"Penn State needs to communicate what they are doing moving forward to make sure these things don't happen again; demonstrate the football program will be held accountable."
O'Brien was clearly trying to do just that during Penn State's 18-city coaches' caravan that stretched from Buffalo, N.Y., to Richmond, Va., and Cleveland to Boston.
"We're one team," O'Brien told The Associated Press in an interview last month before his tour stop in New York City. "This athletic department is a part of this university. This football program is a big part, but just a part of this athletic department.
"We've got a new era of Penn State athletics. A new era of Penn State football. We've got to respect the past. We've got to learn from the past. But we've got to move forward."
That message does seem to be getting through to recruits, said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, who visits with hundreds of highly touted high school football players and their parents.
"When I talk to players, never does the Sandusky stuff come up," he said.
Lemming said what does concern players when it comes to programs racked by scandal is the possibility of NCAA sanctions.
The governing body has said it will examine whether Penn State violated bylaws covering institutional control and ethical conduct in its handling of accusations against Sandusky.
NCAA President Mark Emmert has made clear the organization will let the legal process and other investigations play out before deciding whether to weigh in.
Spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said the NCAA had no further comment in light of the Sandusky verdict and that its previous statement about Penn State "still stands" after the verdict.
Blackledge, who played on Paterno's first national title team in 1982, said the "bizarre and surreal" circumstances that led to O'Brien being hired could work in the new coach's favor.
"Had (Paterno) retired and none of this took place there would be a strong sentiment toward not changing things," said Blackledge, who currently works as an analyst for ESPN. "A guy like O'Brien would come in and be handcuffed."
Instead, fans are looking forward to seeing whether O'Brien's pro-style offense will invigorate a Penn State attack that has sputtered in recent years, and whether he can find the next Brady to guide the Nittany Lions.
These days, nearly everyone agrees that the more time people spend talking about who is going to play quarterback, the better for Penn State.
Holtz said O'Brien's message to his players should go something like this:
"There's been a lot of great things here, but they have been marred by an individual. But it's time for us to move on. You can't let one man tarnish the tradition of Penn State."
Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP