Penn State coach Bill O'Brien held his weekly press conference at Beaver Stadium Tuesday. Afterward, FOS staffers Mark Brennan and Greg Pickel broke things down.
Check out their report above.
And read the transcript below.
THE MODERATOR: At this time, well take questions from the phone line.
Q. Bill, how would you describe your relationship with George OLeary, and did you know him before he hired you at Georgia Tech?
COACH OBRIEN: I have a fantastic relationship with Coach OLeary. No, I didnt know him before he hired me. Its kind of an interesting story. I was basically a graduate assistant at Brown. When I graduated from Brown, I went to work at Brown. The ?rst year at Brown, I worked for Mickey Kwiatkowski. I was basically the tight end something I dont know what I was, but I was helping out on offense. Mark Whipple came in, and he got the job after Mickey was let go, and I moved over to defense, and I was like a defensive graduate assistant for Mark Whipple. Then I started to apply for graduate assistant jobs for that year. I want to say it was 94 I think it was 94. Jimmy Bernhardt, who works for us here, had a relationship with George OLeary from being a high school coach on Long Island. George was an assistant college coach at Syracuse and used to recruit Jimmys high school. There was a big New York/Long Island connection there. So Jimmy coached me at Brown. This is a long story. Jimmy coached me at Brown, and I said, Jimmy, I want to be a graduate assistant. So Jimmy called George, 94 thereabouts, and said, hey, look, I actually, George called Jimmy, I think it was, and said, Do you know anybody thats smart enough to get into graduate school at Georgia Tech and dumb enough to want to coach? And Jimmy said, I got just the guy for you. So I then began a relationship with Doug Marrone because Doug Marrone was the Director of Operations at Georgia Tech at the time, and he was the guy that I worked through to all the logistics, and ?nally George OLeary hired me, and I started there in, I think it was, May or April of 95. So thats how it happened.
Q. Yeah, Bill. I had a question for you about explosive plays. I think you call them chunk plays, plays that are 20 yards or more.
COACH OBRIEN: Right.
Q. What has the UCF defense done to really limit that? I think theyve only allowed two, and you guys have been pretty good on creating them this year on offense.
COACH OBRIEN: UCF, theyre very sound on defense. Theyre going to line up, and theyre going to know what to do. Theyre very physical. Theyre well coached. And that has a lot to do with, you know, obviously the players that they have and the coaching staff they have, but the type of defense they play, again, it doesnt really lend itself to giving up explosive plays. So in order to get an explosive play, were going to have to work real hard to come up with something we think will work and then execute it on gameday. This is a very dif?cult defense to go against, and you can see that every snap on the tape.
Q. Bill, how important of an example has Glenn Carson set for your defense? Not just with the play but as a guy who never missed a game, almost never misses a practice for you guys.
COACH OBRIEN: Derek, you cant say enough about Glenn Carson. Hes a guy that received the game ball we cant give him the game ball, but he was the player of the game for the Syracuse game, and then in this past game, he received special mention from our staff, from me, for how he played against Eastern Michigan. Hes a tough guy. Hes improved. Hes quicker. Hes faster. Hes stronger. He loves playing for Penn State. He believes, and I believe, he has a future in football. So hes gone out there in the ?rst two games and done an excellent job of playing good, tough, physical Penn State football.
Q. It seems like a lot of the guys you worked with at Georgia Tech in some form have in?uenced not only the way you coached but also your coaching staff. Why for you was this such an in?uential time in your coaching development?
COACH OBRIEN: One of those I dont know. Probably more than one of those years, but I know one of those staffs, I should say we had a lot of really good coaches on those staffs. George was the head coach. We had Ralph Friedgen. We had Doug Marrone. We had Stan Hixson. At times we had Mac McWhorter. Randy Edsel was on there at times. We had a laundry list of some really good, topnotch coaches, many of whom went on to become head coaches. Danny Crossman, whos Dougs special teams coordinator in Buffalo now. We just had a lot of good coaches there, and I learned a lot from them, and I contributed what I contributed to that staff, but I think we all learned from Coach OLeary. And I think every one of those guys would say we owe a lot to Coach OLeary because he taught us about tough, physical football, great organization, things like that. But, yeah, there were a lot of great coaches on those staffs.
