Now that the pesky matter of who will be Penn State's coach in 2013 has been settled, the Nittany Lions can begin to get to work on shaping the roster for next season.
And it begins Monday with the start of the new semester, winter workouts – and a little scholarship calculus.
This is a new team, coach Bill O'Brien said Friday in a radio interview, less than 24 hours after turning down overtures to return to the NFL. These guys, before they went home for Christmas break began workouts with (strength coach Craig Fitzgerald). They get back on Monday and start it up again.
This team has to begin to create its own identity. New leaders start to emerge. With winter workouts, a lot of different things go on there. It's a chance for the team to come together.
For starters, the Lions are welcoming some new faces in the weight room on Monday.
Because of NCAA sanctions, the 2013 recruiting class will be the first of four to have a cap of 15 players – down from the usual 25.
Penn State, though, is currently set to bring in 18 new recruits in this class. That's because five of those commits – running back Richy Anderson, tight end Adam Breneman, quarterback Tyler Ferguson and defensive backs Anthony Smith and Jordan Smith – arrived on campus this weekend.
These early enrollees can be counted against the 2012 signing class, which was not filled up to the 25-man limit and is not affected by any sanctions.
Here's a look at the newest Nittany Lions.
A unique convergence of talent, charisma, crisis and social media has created one of the most well-known recruits in Penn State history. And he hasn't played an official down in more than a year.
One of O'Brien's first recruits, Adam Breneman had most of Camp Hill packed into the gym at Cedar Cliff High School last March when he pledged to Penn State.
Before suffering a torn ACL over the summer, the 6-foot-5 Breneman was rated as the consensus top high school tight end in the country. Missing his senior season dropped him down a few lists, but Breneman's importance to the Lions never diminished.
Breneman has tirelessly worked to recruit other top players and is already a fixture in the digital world for Penn State, acting as an ambassador for the school and the program on Twitter, where the teenager has over 10,000 followers.
Thanks in part to O'Brien's forte with tight ends, Breneman has remained solid to the Lions, even after the sanctions hit in July. Five days after the hammer came down, Breneman was part of a group that went to State College to tell O'Brien they were still committed.
That public decision helped keep the recruiting class together at a critical moment and further increased Breneman's profile throughout the fanbase.
His knee injury ultimately led him to decide to graduate a semester early and finish his rehab in Happy Valley.
Breneman has become close friends with fellow recruit Christian Hackenberg, who is rated by ESPN as the nation's top pocket passer in the 2013 signing class. But Hackenberg won't arrive until the summer and Penn State badly needed someone to challenge returning signal-caller Steven Bench for the starting job during spring practice.
Enter Tyler Ferguson.
When the Lions missed out on another junior college recruit in Jake Waters, they wasted no time getting in touch with Ferguson, who played one year in the JUCO ranks at College of the Sequoias in central California.
A scholarship offer later, Ferguson switched his commitment from Houston and picked Penn State without having ever visited the campus. Now he'll be one of the most heavily watched players during spring ball.
The key position for us is going to be quarterback and who emerges at quarterback, O'Brien said. Obviously we have a lot of confidence that Steven Bench will be a very good quarterback. Then we have some guys coming in. Tyler Ferguson will be here on Monday. He's a really top-notch junior college quarterback from California that we're looking forward to coaching.
Then obviously in recruiting hopefully we get some guys coming in – I cant mention their names (until they sign, per NCAA rules). But obviously that's gonna be the biggest position for us to get up to speed as fast as we can.
Just like Bench, Ferguson will have sophomore eligibility with a redshirt still available. He would be able to play right away for the Lions.
Ferguson is set to room at Penn State with former Wyoming Valley Conference standout Eugene Lewis, who redshirted in 2012.
Penn State will also be bringing in two walk-on quarterbacks for the new semester – a pair of New England-area prospects named D.J. Crook and Austin Whipple. Both played one post-grad season at prep schools and retain full college eligibility.
Whipple is the son of long-time pro and college assistant Mark Whipple (Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Hurricanes, Cleveland Browns), who briefly coached with O'Brien at their alma mater, Brown.
Though he spells his name differently to differentiate himself, Richy Anderson arrives at Penn State with a similar skillset as his father.
A letterman in the early 90s, Richie Anderson was a versatile running back for Joe Paterno who went on to have a long NFL career because of his ability to run, block and catch.
His son comes from a similar mold at Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, Md. He was originally headed to play for the home-state Terrapins before an official visit to Penn State for the primetime game against Ohio State in October changed his mind.
Anderson represents the type of player the Lions will focus heavily on during this period of sanctions. With the sharp reduction in scholarships, the staff can't afford to miss in their evaluations of players.
To help offset that, the Lions can bring in guys like Anderson, who excelled as a runner, a receiver and a return man in high school.
The quarterback situation draws the most attention, but it's the secondary that was the biggest focus for Penn State in recruiting.
Injuries and roster attrition – combined with some imbalanced recruiting in past years – left the Lions with little depth in the defensive backfield in 2012.
We only have six defensive backs on scholarship, secondary coach John Butler said during the season. One of the first things we have to do is solve things in recruiting. (People) are wondering why we don't play nickel – I guess I'm wondering why I only had six defensive backs when I took the job here.
We've gotta work on getting those numbers up to 11 or 12.
The reinforcements are starting to come now in the form of Jordan Smith and Anthony Smith.
Jordan Smith is the highest-rated defensive back in the Lions' class out of H.D. Woodson High School in Washington D.C. He was also the first new recruit to commit to Penn State following the sanctions.
Anthony Smith spent a year at prep school at Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania after playing his high school ball in New Jersey.