Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer held a conference call with the media Thursday morning. Here is some of what he had to say.
On the adjustment of junior college transfer DT Tarow Barney to playing at Penn State:
Being a junior college guy and having played against college-level competition has helped him. (But) the speed of the game is a lot faster in the Big Ten and (against) other teams we play. He added that Barney is a pretty intelligent football player who can pick things up pretty fast. I'm happy with his progress.
On the overall play of the D-line to this point of the season:
I think we started out pretty fast, especially one guy in particular - (DT) Anthony Zettel. That group right there (the starters) is doing a good job. I wouldn't say great, but a good job. They know the level of expectations has risen every week.
On areas of improvement for the D-line:
Consistency in our pad level, gap control. Sometimes we try to make plays, and in trying to make those plays, we get out of our gaps. It's a difference between making a play outside of the gap and doing what you're supposed to do and making a play within the framework of the defense.
On coaching to particular players' skill sets:
Early in my coaching career, I was black and white with it. This is the way it's supposed to be. But as you get older, you learn every player has a different skill set. So he designs things to take advantage of each player's skill set.
On redshirt freshman DT Parker Cothren, whom he recruited while at Vanderbilt:
I made a joke when I got here, you thought you got away from me but I've got you now. He's a guy who's improved every week. He added that Cothren is extremely athletic. He's got the highest vertical of all the D-tackles. He's actually a good basketball player. Later, he said, Parker Cothren is probably the most productive of all the guys who have gone in with that second unit. Of that group right now, Parker's been the spark we've needed.
On how he got his nickname, Coach Chaos:
He said it happened at Vanderbilt, and came from strength coach Dwight Galt. If you've gotten a chance to meet me, I'm kind of hyper, running around all the time. Coach Galt finally said one day, 'Guys, follow Coach Chaos.' It stuck. He said he had always told his linemen to play with chaos, which prompted Galt to give him the nickname.
“It's not a position you can chill and just hang out. These guys have to go all the time. When they see their coach like that, they feed off that.”
On showing so much enthusiasm:
It's not a position you can chill and just hang out. These guys have to go all the time. When they see their coach like that, they feed off that.
On how he relates to Zettel, who is known for being intense, too:
He goes hard from the beginning of the game until the end of the game. You have an unbelievable work ethic. He loves football. He loves what he does. He plays hard, a real disciplined guy. I let him be himself, much like Coach (James) Franklin lets me be myself. That helps me and it helps Anthony.
He's a little flighty at times, but I embrace it. He's gonna be coo-coo at times, but I love that about him and the guys feed off it. He's so intense. It's a pleasure to coach a guy like that.
On some of the young D-linemen we've not seen much of this season:
(DT) Antoine White's got a bright future. He's got unbelievable twitch. He gets off the football. He's gonna be a guy you're gonna be talking about for years to come. (DE) Torrence Brown is a pleasant surprise. Very dynamic 35-, 36-inch vertical. He's going to give us the pass rush we need. (DE) Curtis Cothran is a guy that's very twitched up and we're excited about him. I think we've got some guys who (in time) can do some things and make some noise in this conference.
On his adjustment to life in State College and at Penn State:
He attended Clarion and previously coached at Shippensburg, so living in Pennsylvania is not a big adjustment. However I've never been at such a scale and stage as Penn State. The one thing that is a little different here, people recognize you a lot more because it is a small town. You go out to eat, you look over your shoulder, and someone is talking to you. I embrace that. This is one of the top jobs in the country. It's a blessing to me.
On the D-line's play in the loss to Northwestern:
The D-line is the strength of this team, and every week we have to step up to the challenge. When we don't do that, it's a disappointment to me. We need to make plays that we made in prior games, and that's one of the things we have to continue to get better at.