Bill O'Brien met the media at Beaver Stadium Tuesday to rehash Penn State's recent loss to UCF, look ahead to the Kent State game and tackle a variety of other topics.
FightOnState.com's Mark Brennan and Greg Pickel break down the PC in the video above.
The transcript below is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
COACH OBRIEN: Just on the injury situation, really its just a matter of bumps and bruises with most everybody. I would say the one guy that is day to day would be Michael Hull. Hes sore. Yesterday, Monday, he was sore. Were going to have to watch him in practice and see how he does. Everybody else is just basically normal for the fourth week of the season. Theres no major injuries. Well have to keep an eye on that. A couple other things I want to talk about real quick. Saturday is blue out day in Beaver Stadium. Thats a big day obviously. All proceeds go to PCAR. That means a lot to our football program, to our university. We encourage everybody to wear blue on that day because, again, like Ive said from day one, one of our commitments here as a football program is to help put an end to that horrible thing called child abuse. Its terrible. Were doing our part on Saturday with that. Also Saturday is what we call all U Day. Its a great day for Penn State because all the Commonwealth campuses are invited to the game. We have a great halftime ceremony for all of them. Were looking forward to hosting all the students to our game on Saturday. Big day on Saturday. Biggest part of our Saturday is our challenging game against Kent State. With that Ill open it up for questions.
Q. Now that youve had a chance to watch ?lm, how would you assess the defenses performance Saturday night?
COACH OBRIEN: We watched it from every angle. We spent a lot of time. We watched it as a staff, both sides of the ball, and special teams. Thats usually what happens when you lose. You try to get together and really observe both sides of the ball and special teams. We have a lot of good coaches on our staff. It was a good meeting on Sunday. Defensively it comes down to tackling. Weve got to tackle better. One thing I want to address right off the bat, I know somebody is going to ask me this question, obviously I respect the question, it has nothing to do with thud. 120 teams in the country all basically practice with thud. Very rare that teams go live anymore, especially if you look at pro football. Youre allowed 17 live practices a year. Thats trickled down to college. It has to be being in better football position, being aligned correctly. I thought we were aligned improperly sometimes. So those are things we can correct. We have to do better and will do better. We have a great coaching staff on that side of the ball, really, good tough players. Coverage wise we have to stay in coverage, stay on top of our man. Cant let people get behind us. Offensively we did some decent things. Again, if you turn the ball over, if you have line of scrimmage penalties, too many three and outs, in a high scoring game, youre going to end up on the losing side. Special teams wise decent things on the kickoff team. I think our kick placement can be better, but we covered it pretty decently, considering the type of returner we had there. We need to punt the ball better, be more consistent with punting the ball. Again, I thought our kids gave great effort on it. Almost broke a kickoff return. Geno had a 40 yarder that was a good return. Have to be more consistent there. Punt return, have to stay on our blocks and be better there. Theres a lot of improvement to make. Had a bunch of guys to show up to work yesterday. Fun group to coach. Theyre going to look to improve this week.
Q. Could you evaluate the tight ends Jesse, Adam and Kyle after a month. At week four, do you see any freshmen moving forward?
COACH OBRIEN: The tight ends, I think all those guys have played solid for us. Kyle Carter basically on the fake ?eld goal against Syracuse, he had an offensive lineman land on his arm, almost broke his arm. He was pretty banged up really all the way through last week. Obviously last week we got him more involved. Hes a good player for us. Hell continue to be more and more involved. Jesse has had a good year. These are young players. I think Jesse is 19. Kyle might have just turned 20. Maybe hes 19. Obviously Adam Breneman is a freshman, probably had his best game last week. Those guys will continue to improve. They work really hard. Fun group of guys to coach. Right now if you look on the offensive side of the ball, we played Adam Breneman, Richy Anderson, obviously Christian. Right now I dont see any other freshmen at this point on offense playing. On defense when you look at the defensive line, right now I wouldnt see any other true freshmen that would play right now. I think at linebacker, obviously weve played Brandon Bell and well continue to try to involve him in special teams and things like that. In the secondary weve played Jordan Smith, Anthony Smith. Those guys will continue to play. Other than that, I dont see any other freshmen playing on that side of the ball.
Q. You mentioned Geno Lewis on the kick returns. What kind of sparks is he giving you there?
COACH OBRIEN: I think on that particular return, he had decent blocking. What he did on that thing is he made a decision. He didnt stutter step at all. Listening to the radio coming home, I heard Derrick Williams on this radio show, fantastic player here, great guy, great kick returner. One of the things he said about the kick returner himself is he said you cant stutter step, you have to hit it, make one cut and go. He is exactly right. On that particular one, thats what Geno did. Thats what we have to continue to develop. The guys need to block a little bit better around him. There was a lot of improvement on that. So hopefully that will continue.
