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PENN STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 9, 2012
THE MODERATOR:¬† Welcome to Penn State football media day.¬† We'll start with questions for Coach O'Brien.
Q.¬† Coach, considering everything that's happened in the last couple weeks, how's the morale and the mood of the team been these first few days of practice?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† The morale's been excellent.¬† The first day we got them up early.¬† We got them up at 5:15.¬† These kids were ready to go.¬† They showed up early for practice that day. ¬†Has everything been pretty at practice?¬† No.¬† But there's been a lot of hard working, a lot of guys out there that really care about each other, care about playing for Penn State, care about going to school here, and the morale's been excellent.
Q.¬† Could you describe the uncertainty that you felt during the final days before the start of camp and kids were making their decision?¬† How confident are you now that guys will be with you throughout the season?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† I try not to live in the world of uncertainty.¬† I take it day by day, situation by situation.¬† I felt very good about our staff and our relationship with our players.¬† I definitely felt like there was a trust there.¬† I knew that there would be some guys that left, and I respect those decisions.¬† Those guys made those decisions individually and with their families.¬† I'm confident the football team we have here today is going to stick together.
Q.¬† After the sanctions were announced, you said you had a plan to move forward in terms of dealing with the scholarship restrictions and the other limitations.¬† Can you tell us more details about that plan?¬† Have you implemented any of that?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† I'm not going to get into the details of that plan.¬† That's between myself, my staff, and our athletic department.¬† I will tell you though that there is a plan.¬† It involves a lot of different areas, and yes, the plan has already taken place.¬† But that's my business, and that is the business of the football team and the football staff and the athletic department here.¬† That is not anybody else's business right now.
Q.¬† The team seems so close from the outside and the coaches.¬† Can you talk about how you formed your bond with them and give some insight as to how close this team really is in practice and that?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Strong relationships are built on trust and honesty and telling the truth.¬† That's where relationships begin, and that's how you strengthen relationships, because you stay true to that principle and those principles.
So these kids are fantastic kids.¬† We've got guys that are great students.¬† We've got guys here that love to play football.¬† We've got guys here that have a passion for playing for Penn State.¬† We have guys that understand why we're in the position that we're in and they're going to help guide us through the next few years.¬† No question about that.
Every day you go to work as a head coach, or, I can speak for my staff here, we just really enjoy coaching these guys every single day.
Q.¬† Following up on that, can you compare the unity on this team and the effect of the last few months, and how that's affected the unity and how that might translate to the field?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Time will tell.¬† Time will tell.¬† I think at the end of the day football is about good execution, playing together as a team, trying to play through the ups and downs in every single game.¬† Don't turn it over, play good on special teams, play good on defense.
I told the team last night, look, the toughness of our football team will be determined in three ways.¬† It will be the ability to stop the run.¬† It will be the ability to run the ball, and it will be our coverage teams, our kickoff cover, our punt cover, our ability to get down there and make the tackle, create turnovers.
So unity will have a lot to do with that.¬† But at the end of the day, we've got to go out and execute and play good football.
Q.¬† Over the last two weeks, if you could ballpark how much of your time was spent trying to keep the roster together and specifically what did that process include to try to keep these guys on the team?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Again, it was there were a lot of team meetings.¬† There were a lot of individual conversations that I had with individual players.¬† Those two things I'll keep between myself, my team, and those individual players.¬† But again, the common phrases are unity, one team, sticking together, commitment, education, 108,000, TV, a great weight room, chance to develop as a player.¬† So these were things that we spoke to the team quite a bit about.
Q.¬† Compared to where you were in the spring, what are your observations a few practices in now with how these guys are grasping your offense having the playbook all summer?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† We had a good staff meeting this morning.¬† We talked about the fact that these guys are much farther ahead than they were at the end of spring practice just with the terminology an understanding what we're trying to do.
I would say the defense is a little ahead of the offense right now, but that is usually the case in training camp unless Tom Brady is your quarterback.¬† So we make strides every day offensively.¬† I think there are flashes where he can be a very consistent offense, but we've got to continue to work the kinks out every single day.
Q.¬† Could you speak to the leadership on this team, kind of related to some earlier answers you gave, but it would seem with the players that are come forward publicly and so forth, it wouldn't seem to be a concern of yours?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† We have a really strong senior class.¬† That's where it starts.¬† You can't say enough about our seniors.¬† Hodges, Mauti, Hill, Zordich, McGloin, Stankiewitch, you just‑‑ Farrell, you cannot say enough about our senior leadership.
