STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Star linebacker Michael Mauti’s college football career had just come to an end in November when he spotted the next generation of Penn State football players.
So, he decided to do what Mauti had done time and again during his Nittany Lions career: He helped others, and imparted some inspirational words along the way.
Adam Breneman, one of the top tight end prospects in the country, is one of them, and he listened intently. Mauti indeed passed the torch of leadership to Breneman and some other high school seniors on recruiting trips to Happy Valley that day, setting the tone for a critical offseason at Penn State.
Indeed, there is no bowl game to rally around this season. No sunny destination dancing around in the Nittany Lions’ heads. No fun-filled reward for all of their hard work in this season of recovery at PSU.
But there is hope. There is optimism. And there is Year 2 of the Coach Bill O’Brien era to sculpt.
Under O’Brien, Penn State finished an overachieving 8-4 with a second-place finish in the Big Ten Leaders Division. The Nittany Lions went 6-2 in conference, and likely would have been a lock for a New Year’s Day bowl game. As it is, Penn State is not in a bowl for the first time in eight seasons.
But there is much to build on. An emotional 24-21 overtime win, for instance, over Wisconsin in the finale sent the program into the offseason on a high note.
And O’Brien will need that in his first full offseason to secure a recruiting class amid scholarship cuts. The sanctions limit Penn State’s recruiting classes to no more than 15 a year for the next four years.