Canadian quarterback Michael O'Connor has elected to enroll at Penn State.Offseason coaching changes in the NCAA can have substantial implications for incoming recruits, both good and bad, but it sounds like one has worked out well for one of the top Canadian quarterback prospects out there. Ottawa's Michael O'Connor, who Rivals ranks as a four-star recruit (and ninth amongst pro-style quarterbacks), tweeted Sunday that he's committed to staying with Penn State following their hire of Vanderbilt coach James Franklin:
100% committed to PSU !! Wouldn't wanna be anywhere else in the country , feels good to be done with recruiting. Start college classes tmrw
— Michael O'Connor (@TheTrueQB) January 12, 2014
There was substantial speculation about where O'Connor would go once Penn State coach Bill O'Brien left for the NFL's Houston Texans, and his father told The Ottawa Citizen earlier this month that his son wanted to see who the Nittany Lions picked as a replacement before renewing his commitment. However, the younger O'Connor told Bleacher Report's Tim Tolley in early January that Franklin (who had tried to recruit him to Vanderbilt) would be someone he'd want to play for:
I got to sit down and meet with Coach Franklin in his office. He's a great coach and I have a lot of respect for him. We'll see where it goes but he'd be a great hire for Penn State and it was an honor to be recruited by him.
O'Connor got his wish, and Franklin apparently still wants him on board. O'Connor told Rivals' Ryan Snyder Friday he planned to meet with Franklin before officially signing up for early classes, and that meeting must have gone well. That could mean that the Nittany Lions have nabbed a very capable quarterback. O'Connor did very well with the Ashbury College Colts in Ottawa, leading them to a 7-0 campaign and a Conference of Independent Schools of Ontario Athletic Association championship in 2011 before heading south of the border to Chattanooga, Tennessee's Baylor School in 2012 and Florida's IMG Academy this past year (where he worked with former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Chris Weinke). He played in this year's Under Armour All-American game, too, and you can see video of his conversation with Rivals' national recruiting director Mike Farrell before that game here. O'Connor should be a prized retention for Penn State, and his decision to stay might signal a good start to Franklin's tenure there, especially as another Nittany Lions' quarterback (Tyler Ferguson, who was a backup to Christian Hackenberg last year) is reportedly transferring to Louisville. That could give O'Connor more of a chance at a big role going forward.
It's not particularly surprising that Franklin was able to keep O'Connor on board. After all, his recruiting prowess played a key role in his success at Vanderbilt, and was one of the major reasons Penn State wanted him. Here's what Farrell said about Franklin when he was hired
"I don't think they could find anyone better in terms of a coach/recruiter combination. He knows that area well. He's from there, he's recruited the state before, he has ties to the state, and he recruited Maryland and D.C. well when he was with Maryland. So he's a perfect fit recruiting-wise."
That perfect fit already has paid for the Nittany Lions with the retention of O'Connor, and if it proves to be a good fit, he'll be a name to watch for years to come, even potentially at the CFL level. One of the chief arguments typically advanced against Canadian quarterbacks has been that the players who come from the Canadian university ranks aren't as prepared for the pros as NCAA vets; that may be less and less true these days given the improvements in quarterback development in the CIS game, but it's a bias that still pervades at least some front offices. A Canadian quarterback who found success at a big-time NCAA program, though, that might be a different case. There's a long way to go before that, but O'Connor's definitely worth keeping an eye on—and now we know where he's planning to play. We'll see how well he does at Penn State.