Q. Hi, Bill. After two games, how would you kind of evaluate your offensive line play, running and protecting the pass? Are they where you thought they would be? Where are they headed the next week or two, do you think, those guys?
COACH OBRIEN: I think that some certain individuals up front have played really well. I dont want to get into the speci?cs, but I think that overall we need to play more consistent up front. Ive talked to these guys about that. Mac feels the same way. And, again, I think weve played decent. I dont think weve played poorly, but I know we can play better. I think the guys understand that. We hold our offensive line to a very high standard here at Penn State, and you know those guys know they can play better, and we expect them to. But, again, it hasnt its not a fact that its been poor. Its just that we know we can be better and more consistent than the way were playing right now.
Q. Hi, Bill. Coach OLeary obviously has been probably a sounding board for you over the years. I was just wondering how much advice hes given you in terms of your development through the years as an assistant and what kind of encouragement did he give you when you were considering the job at Penn State?
COACH OBRIEN: Certainly, Ive kept in touch with Coach OLeary over the years. Neither one of us are real big phone guys. You know, when especially after I became the head coach at Penn State, I called him a few times, just on different subjects, like practice and different things he did, schedule wise, travel wise, with what he did at Georgia Tech and Central Florida, and hes been very helpful to me. Probably the most I learned from Coach OLeary, though, is when I worked for him, and the most I talked to him is when I worked for him. Coaches are busy, and everybody has busy lives and things. But those, I think it was, eight seasons I worked for him is where I really learned a lot from Coach OLeary.
Q. It seems like you have a lot of depth at wide receiver, an awful lot of guys who are contributing there. I wonder how you how you sort that all out in terms of who plays when. Do you go with strengths or weaknesses? Do you try to rotate guys and get a lot of guys in the game? Is that a challenge for you?
COACH OBRIEN: I think we have basically thats a good question. It is. Its about six guys that are in the rotation right now at wide receiver. And what we try to do is by personnel we have a lot of different personnel groupings. So by personnel, we try to get as many guys into that rotation. Now, some of the personnel groupings are two wide receiver personnel groupings, some of them are three, some of them are four, some of them are ?ve wide receiver groupings, which we havent even used yet. So we try to make sure that were rotating guys in and out, and I think that does a lot. It gets guys on the ?eld that are good players. It helps morale because a lot of guys are playing, and I think a lot of different guys have caught passes from Christian this year, which is good. So I think we just need to continue to do that and just its not hard, no. Its actually fun to come up with personnel groupings and where to put guys and things like that.
Q. Bill Belton said he feels like hes a more mature player and person this year. Im wondering what kind of changes youve seen in him, not just as a running back but as a person, and how his attitude has changed approaching that position switch last year in the running back spot.
COACH OBRIEN: Billys come a long way. Billy and I have had a number of conversations about a lot of different things, not just football. I just I really you know, I just have a connection with Billy, and I think hes a great kid, and hes working extremely hard in the classroom. He worked extremely hard this summer to be where hes at right now. He had a good summer in the conditioning and all those things that he did in the weight room, and hes come on strong here in the past couple of games, especially against Eastern Michigan, and that will continue because hes going to continue to play. Hes running the ball better. Hes being more decisive running the ball, and his pass catching ability out of the back?eld is good. I think his protection needs to improve, but I know hes going to work on that this week. Overall, hes a much better player, and hes turned the corner off the ?eld too, I believe.
Q. When you talk about your running game, would you like to see one of them really kind of emerge as your go to runner. You had 9, 13, 7 carries out of your top three. Or when youre getting 108 yards from two guys, are you happy with spreading the carries around a little bit more?
COACH OBRIEN: I like all three of these guys playing. I think one of the things that we try to do is, if a guy gets really hot, well stick with a hot back. I do think I think its hard for these guys to one of these guys to come out of the game and not play. On the Syracuse game, Akeel didnt play, and I think its important to get all three of these guys in the game and give them a shot. Like I said, if one of them gets hot, more than likely, we would stick with that guy. Running back by committee isnt so bad when you have three good running backs.