Then we have a group of young players, younger players, guys that aren't seniors, that I think are really good football players that are also part of that leadership group.¬† Billy Belton, Adrian Amos‑‑ one senior I didn't mention, I should mention in the secondary, two of them are Stephon Morris and Malcolm Willis.¬† But getting back to that younger group, you have those guys, Donovan Smith, Kyle Carter.¬† You've got good freshmen leaders that you can see already in our freshmen class.
So we've got leaders all the way through the football team, and I think that says a lot about those kids, and we're letting them lead.¬† That's been good.¬† So it's a strong senior class, but it trickles down throughout the team.
Q.¬† You've had a crazy couple weeks with the sanctions being handed down, players leaving.¬† You open the season in a couple weeks.¬† What kind of product do you think will be on the field?¬† Do you feel confident about your team and the level of play people will see?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† We expect to out there every single game and put a good product on the field.¬† We expect to out there every single game and be prepared.¬† We expect to out there every single game and do our best and play extremely hard.¬† We expect to go out there with the mindset in every game that we're going to win, and that is the way it's always going to be here.
As long as I'm the head coach here, it's not going to be any different theme or themes.¬† So that's what we expect to do.¬† These kids practice hard, put a lot of time in.¬† And we'll show up on September 1st.
Q.¬† Emotionally it's kind of an us-against-the-world approach?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Say that again, I'm sorry.
Q.¬† Emotionally, the team has gone through a lot with the sanctions.¬† Are you taking that us against the world approach, a chip on your shoulder?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† I think we have to be very, very mindful of that.¬† In the competitive arena when we go out and play games, I can see where that may come into play a little bit.¬† Just the emotional part of the game and guys going out there like with any football team, you have to play the sport of football with somewhat of a chip on your shoulder.¬† But at the end of the day, these kids understand why we're in this position.
Instead of saying it's us against them, let's go out and play good football and think about the fact that maybe this is a little bit about more than football.¬† That this is about helping a community.¬† This is about bringing more awareness, much more awareness to child abuse.¬† This is about making sure that we help lead this University.¬† Not lead it, but be a part of leading this University through the next three or four years that will be a challenge, but that's what life is about.
Yeah, when we play football, just like the team that's we're playing, we'll have a chip on our shoulder just like every football team should.¬† But at the end of the day it's not us against the world.¬† It's about Penn State.¬† These kids caring about their education, and the fact that they have a chance to go out there and do something pretty special in a lot of different ways.
Q.¬† How much progress have you seen from Matt McGloin since the spring, and what is his grasp of the new offense at this point?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† I feel good about Matt.¬† He's definitely made a ton of progress.¬† This is a guy that the more you're around him, the more you enjoy coaching him.¬† I would say the same about all four of these guys, Paul Jones, Shane McGregor, and Steven Bench.¬† These are good guys to be around.
But Matt is competitive; he's smart; he's understanding defenses better; he's understanding what formation, what play we're in, and what the best plays are to run versus the defense that he sees.¬† So I've seen a lot of progress with Matt, and it's been a lot of fun watching it.
Q.¬† The team has decided to put the names on the uniforms.¬† As you go forward, how do you describing a balance between keeping things that have been traditions here a long time and looking to turn a new page in some areas?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† I'm very respectful of the traditions here.¬† Very respectful.¬† But it's a new era of Penn State football in many ways, and the reason for the names on the back of the jerseys is, there are a few‑‑ I want people to recognize the fact that these are kids that are special, competitive kids that care about education, that care about Penn State, and have gone through some tough times over the last year as a team, individually, and they've stuck with us.¬† I think that says a lot about these kids, and I want people to recognize these kids.
At the same time, I want people to understand that these are the kids that in many ways are going to reach out to the community and help lead this University through the next few years in many different ways in the community.¬† Whether it's Special Olympics, whether it's Thon, you know, child abuse organizations, all the things that we're going to do, these are kids that will be part of that, and I want people to recognize it.
But again, at the end of the day, to me going into this year, the most important patch on the uniform is the blue patch and blue ribbon that will signify putting an end to child abuse.¬† To me, that is the most important patch on the uniform or wherever we're going to put it.
Q.¬† What did you see from Bill Belton when you first arrived here that you decided to move him to running back A?¬† How does he look so far?¬† Do you think he's capable of carrying the ball 20 times a game?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Yes.¬† Yes.¬† When we first got here, running backs have a certain look to them.¬† Most running backs range in size between 5'9", and 5'11", unless it's Danny Woodhead who is a special case, or Adrian Peterson who is a big dude.¬† But most guys are 5'11".¬† They're built.¬† They're muscular; they're built low to the ground.¬† We notice that right away.¬† So it was kind of the body type.
