In his first year with the Nittany Lions, O'Brien took a team that was hit with NCAA sanctions shortly before the season started and guided it to an 8-4 mark overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten.
“It's obviously very humbling,” O'Brien told the BTN. “There's two groups of people you have to thank when it comes to coach of the year awards; it's our coaching staff and our group of players.”
O'Brien made more news earlier in the day when he told an Atlanta radio station that he intended to be back coaching the Nittany Lions in 2013. There has been speculation NFL teams may be targeting him, and prior to Tuesday he had not made a firm public commitment to be back in Happy Valley next season.
In the interview with the BTN, he also spoke as if he'd be back in '13.
“I'm going to try to look to improve every single day this offseason and do the best I can to help this football program improve,” he said.
Barnes finished fifth in the Big Ten in sacks with six during his first season of action for the Nittany Lions. He led Penn State in sacks, tackles for loss (10) and forced fumbles (three).
Barnes told the BTN that PSU's senior class set a tone for the younger players in the program.
“Mostly what I learned from them was effort,” Barnes said. “They gave 100 percent every day. Practice, film room, they gave 100 percent. … Their effort was tremendous. That's something you have to follow and be able to duplicate next year.”