Q. Coach, can you just talk about, obviously, to the naked eye, people can see Allen Robinson is an athletic guy, a big guy. For a receiver hes fast. What is it about him thats made him the top receiver in the Big Ten? Is it route running, intangibles, that type of stuff? Can you talk about some of the hidden, under the radar stuff about Allen?
COACH OBRIEN: Hes a very smart guy. Hes very football smart, and hes very smart off the ?eld. Hes just an intelligent guy. He really, really worked hard this off season to improve his individual skill set, and so hes another guy like DaQuan Jones, like Glenn Carson, who have taken their game to the next level. So he came back with better knowledge of the offense. He was stronger. He was faster, and hes shown that. Now, as the games go on here, its going to be more and more dif?cult because, obviously, people, starting with Eastern Michigan, they really put a safety over the top of him. But that helps other guys out. That helps other guys become one on one and things like that. So its just going to be up to us as a staff to make sure we continue to move him around and he understands where were moving him and how he can execute the play from where hes at. Thats what well continue to do. THE MODERATOR: At this point, well take questions here in the media room.
Q. Bill, Im wondering with some of the third down problems, how much of that stems from things that may or may not be happening on ?rst and second downs as opposed to just third downs?
COACH OBRIEN: A lot of it is, youre right. We talked yesterday, and well talk about it again this afternoon. Weve got to get off to a better start on ?rst down. Weve got too many whether its a penalty to put us back or a lost yardage play. So now youre in second and long, and youre already off schedule. Its not a good thing. Once we get to third down, we have to execute better. I thought on Saturday there were plays to be made there. Whether it was a protection breakdown or a poor throw or whatever it was, we just didnt make the play. It will get better. I cant guarantee it. Im not into guarantees, but I do believe were working on it, and it will de?nitely in my opinion, it will improve. It needs to. Theres no question about it. It has to improve.
Q. Bill, with Christians arm strength, how does like one continue to improve upon that throughout his college career, and also how much of it is just natural?
COACH OBRIEN: Well, a lot of it has to do with mechanics. Hes able to use the proper footwork, and hes able to ?nish his throws and have his elbow in the proper place and have the proper grip on the ball. Youre right, hes a strong guy. Hes a big, strong guy, and hes got a strong arm. His arm strength will continue to improve as he becomes stronger himself. Hes only 18 years old. As he gets hes only had one month in our weight program. As he continues to get stronger and leg strength is better and upper body strength, youll see his arm strength improve. But thats where hes got to really understand how much he has to work on his touch passes, his underneath passes, his throws to backs. Usually, backs are recruited to run the ball, not catch the ball. So youve got to give them good throws. You have to have nice touch on those balls. So hopefully that will continue. But youll see his arm I think youll see his arm strength improve as he plays.
Q. You get so many questions about Allen and the tight ends. How important is Brandon Felder to what youre trying to accomplish, especially him being kind of a possession underneath guy?
COACH OBRIEN: Hes very important to what we do. Again, he probably should have some more catches in the time that Ive been here. Whether it was we didnt read it right or maybe his route could have been better, but hes very important to what we do. Hes one of those unsung guys. He practices every day. Hes a very smart guy. Hes a really good route runner, very smooth route runner. Really enjoy coaching him, and hes very important to what we do.
Q. He didnt get a lot of playing time early last year. When did you kind of start to see that he could develop into that role for you?
COACH OBRIEN: I dont really remember. Id have to go back and look at that. I just remember in practice, just watching him improve in practice early on last year and just saying, This guys getting better and better. Weve got to get him on the ?eld. Im not sure when that really happened, but I saw the improvement in practice and told Stan weve got to get this guy on the ?eld more.
Q. Coach, with Mike Hull expected to return to the ?eld this week, how do you see the reps at linebacker playing out? Do you see Obengs role affected at all by that?
COACH OBRIEN: No, I dont think so. I think, if Hull can go, it would be Hull, Carson, and Wartman, more than likely. If Hull has some issues throughout the week, well go with whoever we have there, whether its Obeng or somebody else. But Obeng will play, and hell have a role in the game just like hes had the past two weeks.
