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Thursday, March 28, 2013
Watch List QB O'Connor enjoys PSU trip

By Josh Moyer

ESPN Watch List QB Michael O'Connor roamed the sideline during Penn State's practice Wednesday, following the four red-jerseyed quarterbacks inside Holuba Hall during an unofficial visit.

The signal-caller out of Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy spoke with assistant coach Charlie Fisher on the phone and received his share of Penn State mail, but he wanted to pay careful attention to his coaching style at that practice. He wanted to see how his players fared, whether he yelled and how he'd get the most out of the quartet.

But, more than anything, O'Connor wanted to know if Penn State was a school he wanted to keep in touch with, that he wanted to visit again.

"I didn't know much about Penn State football coming here, so I didn't know what to expect," said O'Connor, who was in the midst of driving to Rutgers for a visit today. "But, when I got here, it was just great. Coach [Bill] O'Brien is a great coach, the offense is great, and the fact he coached Tom Brady and everything like that, it's just great.

"The campus is beautiful, the coaches are upfront and straight-forward, and I really enjoyed the visit. I definitely want to come back."

The 6-foot-5 quarterback said he's not sure whether he'd take an official visit to Happy Valley or whether he would definitely be able to make it back to campus for another unofficial. After all, that's a difficult guarantee to make now that he trains with former Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke in Florida and visits his native Canada. But, after getting to know Fisher a little more, he now knows he wants to.

Fisher, the quarterbacks coach, jogged over to him early in practice and began pointing to his notes, outlining some plays and motioning toward the quarterbacks. O'Connor runs a similar offense at IMG Academy, so Fisher rattled off some plays from his own list.

"Do you know this play?" Yup. "This one?" Yes.

"There were some things I wasn't getting, but I understood it," O'Connor said. "I thought it was pretty cool, that I knew what he was talking about for the first time seeing him. I think he thought it was impressive."

His eyes followed Fisher throughout practice. He noticed the longtime coach didn't scold or yell at his players. When quarterbacks Tyler Ferguson or Steven Bench would toss a loose spiral or make a bad read, he'd just calmly instruct them to forget about the last play and focus on the next one.

O'Connor didn't earn a scholarship offer Wednesday from the relaxed coach, but Fisher did tell him some good news. He's currently the only quarterback that Penn State's going after, and he's the top signal-caller on their big board.

The quarterbacks coach plans to watch him throw in person, probably during May, so he'll see O'Connor again soon.

"With the situation right now, with PSU not offering, I can look at it and be upset or I can look at it in a positive way because they like me and said I'm doing good things," he said. "So I'm not disappointed because one thing I told myself is I'm going to enjoy the recruiting process and whatever happens, happens."

He chatted with fellow Canadian and PSU tailback Akeel Lynch -- whom he's been friends with about a year because they shared a trainer -- and he toured Beaver Stadium, sat down with the coaches and took a closer look at the facilities. He learned more about PSU's business program and ate with the team after practice.

He's currently in the middle of a road trip -- he saw Michigan State on Monday and Notre Dame on Tuesday -- but he wasn't ready to name favorites. He liked Mark Dantonio and especially enjoyed the Fighting Irish's tradition and academics, but he said he's trying to take his recruiting process slowly.

He currently holds eight offers from the likes of Michigan State, Mississippi State and Rutgers, and he hemmed and hawed when asked what visit most stuck out so far.

"It's hard to say so far," he said. " I'm just enjoying the process right now."