Penn State appears to be the favorite to land a top quarterback Saturday for its 2014 recruiting class.
Head coach Bill O’Brien appears to be in the driver’s seat for pro-style QB Michael O’Connor, a 6-foot-5 and 205-pound junior studying at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
O’Connor is listed as a three-star prospect and top 30 quarterback nationally by Scout.com. He is originally from Canada but attended school briefly in Tennessee before landing at the prestigious IMG.
He has scholarship offers from Michigan State, Iowa and Mississippi State but expects to pick between Penn State and Vanderbilt.
He would be Penn State’s 11th commitment in a class that can accept no more than 15 because of NCAA sanctions.
The key for the Nittany Lions is that they will operate with only two scholarship quarterbacks through the 2013 season — California junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson and true freshman Christian Hackenberg.
Landing O’Connor, “gets you that extra level of security, but it’s more than that, too,” said Greg Pickel, a recruiting analyst with FightOnState.com. “He also gives you a guy with a pretty good chance of winning the job. He will provide competition right away.
Though coaches from Notre Dame and Alabama traveled to Bradenton recently to watch him practice, O’Connor doesn’t have more big offers, Pickel believes, because he still emerged on the recruiting scene late with those big moves.
He features good arm strength and exceptional fundamentals, including a “perfect” release point on his throws. He is being coached by former Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke.
Since arriving at IMG this past winter, “mechanically he’s so much better,” Weinke told Scout.com. “He has better timing, better rhythm and better feet. Michael has a much better feel for ball speed and ball trajectory. And he’s one of those guys that just picks up everything so fast and so quickly. We run an NFL-styled offense and he gets it. You should hear some of the questions that he’s always firing my way. He just gets it.”
And in a bit of interesting timing, the Nittany Lions received a verbal commitment last weekend from Scranton’s Noah Beh, who they project to grow into an offensive tackle — a future protector for O’Connor.
Beh is 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds but appears to have the frame to add another 40 pounds or more. If he cannot add the weight and stick at tackle, Penn State coaches have assured him that he would have a place at defensive end, Pickel said.
He picked Penn State over Boston College.