Q. Would you expect to see Christian Hackenberg completing at 71% through his ?rst three games?
COACH OBRIEN: I expect him to complete every pass. Obviously 70% is a good percentage. That is good. I think any time you complete over 70% of your passes, a lot of things are happening well there. Hes throwing well, the guys are making good catches, were protecting well. Its a team effort. When I call a pass, I dont expect it to be incomplete, thats for sure. I expect it to be completed. Its a high standard. Hes done a good job. He needs to keep doing what hes doing. Day to day, try to keep getting better every day. I told him yesterday if he could eliminate six or seven mistakes from his game, that hell keep improving and hell help our football team a lot. Hes made some really good plays for us. Theres six or seven plays within each game he needs to really improve on. In this offense, the quarterback truly is the ?eld general. He runs the show. If you can eliminate those mistakes, youre going to really help your team out a lot. He understands that. Hes a great kid and fun to coach.
Q. How do you evaluate the play so far of Deion Barnes? Doesnt have any tackles for loss or sacks yet or is that not a big deal?
COACH OBRIEN: I think you have to look at the ?lm closely on that. I think hes playing with great effort. Hes an excellent player. I believe people are running away from him. I think that people are giving the tackles help in protection with him. I would, too. Weve got to do things to move him around and help him out a little bit. We will and we have. But Deion to me is playing well. Im glad hes on our team, I can tell you that.
Q. You mentioned how con?dent Christian Hackenberg is with the physical parts of playing quarterback. How has he grown in con?dence as a leader in the huddle with guys that are older than he is?
COACH OBRIEN: I think hes improving with that every week. Hes a self con?dent kid. Hes just got a really good demeanor. Hes sure of himself. He knows he has good ability. Hes a good person. Hes a calm guy, which is great for me, because Im not a calm guy. Its really good. Matt and I last year, sometimes obviously we had similar personalities. Christian is a calm guy and thats good. I think the team feeds off of that. The guys have a lot of con?dence in him. Any time youre completing balls and running the offense the way he is right now, which is pretty decent, guys around you have con?dence. That helps your whole role on the team, too. Hell continue to improve with that.
Q. It looked to us like the offensive line made some steps forward last week, got some more push. Did it look to you that way on ?lm? What did you see in particular that sort of led to that?
COACH OBRIEN: Yeah, youre right. Our offensive line played their best game. They played physical. I thought we pass protected really well. The sacks, again, I think somebody told me this morning weve given up eight sacks, whatever. Most of those sacks arent on the offensive line. Its either holding the ball too long, we dont have a blitz break off. I feel like our guys played their best game. They need to continue from there. Theyre a great bunch of guys, tough. Fun group of guys to be around. Mac does a great job with them. Theyll continue to improve.
Q. A couple of the veteran guys talked about how a team can learn more from a loss than a win. That feeling, is that something you hope the team remembers off a game like that, or does it come down to the Xs and Os?
COACH OBRIEN: I mean, losing is brutal. You do not want to lose. Its just not a good feeling. But what you have to do as a coach and as a player in this sport is you have to immediately pick yourself right back up. I allow them maybe 12 hours of mourning period, then they have to pick themselves back up because you have an opponent on the horizon that is a good opponent. What Ive learned from these kids is they are resilient. They come into the of?ce on Sunday on their own. Thats their day off. Theyre watching ?lm, getting treatment, and are ready to go on Monday. What you can learn from a loss is we lost to a team thats a good team. We didnt play our best; they played very well. In order for us to beat that team last week we had to play a lot better. We understand both from a coaching standpoint and a playing standpoint what we need to do better. Those are good things. You can really see where you need to improve. Hopefully thats what we do. Hopefully we learn from it and we move on and we do the best we can to get a win this week.
Q. You mentioned Christian. What do you see right now he needs to improve most?
COACH OBRIEN: Again, continuing to improve with his knowledge of the offense, continue to basically take it one play at a time, forget the poor play and move on to the next play. Manage the game. Continue to do a good job of managing the game, which I thought for this early in his career hes done a pretty good job of managing the game. Off the last week, continue taking care of the ball. Thats important. So I think theres a lot of things that everybody can improve on every single day. Those are things that hes going to try to improve on.
Q. Wondering if the naked untrained media eye, Adam Gress, how he performed on Saturday? Also along with that, do you evaluate series to series, week to week in practice? How do you decide when guys are sharing a spot who plays?
COACH OBRIEN: Adam played a good game Saturday. Probably played his best game. Hes a big, strong guy. Pittsburgh guy. Great kid. He played his best game. We evaluate that in a lot of different ways. Garry Gilliam has had a good year, too. He did some good things on Saturday, as well. We look at the previous game. We grade that game, whos playing better coming out of that game. We really look at practice, who practices the best on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Thats the only thing thats fair to the guys. We dont just hide it. We show it to them on ?lm. This is where the guy did a little bit better than you. Hes going to start the game. In many ways, it doesnt matter who starts the game because theyre both going to play an equal amount. They both played fairly well to this point in the season and that will continue Im sure.
