Former Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington was on hand Friday during the Under Armour All-American Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla. Arrington spent the week helping coach the linebackers for the game and was also able to spend some time with Penn State commitments Christian Hackenberg, who played for the victorious Black squad, and Adam Breneman, who made the trip to support Hackenberg.
Arrington likes what he's seen from Hackenberg, left, and Breneman.
Never one to hold in his opinions, Arrington talked to Lions247 editor Sean Fitz about the incoming recruits and his thoughts on Penn State coach Bill O'Brien, referencing a few controversial comments he made following O'Brien's hiring last year.
Arrington came away impressed after speaking with and observing Hackenberg and Breneman.
"They're good kids. They're about their business, but they're Penn State guys," he said. "They're respectful, they're very courteous, and that's what matters most, man. We're good people first. That's our legacy. But you know what? We can play some football too."
The former linebacker gave those players and their fellow Penn State recruits credit for maintaining their commitment to the program through a tumultuous 2012.
"The fact that they are still going there with everything that has happened … there's still a lot of respect and a lot of admiration for those young men that stood in there and stuck it out through everything that took place," Arrington said. "These recruits that are coming in over the next three-four years deserve the same type of credit, because they believe in something that's bigger than what took place. They believe in what we are, and that has not changed. As much as people want to debate it or argue it, that has not changed. They should be acknowledged for being committed to that capacity as well."
Arrington wasn't exactly thrilled with Penn State's decision to hire someone from outside the program last January, when he told Blue-White Illustrated "I'm done with Penn State." He would later clarify some of those remarks and did so again Friday.
"Here's the thing. Everybody wants to make this out like I have a problem with Bill O'Brien. I don't have a problem with Bill O'Brien. I made it clear I have a problem with the way the board of trustees handled the situation," Arrington said. "Before I had all the information that I have now, I had a problem with them going outside of what we are to hire somebody. I made that very clear. That has nothing to do with Bill O'Brien. Everybody wants to make it into, oh, I hate Penn State now, and that's ridiculous. Absolutely dumb is what it is. I love my school and I will always love Penn State, forever and ever, Amen."
The job done by O'Brien and the new coaching staff this past season impressed Arrington but he also wants to see O'Brien do the same thing with his own players.
"Did Bill O'Brien and those young men do an excellent job of picking up the pieces and doing the things they needed to do? Absolutely. And we still have to wait and see what's going to take place, because you've done something special with somebody else's players," Arrington said. "Let's not lose sight of the fact that those were Joe's players that he had a really good season with. To me, the job is really going to start when those guys begin to leave. You're losing Mauti, you're losing Hodges, you're losing the backbones of this team. Now we gotta see if he can put those things in place to maintain."
Arrington loves what O'Brien did with Penn State's offense.
"If I had an offense like that when we were in school, we probably would have won three or four national titles," he said. "We would have had a run like what Alabama is doing right now. I love the way they run the offense. I mean, if you can make Matt McGloin what he was this year, then you getting a guy like what we got coming in now, you're getting some real quarterbacks, who knows what the offense could look like?"
The former Pro Bowler wanted to make it clear that, from the very beginning, his beef wasn't with O'Brien but the people who made the decision to remove his former coach, Joe Paterno. And he likes the direction in which the program is heading.
"I'm excited about the future. I don't have any problem with Bill O'Brien. At all. When that took place, he just happened to be the person that was attached to a decision that was based on who I really did have a problem with," he said. "That's the bottom line. But I'm excited about the future for the team. They're starting this lawsuit; I would love for them to win this lawsuit. It's probably going to take too long for them to get it overturned or anything anyway. Let's just keep building, and when we can come back, let's just come back like gangbusters, man."
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