Q. Bill, the universitys been on a pretty good run with defensive linemen. What is it about L.J., his coaching style, that helps create this?
COACH OBRIEN: Hes ?rst of all, hes a great person. So theyre around him a lot. They like to be around him. His of?ce door is always open. Defensive line coaches and offensive line coaches, they kind of have their own world. Those are those are very, very tough positions in football to play. Those are like I always say, those are about 100 car crashes a game. So its a little bit different than playing corner and wide receiver, just a little bit. So theres a very deep bond with your coach at those positions, wherever Ive been. Wherever Ive been. And Larry is no exception to that because of the type of person he is. And then when he coaches, hes very, very technical in how he coaches these guys. He understands pad level. He understands hand placement. He understands the work ethic that it needs that that position requires. So when you watch him at practice, those guys really dont take a drill off. They are going, and if theyre not going the way he wants them to go, theyre going to do up downs. So he demands a lot of his position. Great family guy, has them over the house, things like that, whatevers allowed by the NCAA. Theyre very, very close to their coach. And Id say the same thing about Mac McWhorter.
Q. Christians play action fake is something Ive noticed over the ?rst two games, how effective its been. Is that something he had coming in? Is that something you had to work with? How valuable is that for a young quarterback and as a play caller as well?
COACH OBRIEN: Thats great thats really good that you noticed that. It is its something that he had. I think weve worked on him a lot, just based on how we fake the ball, the different play fakes that we have. But right from day one, he came in you know, its not easy to understand how to fake the football, and great quarterbacks, whether its Brady, Manning, Rodgers, and these young guys, Kaepernick, and last night Vick these guys are great fakers of the football. Looks like Christian hes not there yet. Thats not what Im saying, but I think hes got a good start in that department, and we just need to keep working with him and reminding him how important it is.
Q. Bill, Donovan Smith played a lot for you guys last year as a younger guy. What did he do last season speci?cally to kind of show you guys that he was ready for that responsibility, protecting the quarterbacks blind side as a younger guy?
COACH OBRIEN: It started in practice. He practiced very well. He was a little inconsistent last year. I think hes a lot more consistent this year. Hes a big guy, 315 pound guy, whos very nimble, very athletic. Smart guy, instinctive player. So hes a guy that has done a nice job for us. And coming into this year, another guy that I thinks taken his game to the next level, hes improved. Think he gave up a couple of pressures this week, but overall he was the Mac calls it the Boss Hog. He was the Boss Hog of the Syracuse game up front, and he deserved it. So hes an improved player. Fun guy to be around too. Great guy.
Q. Bill, you always say youre constantly evaluating how you do things in the program. With some of the scrutiny that a lot of the stars in college football come under for things they put on the internet, have you evaluated like training programs or things you can say to your guys to avoid the same kind of mistakes?
COACH OBRIEN: Sure, we have. Weve brought in different people. We have different people here in the athletic department. Jeff Nelsons crew here that come over early in the season and talk to us about tweeting and Facebook and all that stuff. And then, obviously, I think its just about daily that Ill stand up in front of the team and just talk to them about maybe its some story thats out there, or maybe its something that one of our guys put out there, but just to constantly remind them that youre a representation youre a representative, excuse me, of Penn State and the Penn State football program, and youre a high pro?le person. Thats just the way it is. Thats what we all signed up for. So its important that you understand whatever you Twitter out there is out there for everybody, you know, to see. And the same thing with the Facebook. So we try to educate our guys all the time on those things as best we can.
Q. Youve had some guys that cut a lot of weight this year, DaQuan Jones being one of them. How hard is it to get these guys to buy into a dietary program like that, getting the right sleep, getting the right nutrition?
COACH OBRIEN: Thats an interesting question. I think, when youre talking to a young guy, a young big guy about losing weight, its not always the easiest thing, especially when these college guys who are rushing from class to come over here to the team meeting to the position meetings, you know, and theyre just grabbing a Big Mac or a Snickers bar or whatever theyre grabbing at the hub, thats when its hard. When youre in pro football, those guys, they have the three meals right there, and theyve got a nutritionist watching them. We have a nutritionist too in Kris Clark, and shes done an excellent job in meeting with all these guys one on one, especially the guys we wanted to talk to that about. I think thats part of it, having a professional talk to them about it and then spelling it out for them. This is what you should have for breakfast. This is what you should have for lunch. This is what you should for dinner. This is what you should have for snacks. I think thats a big part of it too. DaQuans a guy thats taken that to heart.