Q. How would you evaluate the play of your young corners? How much of a learning experience was it for them playing against a quarterback of that caliber?
COACH OBRIEN: They learned a lot last week. They had their share of good plays and they had their share of not so good plays. Start with Lucas. I think hes a really, really good player. Hes tough, strong, got good size, good ball skills. He made his share of mistakes on Saturday, but he also made some real good plays. Had a great tackle on the ?ve yard line one of their drives. Fantastic kid. Hell get better and better and better because he works extremely hard. Really I can say the same thing for Trevor Williams. Hes just a fantastic kid. Just like all of us, made his share of mistakes on Saturday. Has come back to work on Monday. He worked really hard. Hell get better and better and better. Remember, he was a receiver last year. Its really only his third game at corner. No excuse. We expect these guys to go out and play well, but these are young guys. Jordan Lucas, second year in the program. He didnt play a whole lot last year. Theres a lot of improvement to make but theres a lot of good plays he made, too.
Q. You mentioned some of the positives youve taken from the defense. How important is it that you dont overreact and try to overadjust on the defensive side in practice this week?
COACH OBRIEN: We dont overreact. Just come back to work on Sunday, try to review what they did against us. Central Florida, they did a good job on offense. They had some things on defense that gave us some problems. We look at that, how people attack us, try to improve and learn from that. We dont overreact. We have a lot of con?dence in our players, in our coaching ability. We know that theres improvement to make every single day. Thats why we love coaching. Thats why we cant wait to get back to practice on Mondays. Were not changing. All were going to do is try to improve the things that we do and ?gure it out from there. Thats just the way it goes. Thats coaching and thats what well try to do.
Q. Christian said on Saturday after the fumble, he came over and had a few words with him, tried to lift him up. Is that a result of you telling him not to be shy or is that what he does naturally?
COACH OBRIEN: Yeah, I think he does that naturally. I think hes a guy, like I said, hes a mature kid. Nowadays when you look at recruiting, these kids are exposed to so much even before they get here. Theyve spoken to the media. Their picture has been on the front of magazines. Not all of them obviously, but some of these guys, like Christian, theyre kind of ready for this. Theyre ready for the lights in some way, shape or form. I think he has the personality to deal with his teammates. Hes a buddy of Zachs. Everybody felt bad for Zach. I didnt know he did that. Im always talking about him being a leader, doing those things. At the end of the day, thats something he did on his own.
Q. You mentioned all these teams do the thud. Your players seem to think its not that big of a deal. What do you think the public and media see it that way?
COACH OBRIEN: Its probably my fault because I came out and talked about the way we practice. Its not unique. The way we practice is not unique. Theres hundreds of teams out there that practice the same way we practice. Its not unique at all. Ive been places where we never hit. Ive been places where we hit every day and we couldnt tackle anybody. Know what I mean? It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with proper technique. It has to do with wanting to make the tackle. It has to do with being aligned properly. It has to do with how you take the block on. It will improve. Again, I give credit to Central Florida. Theyre a good football. They have some good skill players. Sometimes we tackled them, sometimes we didnt. We watched the tape. We learn from it. We hit. We hit in practice. Well have nine on seven today. We probably hit at Penn State more than a lot of teams that are out there. It has nothing whatsoever to do with that.
Q. You started your press conference talking about that before you were asked. You mentioned Derrick Williams on the radio. Do you pay a lot of attention to what is written or said about the team throughout the season?
COACH OBRIEN: I probably try to read about ?ve or six articles a day. Thats what I try to do so Im as prepared as I can possibly be for this right here. Again, that takes me like 15 minutes. Nothing against your writing (laughter). Its fantastic writing, but it doesnt take me long. I pick ?ve or six articles, or Tony will send me ?ve or six articles. Ill read up and see whats being said. I think thats important. Thats part of my job as the head football coach here, is to make sure I know whats going on not just in that little of?ce there. I try to do that. Thats what I do. Thats what I do. I dont tweet, Facebook, blog, whatever. I dont do all that stuff. I just read the articles.
Q. You were asked postgame about third downs. Is that symptomatic of not just third down, but is it something else? First and second downs put you in situations for third down.
COACH OBRIEN: Well ?x it. One of the things, too, theres a big picture deal that you have to look at, too. Look at the amount of points we scored in three games. Its pretty good. Its not great. But its over 30 points a game, which is good. The bottom line is you need to score points. I think were 10 for 10 in the red area, which is good. Once we get the ball in the scoring zone, were scoring. Were pretty good on fourth down. Thats good. I think weve only missed maybe one or two fourth downs. Thats pretty good. So you look at third down. Weve studied it a lot over the last few days. Part of it, we have to call better plays. I have to call better plays. Part of it, we have to execute better. Part of its what were doing. I believe it will improve because I believe were a decent offense. I dont believe were where we want to be. Its one of those things that is not where it needs to be and I think it will improve.
