In a move that surprised exactly nobody who follows the Big Ten closely, Penn State announced they now have an opening at head coach, as Bill O'Brien is leaving to become the new coach of the Houston Texans. Is what would be considered much more surprising, at least one prominent national writer thinks the Nittany Lions may give Bronco Mendenhall a call. Ralph Russo, of the AP, mentioned Bronco as a possibility when making his list of potential O'Brien replacements today.
On one hand, one can see how this might make sense. Penn State's football identity has been predicated around strong defenses, and Mendenhall is one of the better defensive tactical minds in the game. The university also has very high academic standards, and has historically been near the top of FBS programs in APR and graduation rates. Bronco has experience managing a program that strives for similar goals.
It isn't hard to see the potential appeal for Bronco as well. He'd get the benefit of the doubt, as expectations will still be lowered for the next season or so while the program slogs through heavy sanctions, but then he'd be working with elite facilities, a strong recruiting tradition, and one of the nation's best young QBs, in Christian Hackenberg. In the Big Ten, Bronco would never have to worry about exposure, or playoff access, ever again. It also goes without saying that moving to Penn State would equal a hefty raise.
In my opinion though, there are major red flags that would make this probably a poor fit. For one, Mendenhall has no coaching experience in the east or midwest, critical recruiting battlegrounds for the program. He doesn't have the reputation for being an elite recruiter, and without those built in relationships with local high school coaches, he'd really potentially be behind the eight ball.
Penn State's university is in flux at the moment, and the school has traditionally looked to their coach to almost be a university spokesman, or totem. It's not a great job for somebody who is a little more introverted. A backslapper, like James Franklin, could potentially thrive in this environment, but a more reserved individual who wants to focus primarily on football may not like it.
I doubt anything comes to this, but Mendenhall has been linked to BCS openings before. If there are any legs to this speculation, we'll hear more about it soon enough.
What do you think? Could Mendenhall potentially be successful at Penn State?