Penn State linebacker coach Brent Pry held a conference call with reporters Thursday.
Pry, who also serves as assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator, talked about upcoming opponent Ohio State, young LBs Nyeem Wartman, Brandon Bell, Troy Reeder and Jason Cabinda, injured LB Ben Kline, recruiting, play-calling, subbing, and more.
Here are some highlights of the call.
On Ohio State
They have more team speed on offense than anyone we've seen. He said he would compare that team speed to what he would see from top opponents in the SEC. At WR, OSU has multiple guys who can run and are dangerous after the catch. There are quality backs that can run with vision. Also, the QB is a heck of an athlete in his own right. He can throw the ball around, especially in that system. He also scrambles and does things on set runs. The tight ends are big and good blockers. There's not a weak component to the guys they can get the ball to. There are so many weapons, PSU really can't bracket certain top players like it can with most teams. Sometimes you can home in on one or two guys. These guys don't let you do that.
On LB Nyeem Wartman
There are two qualities that impress Pry the most. No. 1, he has so much maturity for being a redshirt sophomore. He's a mature kid and has a great mentality and very good understanding of the position. No. 2, he's got great knee bend and agility for a big guy who weighs about 240. His lateral movement is right there in the neighborhood of Mike Hull. He's a good athlete and physical. Also, I thought at Michigan, watching him play one-handed with that cast on, I was impressed. He played physical, he played hard, he wasn't bashful. He made plays. He stuck his face in there.
On Brandon Bell
I was excited about Nyeem and Mike coming out of camp. Brandon, I still had some questions marks. We ask a lot out of that field 'backer -- there's a certain skill set we'd like and Brandon's skill set is a little different. While his skill set is a better fit for the Will spot, Wartman is there. However, Brandon has done a tremendous job growing into that position. Now that he is getting comfortable, they'd like to expand his role. I'd like to see him get a little more explosive in our blitz package. He also said, for a true sophomore, Bell is a leader type. People look up to him in the locker room. You'd think he was a redshirt junior or senior.
On recruits coming in for the Ohio State game
This is obviously a big recruiting weekend. Everybody, as a prospect, wants to come see Penn State-Ohio State, the White Out, sold-out stadium. He said when prospects made official visits last January, they were still talking about last season's White Out game vs. Michigan.
On defensive play calling
DC Bob Shoop call the plays from the box, where a GA assists him. Pry, Sean Spencer and Terry Smith all have input from the field. The final call is Shoop's, but, I think Bob does a nice job of taking feedback. It's ultimately going to be Bob's decision, but he's good at taking input from the sideline.
On injured LB Ben Kline
Obviously, if he was healthy and playing, his impact would go a long way. But Kline has still made an impact as a team leader and someone who is not afraid to approach the coaching staff about possible issues. He's everything you want your players to embody. I think he's one of the most respected guys in this building.
On redshirting LB Troy Reeder
He's a guy who travels every week to the hotel, home and away. He prepares as if he's going to play. He's picked up the defense really well. He has good size and good speed. Through the first half of the season, If something happened to (MLBs) Gary Wooten or Mike Hull, I had no reservation about playing Troy.
On LB Jason Cabinda
Cabinda came out of a redshirt vs. Northwestern when Wartman could not play due to injury. To be honest with you, I was teetering on playing Jason (anyway). I wasn't sure I could get through the year without playing him. He is a great student of the game, he's very mature, he's a good student in the classroom. He has an overall confidence that you don't see in a lot of guys. To me, there was not a bright-lights, big-stadium effect on Jason. That was one reason we decided on playing him ahead of someone else. He was good against the run vs. NU but has to get better against the pass. When he got to PSU, he was more skilled as a running back. He has some growing to do fundamentally and technique-wise as a linebacker. But Pry has seen improvement weekly.
On creating more turnovers
He said they work on strippin' and rakin' and dog fights in practice all the time. Sometimes turnovers come in bunches, and we're due for some. Also, As we get more comfortable in our scheme, I think the guys will react a hair quicker, which will be the difference.
Different position coaches have different philosophies. As for Pry, there's certain guys I have confidence in and feel good about using them no matter the game situation. Gary Wooten is a guy I have confidence (in) to put in a game. But at the same time, if Mike Hull is fresh -- (and) over the course of the game and the way the game is going, it's not necessary to give Mike a blow -- I'm not gonna do it (sub for him). In other words, You want to have your best players on the field as often as you can. With most positions, your second guy is not as good as your first.