O’Brien’s departure to test PSU players’ loyalty

Erick Hackenberg, father of Penn State starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg, emphasized in a conversation Wednesday that his son chose Penn State in part because of Bill O’Brien and his pro-style offense but also because of academics and a love for the school.

Christian Hackenberg, a freshman who threw for 2,955 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, will have the chance to show how much of his loyalty is to O’Brien and how much is to Penn State in the coming days when the Nittany Lions name their new coach.

“Christian came here for the right reasons,” Erick said. “Does it mean he stays here? We’ll have to find out when we get all the answers.”

Erick, who spoke with O’Brien Wednesday morning, said that his son certainly will wait to see whom Penn State hires before making a decision about his future. Erick also spoke with Larry Johnson Sr., Penn State’s defensive line coach since 2000 and the staff’s longest tenured member, who assured him that the staff is doing everything it can to reach out to players and recruits.

According to Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano, the present and future Nittany Lions shouldn’t have to wait long to meet their new coach. Lubrano said Wednesday that a six-person search committee has been assembled and that, because O’Brien’s potential interest in the NFL had been reported for weeks, candidates already have been reaching out.

“I would expect that it will be done with lightning speed,” Lubrano said. “The starting point is much different today than two years ago.”

Lubrano said that no trustees are on the search committee. Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner will address more questions at a news conference at 11 a.m. today. The school still has not released any official comment on O’Brien’s departure.

Some decisions appear to have been made. Johnson Sr. will be the interim head coach, according to the Centre Daily Times. And the Patriot-News reported that wide receivers coach Stan Hixon told a recruit’s parents that he will join O’Brien with the Texans.

Brian Breneman, father of freshman tight end Adam Breneman, said that Adam is fully committed to Penn State.

“What’s most important now,” Brian Breneman said, “is that everyone sticks together and the university moves swiftly on a new coach.”

Penn State players who choose to transfer would have to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. If O’Brien had left after last season, they could have transferred without penalty because it was still within the window of time the NCAA presented players as part of its sanctions.

J. Brady McCollough: bmccollough@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BradyMcCollough. Mark Dent: mdent@post-gazette.com and Twitter @mdent05.

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