Q. Can you just evaluate UCF as an opponent and what challenges you guys are going to face this Saturday?
COACH OBRIEN: Yeah, we face a big challenge. Theyre an excellent football team. Theyre very well coached. Theyre sound. Theyre physical. Theyre physical at all positions. Its not like theyre just physical on the offensive and defensive line. To me, theyre a physical team at every position. Our players better be ready to come and show up for a physical football game because this isnt a game this wont be a game for the faint of heart, and thats a Coach OLeary trademark. So one of the things that you have to understand on with their offense is theyve got a really good quarterback. So, again, its hard to totally stop a guy like that, but youve got to try to contain him. Hes very, very good. Hes a pro prospect, Bortles. Defensively, theyre tough, theyre physical. They do some different things that are not easy to go up against, and were going to have to have a great practice week. Like I said, we have to limit our mistakes on Saturday. Right now, going in, Central Florida, I dont believe, has turned the ball over. Weve turned it over way too much. Again, if we go in there and we turn the ball over, were going to have a long night. And commit line of scrimmage penalties and things like that, were going to have a long night. So weve got to understand that and have a great week of practice and be focused and ready to go on Saturday.
Q. Bill, being an 18-year-old college student and starting quarterback at a school like Penn State can be extremely overwhelming. What have you as coaches done to try to simplify
COACH OBRIEN: Try being a head coach. Go ahead. Im just kidding.
Q. What have you guys done to try to simplify things for Christian both on the ?eld and off the ?eld?
COACH OBRIEN: You know, its interesting. Thats something I think about a lot, obviously. 18 years old, like you said, being the starting quarterback at Penn State, thats a big deal, everybody understands that. But hes a guy that is very calm. Hes got a good demeanor. Schools important to him. So he I mean, he cant miss a class with us. But I mean, he wont miss a class. Hell be in every class. Hell sit in the front row. Hell work hard at it. When its time to do football, hell do football. I dont think hes like this guy whos kind of all over the place. Hes a very focused guy. He works at whatever the task is that he needs to accomplish. Hes shown me to date that hes been able to get it done. So I dont think he allows all that stuff to really enter in. Hes very, very focused. Its been fun to watch. Hopefully, we can keep talking to him about that, staying focused, winning the day, taking it one day at a time, and hell continue to be that way.
Q. [No microphone].
COACH OBRIEN: Yeah, de?nitely. And theres other guys like that too in that freshman class, like Breneman. These guys like thats recruiting, though. Thats what happens in recruiting. Theyre on all these websites. Thats great. Thats good for the recruiting websites, but those kids havent done anything yet in college. Once they get to the campus, in some ways, theyre like rock stars, which is ridiculous when you think about it because they havent done anything on the football ?eld in college to deserve that. Now, obviously, Adam and Christian have played in games, and Christian especially has done pretty well. So thats now I understand what youre saying, but, again, Im not with them on campus. I do talk to them every single day, two or three times a day, about different things like class and football. Keep your head down and just keep working and dont worry about all the stuff on campus. The biggest thing is to make sure you get off to a great start academically and play as good as you can on Saturdays and prepare during the week. So I think hes taken that to heart.
Q. Bill, what are some of the things that you learned from last year to now as far as how it relates to trying to balance redshirting young guys when depth concerns come up and that kind of thing? Have you kind of learned anything from that or kind of formulated any kind of a plan if there is such a thing?
