OB Teleconference Roundup

The highlights from Penn State coach Bill O'Brien's interview session with the media Thursday. Get the latest injury updates and more.

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien held a teleconference with the media Thursday to give an update on training camp. Here are some of the things he had to say that did NOT involve the high-profile quarterback competition.

Medical Watch

The team is generally in good shape on the injury front.

“Right now the health is decent,” O'Brien said. “There's some bumps and bruises.”

Freshman receiver DaeSean Hamilton had previously been ruled out for the season with a wrist injury. Redshirt freshman tight end Brent Wilkerson is out indefinitely with back problems.

In the meantime, backup linebacker Ben Kline is “day-to-day” with a recurring shoulder problem. But O'Brien thinks Kline will play this season.

“I believe he'll be ready to go,” O'Brien said. “We have to do a great job of managing that. That's a shoulder, so maybe we have to put a harness on him. He's a tough kid. You want guys like Ben Kline on our football team because he's a smart, tough kid.”

O'Brien said starting right tackle Adam Gress “got banged up a little” in camp but he's “fine” now.

“Knock on wood,” O'Brien said of the overall health of the team. “These guys have done a good job of practicing physically and staying on their feet.”

Sudden Impact

The staff will make final decisions on which true freshmen to redshirt in the first couple of weeks of the season. Christian Hackenberg, who is fighting for the starting quarterback job, obviously won't redshirt.

Neither will tight end Adam Breneman.

“Breneman will definitely play,” O'Brien said. “He's had a good camp. … Smart kid. Tough player. He can run. Yeah, he'll be playing.”

O'Brien added that rookie offensive lineman Andrew Nelson is, “Coming along pretty nicely. Whether he plays or not, I don't know yet. But he certainly has improved from day one to day 13, where we are right now.”

In the Trenches

Speaking of offensive linemen, O'Brien said the first-team O-line has done “a nice job. I really think they've played physical football.”

He singled out left tackle Donovan Smith as playing “really well” and added that the interior linemen (guards John Urschel and Miles Dieffenbach, and center Ty Howle) “are playing really well.”

Tackle Garry Gilliam, a converted tight end, “has improved.”

Backup interior lineman Angelo Mangiro has “played well.” As for veteran Eric Shrive, who is seeing action at guard and tackle, O'Brien said, “Yesterday was probably Eric Shrive's best practice.”

Uh, What?

The strangest exchange during the teleconference came when a reporter asked O'Brien how he goes about calling plays when the Lions go for it on fourth down.

“I'm not gonna tell you that,” O'Brien replied. “But we don't just slap it out there on Saturdays on fourth down. We try to practice what we expect to do in those situations.”

The reporter followed up by asking if the Penn State defense tries to “clamp down” when opponents go for it on fourth down. O'Brien sounded puzzled at first.

“Well … uh … certainly you want them to clamp down the whole game,” O'Brien said.

To his credit, O'Brien rallied after the awkward questions and came through with some good info on practicing different scenarios.

“We prepare for every situation,” he said. “I would say by the end of training camp, we'll have gone through about 150 situations.”

Not Just a Stadium

Speaking of different situations, on Wednesday the team practiced at Beaver Stadium for the second time in training camp. This time, the visit mirrored what will happen on game days -- including travel to the stadium, using the locker rooms, having officials, having coaches in the box and so on.

The team went through most of its situational sets, including red zone, two-minute drill, third- and fourth-down plays, all of the special teams.

“It was very, very beneficial,” O'Brien said. “Especially for the young players who have never played in the stadium, to get in there and get a feel for it.”

Then O'Brien dropped this gem:

“This is not just a stadium, it's a cathedral.”

Interesting Development

Wednesday also included what O'Brien called a “developmental scrimmage.”

“We take a lot of our younger players, and we let them play,” he said. “The officials officiate. What's neat about it is there were a lot of Pennsylvania guys playing in that, so I'll bet they were excited.”

One Hull of a Player

No breaking news here, because O'Brien has been doing it all off-season. But on Thursday, he was again singing the praises of linebacker Mike Hull.

“Mike Hull is one of the best football players on our team,” O'Brien said. “He's a fast guy. He's a tough guy. He's strong, he plays the run well, he's a cover linebacker, he's a leader. He's a guy who means a lot to our football team.

“He didn't play a lot last year because of who he backed up,” the coach added. “He was backing up two NFL players (Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges). He's gonna play a lot for us this year.”

Fitting the Bill

After missing most football activities over the summer while taking care of some academic issues, versatile junior running back Bill Belton is back in good standing. The second summer semester ended late last week.

“Yeah, he's eligible and he's good to go,” O'Brien said. “He's had a really good camp. He's running the ball well, he's catching the ball well. He's doing a nice job for us.”

Graduation Day

O'Brien took the occasion of the teleconference to play assignment editor for the reporters participating. When talking about receiver Brandon Moseby-Felder, O'Brien noted that the senior graduated at the end of the second summer semester. So, too, did tight end Matt Lehman.

They attended graduation ceremonies over the weekend.

O'Brien joked with the reporters, “make sure we put that in your articles.” There was laughter on the call.

“That's unbelievable,” O'Brien said. “We had two guys in the middle of training camp who graduated from Penn State.”

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