Q. You brie?y touched on wanting to improve your punting situation. With Alex, what can you do with him, one on one with him? Is there anybody on staff with a background in punting?
COACH OBRIEN: I work with him and Larry Johnson works with him quite a bit. We both have a background with that. He works really hard. He comes to work every day. I dont mean to say that hes punting poorly. I just think hes inconsistent. I think we have to get him to be more consistent because he can boom in practice, Ive seen him do it in a game, 45 yarder, 46 yarder, then he has the 32 yarder. I just need him to be more consistent. Thats what were trying to do with him in practice.
Q. Is that a fundamental thing with Alex?
COACH OBRIEN: It starts with fundamentals obviously. Not to get into all the details of punting. The snap has to be better. It all works through the snap. If the snap is out of the framework of your body, youre going to have a bad kick. You have to get the ball back into the tunnel of your body, kick the ball straight. You cant cross leg it. If you do that, the ball will end up not going very far. Obviously to me its about, hey, look, Alex, I told him yesterday, I think youre a good punter. Lets have some con?dence going out there and booming the ball. Thats what were talking about doing. Probably the most improved player on our team, so maybe I should have Ficken coach him.
Q. Im sure youve stressed starting the game off strong. You have yet to score ?rst this season. What would you like to see improve as far as ?rst half execution?
COACH OBRIEN: They got the ball and scored ?rst, but we answered it. We had a couple of three and outs during that half that werent very good. We played better in the second half. We stress it, but I dont overanalyze it. I think what we have to do is make sure we do what I call string plays together. Weve got to get a positive play on ?rst down. If we end up losing ?ve, having a penalty on ?rst down, were not going to start the game fast. Lets do things we know were good at, we know the kids have con?dence in, lets get out there and move the ball. Weve got a mixture of a younger, older team. Thats part of it. I think as the guys get more and more into these games, theyll start better.
Q. Back to the start of pre season. When Christian got here, did you have a thing in your mind of wanting the quarterbacks to know this, this and this by the end of the ?rst week, third week? Was Christian able to exceed that or did you take it by what he did?
COACH OBRIEN: We spend a lot of time in the off season talking about our installation for spring practice and training camp. We de?nitely have day goals, this is what we want installed, we want the kids to know by day. We have weekly goals. Base defense, base offense, nickel defense, third down offense, red zone. We have a schedule there. Yeah, thats basically what we do.
Q. As involved in the offense as you are, how much do you engage the defense in the role of the head coach?
COACH OBRIEN: Im very involved with the defense. Im in their meetings. What I do on offense is I meet with the offensive staff early in the morning, then I go to the defensive staff meeting. With the kids, I install the offensive game plan early in the week. As the week goes on, the coaches run those meetings. I can get in the defensive meeting. I have a ton of con?dence in our staff on both sides of the ball. We have a fantastic group of coaches here. But Im involved with all areas. I do a deal at the end of the week where I call special teams, offense and defense with the whole team. Im involved with all facets of it.
Q. A little bit of a loaded question for you. I dont know if you heard anything about LSU students who posted inappropriate signs this past weekend. Penn State has faced things like this before. How important is it in your mind that opposing fans dont cross the line and take things too far?
COACH OBRIEN: Im sorry, I dont know anything about the LSU deal. What Ill say about that, sorry if it doesnt answer your question, but I think the fans here at Penn State are fantastic. I cant say enough about what those fans meant to us last week. I feel bad we didnt deliver a win for them because I thought it was a great atmosphere. It was a night atmosphere. I thought the students were fantastic. I thought all the fans were great. I hope theyre having a good game day experience because were trying to work on that behind the scenes. But I cant say enough about our fans, especially our student body. I would love to thank each and every one of them personally if I could do it, but I cant, so Ill use this forum to do it.
Q. I know you dont like to talk about last year. Matt seemed to have a willingness last year. At times it seems like Christian hangs on to it a little too long. Are those things he can work on?
COACH OBRIEN: Matt was a ?fth year senior. Matt played a lot of football here at Penn State. Matt was 23 years old. This kid is 18. Everything is new to him. Every game is new to him. I would say as the games go on, hell have a better idea of what I call the silent alarm. The silent alarm for a quarterback means as you drop back to pass, you have to know when the journey is over. If you think somebody is going to come open with a 65 290 defensive end bearing down on you, youre probably wrong. You need to get rid of it, ?nd a lane to scramble. At times hes done a good job of that. Found the opening, slid. At other times hes held the ball a little long. We always try to improve that. That will come naturally to him. That will get better and better for him, I believe.