The goal at the start of the week was to write a short but clear story that would attempt to clear up some of the questions fans (and reporters) might still have about transfer rules as they pertain to Penn State and the NCAA sanctions.
Other programs might pursue Deion Barnes the way the sophomore has pursued quarterbacks this fall.
At the end of the week, it's hard to say if things are any clearer.
I exchanged a few emails with a spokeswoman from the NCAA this week. She sent me a link to a page on the organization's site entitled "Penn State football student-athletes allowed easier transfers." It included the following sections: Transfers; Permission to contact; Recruiting considerations; Financial aid limitations; and Preseason practice considerations.
Of those categories, the two that have been of the most interest to Penn State fans have been those concerning permission to contact and recruiting considerations. The idea that coaches from other programs could not only contact current players on the team about transferring (once they had informed Penn State of their interest in those players) but also come to State College prior to the first day of classes did not sit well with a lot of Penn State players, not to mention the staff.
The big question, though, is will those other programs be permitted to do the same things right up until the start of preseason practice in 2013, which marks the deadline for Penn State players who wish to transfer without having to sit out a year?
This is the answer I received to that question from the same spokeswoman:
"The permission to contact rule is suspended for the same amount of time the student-athlete has the opportunity to transfer without having to serve a year in residence (immediately prior to the 2013 season. However, schools still must abide by the recruiting calendar."
In other words, the Nittany Lions who won't exhaust their eligibility this season are potential recruits for other teams. Under the altered rules, current players on the team are permitted to take up to five official visits (one per institution) during the 2012-13 academic year.
All Bill O'Brien and the rest of Penn State's staff can do to combat that is make the players they have feel as welcome as possible and as comfortable as possible, create and feed their belief that they made the right choice. As they work hard to help their players turn in big seasons on the field, they have to simultaneously hope that those players then say "not interested" to the programs that might develop interest or renewed interest in those players.
What the Nittany Lions have going for them is that talented young players like Allen Robinson, Deion Barnes and Adrian Amos (the ones other programs are most likely to come after) have formed strong bonds with one another and are already playing key roles for the team. Other schools won't be able to lure them away with the attractions of playing time or status; they already have those things now and will have them for the 2013 season as well.
Then again, Silas Redd, Justin Brown and Anthony Fera had those things, too, and it's impossible to list or even imagine all the factors that would make players want to try out new surroundings.
As an NFL assistant coach for the last few seasons, O'Brien knows what is like to lose players to free agency. He might have to fall back on that experience this winter, no matter how many games he wins in 2012.