from Maryland and New Jersey occupy key roles on his first Penn State team.
So, yes, O’Brien understands the Big Ten’s reasons for adding Maryland and Rutgers. And judging by his words, he’s an ardent of the conference’s latest moves.
The conference officially added Rutgers on Tuesday, a day after Maryland became the league’s 13th member.
“I think it’s fantastic,” O’Brien said. “It’s not the Big Ten anymore. It’s the Big 14? Something like that? I think it’s cool. You have the East Coast market now. For many years, Penn State was the East Coast team, and now, to me, we’re starting to get the whole Atlantic corridor. Those are two good football schools with good football traditions.”
It’s too soon to tell whether the additions make O’Brien’s job easier or more challenging.
Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden have helped the program cultivate numerous recruiting relationships in Maryland. Johnson has a sterling reputation with the state’s high school coaches and Vanderlinden coached the Terrapins from 1997-2000.
Fifteen current Nittany Lions hail from Maryland. Starters Sean Stanley, Adrian Amos, Malcolm Willis, Stephon Morris, Donovan Smith, Zach Zwinak and Brandon Moseby-Felder attended high school in the state.
“People back home in general are very excited about it,” Morris said. “If you go the state of Maryland, you don’t know (Maryland football) is there. They needed a change I would say. It’s great thing for the Terrapins and that’s good for their program.”
Seven Nittany Lions, including starting linebackers Glenn Carson and Gerald Hodges, hail from New Jersey.
Five members of the 2013 recruiting class are from Maryland, Washington D.C. or New Jersey. Running back Richy Anderson and offensive lineman Tanner Hartman committed to Penn State after leaving Maryland’s recruiting class.
O’Brien said he has “tremendous respect” for Maryland’s Randy Edsall and Rutgers’ Kyle Flood, a pair of coaches who hit recruiting jackpots with this week’s announcements. O’Brien and Edsall worked together at Georgia Tech.
“It’s going to be competitive,” O’Brien said, “but that’s what college football is about. I think you have to talk about your own program and the way you see that individual fitting into your program, and hopefully it’s the right fit. To me, that’s what recruiting is all about.”
The Big Ten operated as a 10-team football for 40 years until Penn State became the conference’s 11th member in 1993. Nebraska joined the conference last year.
Neither Maryland nor Rutgers possess the football pedigree of Penn State or Nebraska. Maryland owns an all-time record of 617-552-43. Rutgers is 626-608-43.
The Scarlet Knights are 9-1 and ranked 19th in The Associated Press Top 25. The Terrapins, who have lost three quarterbacks to season-ending injuries, are 4-7.
Maryland went 16-9 in O’Brien’s two years on former coach Ralph Friedgen’s staff.
“It’s going to be fun to have them in the league,” O’Brien said.
Follow Guy Cipriano on Twitter @cdtguy.