STATE COLLEGE - Just days after Penn State's final game of 2013, two members of Bill O'Brien's coaching staff are no longer with the program.
Long-tenured linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher resigned from Penn State "to pursue other opportunities," the team announced last night. Rumors of the coaches' depatures surfaced Monday afternoon.
"I appreciate all of Ron and Charlie's hard work and thank them for their dedication and service to Penn State," O'Brien said in a news release. "I wish them well in all their future endeavors."
Vanderlinden was one of two coaches from Joe Paterno's staff O'Brien retainedwhen he took the Penn State job in January 2012 - the other being defensive line coach Larry Johnson. The former Maryland head coach and Northwestern defensive coordinator spent 13 seasons at the school.
During his tenure, Vanderlinden coached Bednarik Award winners (given to the nation's top linebacker) Paul Posuluzny and Dan Connor, as well as such standouts as NaVorro Bowman, Sean Lee and Michael Mauti.
O'Brien brought Fisher to Happy Valley before last season. Fisher worked with Matt McGloin in 2012, and aided the former walk-on on his road to eventual success in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders. This season, in which Penn State wrapped up at 7-5, true freshman Christian Hackenberg was the Lions' signal-caller and under Fisher's tutelage. The prized prospect was a five-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week and finished third in the conference in passing.
The team and O'Brien will begin an "immediate search" to fill the vacancies and will not comment on the positions until new coaches have been hired.
Speaking of Hackenberg, the 18-year-old was dubbed the 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year yesterday. The quarterback threw for 2,955 yards, had a 58.9 completion percentage and accounted for 24 total touchdowns (20 passing, four rushing).
The Palmyra, Va., product threw for at least 200 yards in nine of 12 games and broke the 300-yard barrier on four occasions, most recently with a 339-yard, four-touchdown showing in Penn State's 31-24 victory against No. 21 Wisconsin on Saturday. Hackenberg's signature moment in his freshman campaign came when he completed three straight passes - including a 36-yarder to Allen Robinson - and then ran in a 1-yard touchdown in a last-minute drive to tie Michigan in an eventual four-overtime victory.
It's the second straight season a Penn State player has won the award; Philadelphia native Deion Barnes, a defensive end, was honored in 2012.