COACH OBRIEN: We do. We talk about that all the time. We do have a plan for it. We have a deal where basically on Thursday mornings as a staff, we sit down and look at our depth, where were at injury wise and those kinds of things and say, Okay, is this guy a red light, a green light, or a yellow light? If hes a red light, that means that were not as it relates to freshmen, that were not playing him no matter what happens. If hes a yellow light, that means that, hey, look, it depends on what happens. Two or three guys go down, then this guys going to have to play. And if hes a green light, hes playing. And we de?nitely communicate with the player and try to communicate with the parents on what were thinking as it relates to that player, especially the freshmen is what youre asking about mostly. So its a dif?cult deal. So thats the plan, but that plan changes every week because of your depth at that position. You take, for instance, a kid like Brandon Bell, who we think is going to be a really good player for us. Because of the linebacker depth issue there a little bit, he played last week. He was on special teams and other positions maybe that freshmen like a kid like DaeSean Hamilton, whos injured right now, hes redshirting, so thats good because we have some receivers there that can play. But at other positions we cant. And that will be an evolving process as we go through these so called sanction years. Thats just the nature of the sanctions really.
Q. Bill, you said you learned a lot of lessons from OLeary when you were a graduate assistant and assistant coach. Whats the most important lesson that you think you took away from him, and at least whats part of the philosophy that you adopted from OLeary?
COACH OBRIEN: I think that probably I took two big lessons from him that Ill always have for me in coaching that Ive always kept with me. One was organization. He was a very organized guy, like there wasnt a wasted moment during the day, and that had a lot to do with work ethic. We worked extremely hard, all of us did, when we worked for him. He demanded that of us. So I learned a lot about that. And then I just learned about how important the physical toughness, resiliency of your football team is. Like thats a very important part characteristic of a good football team. And when you dont have that, then youre going to struggle. Im not saying youre going to lose all your games, but its not going to be easy. But when you have that, when you have a physical, resilient, tough football team, then youve got a chance to win games. So those are two things that I learned from him.
Q. Bill, you had mentioned the staff that you guys had at Georgia Tech, and a lot of those guys had gone on.
COACH OBRIEN: Right.
Q. Can you talk about your philosophy of, as a head coach, how much you felt mentored along the way to move up? How much patience was stressed. Just the overall make up of a staff.
COACH OBRIEN: Yeah, I thats an interesting question because Ive had some really just fantastic veteran coaches that have taught me a lot as I was coming up the ranks. And Coach OLeary, Coach Friedgen, they always stressed a do a great job at the job you have. Dont worry about the next job. And the next job will happen as long as that program youre working for wins and youre doing a good job and youre a good person and all those things. So they really stressed patience. Both those guys, Ralph and George, they were probably passed over for many head coaching jobs on the way up the ladder. They didnt get their ?rst head coaching job until they were probably almost 30 years into their career. So they stressed patience, those guys did. And it was the same thing with Coach Belichick in New England, saying, Hey, look, do a great job for us here. Work your butt off every day, and good things will happen. So thats what I try you know, I dont talk to our guys a lot about this, but my philosophy is, if your programs doing well and youre winning, every coach who strives to be a head coach someday should be given that opportunity. The head coach of that program, in my opinion, should not stand in the way of somebody that can improve his own ring on the ladder, so to speak, whether it go from a position to a coordinator or a coordinator to a head coach. So I think everybody wants to be promoted and things like that. So I would never stand in the way of things like that.
Q. Coach, last week it seemed like, when you got in your NASCAR package, it really calmed the offense down and you got in a rhythm in the game. Can you talk about that going up against a tough defense in UCF this week and maybe a little bit about that nationally as its catching on in the NFL. You see a lot with Chip Kelly last night, an amazing ?rst quarter that he had.
COACH OBRIEN: It was unbelievable. It was great. Its kind of a ?ne line that you walk with your tempo. Youre trying to control the tempo of the game. A lot of it has to do with how your defense is playing. With the way our defense has been playing in the last couple games, it was probably appropriate for us to be in more fast tempo because our defense was playing pretty well. I think you have to get the ?ow of the game to see how the games going. I think the big thing is you really its hard to start a drive with ultra fast tempo right away. Its important to gain the ?rst ?rst down, and that kind of gets you ?owing from there. So we havent weve been kind of inconsistent offensively with that, but when weve been able to do that, weve been able to play at a faster pace. I love to play at a fast pace. I think its a lot of fun for the kids. Its fun in practice. They enjoy it. They have a lot of con?dence in it. So well try to keep mixing it in there.
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