I said you went with the receivers and I said where you going?¬† He said I'm a receiver.¬† No, you're a running back.¬† So we put him at running back, and he showed us he has really good feet.¬† He's got a unique ability to be able to balance, put his hand on the ground ask balance himself and spin.¬† He's done a much better job, knock on wood, in the first three days of ball security.¬† He has really good hands out of the back field.¬† So I feel good about Billy.
I think he's grown up in the last six or seven months.¬† I think Charles London has done a heck of a job coaching him.¬† Can he carry the ball 20 to 25 times a game?¬† I think he can.¬† Fitzy's got him ready to go to take the pounding in the Big Ten.¬† But we have other backs that we think can help us too.¬† Derek Duke.¬† Dukes has shown some good things early in preseason camp, and Akeel Lynch, the freshman, is going to be a decent player.¬† So we've got a lot of guys back there.
Q.¬† What is the status of your special teams and how challenging is it going to be to get the right guys out there considering some of the injuries and some of the guy that's left?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Sure.¬† Special teams I feel pretty good about.¬† I know kickingwise we've got some things we're working through there.¬† That is specifically at punter we've got Butterworth, and Marcincin battling it out out there.¬† Both those guys have shown flashes of being good punters.¬† Then we've got the placekicker, Sam Ficken who so far in practice has kicked the ball consistently and done a good job there.
As far as the people around them, the coverage teams and return teams, I feel good about these guys that are in those roles, accepting those roles.¬† We have some starters doing some things there.¬† But I think we spend a lot of time on it. ¬†We spend three periods a day on it, meet on it every day.¬† So I expect us to go out there and be a solid special teams football team.
Q.¬† Could you assess the wideouts and the two or three guys, if you can at this point, who might be able to stretch the field out for you and keep you from facing nine in the box all the time?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Yeah, we feel good about the wide receivers.¬† It goes back to with all due respect to everybody in here, and I do have a ton of respect for you guys, but nobody's in that building.¬† Nobody sees what we see.¬† Specifically with that position, we have Shawney Kersey, Allen Robinson.¬† These guys are 6'3", they both can run, jump, they have great hands.¬† They're good competitors.¬† They're tough.¬† We've got slot receivers, Alex Kenney, Evan Lewis who has had a good camp so far, both those guys.¬† So we feel good.
Matt Zanellato yesterday had a decent practice, one of his better practices, and Christian Kuntz has done some good things early on in training camp.¬† These guys are going to go out and battle and show up.¬† I've got a pretty good idea they'll make some plays?
Q.¬† Given everything that's transpired since you've taken the job, especially in the last few weeks, can you speak to how much different seceding Joe Paterno has been than you could have ever imagined?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† I don't even think about that.¬† I don't think about seceding anyone.¬† I just try to come to work every day with a great staff, great group of kids.¬† Take it day‑to‑day, keep things in perspective.¬† Understanding that this is about educating young men.¬† This is about doing the best job you can to teach them how to play football your way.¬† This is about a great University with 600,000 alums.
We had lettermen show up last week, 450 lettermen showed up.¬† This is a special place.¬† Now we all have to come together and realize we're in the position we're in.¬† We have to.¬† We have to stop arguing about it, and we've got to move forward.
But at the end of the day, I don't think about anything other than today.¬† Getting through as fast as we can this media day, so we can get back to start meeting again, so we can have a great practice, and then try to get back in the routine.
See, you guys upset our routine with this.¬† So those are the things I think about.
Q.¬† You touched on Fitzgerald and how he's helped with Bill Belton.¬† In the past how Penn State approached strength and conditioning programs was different.¬† How have you seen guys buy into what Craig's offered?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† I turned Fitzy into a rock star.¬† I was busting his chops about that the other day.¬† But he's got a unique ability and great knowledge of strength training, Olympic lifting, conditioning, speed and quickness.¬† How to get that improved.¬† Then he's got that ability to really coach the guys and challenge them and coach them hard, but teach them.
When they're done working out, you see ten of them in his office, talking to him about things other than weightlifting and speed because that is the type of guy he is.¬† He and I are great friends, have a lot of respect for each other, and he's meant a lot to this program, and he'll mean a lot to this program for hopefully a long time.
Q.¬† You've preached the message several times about the need to accept what's happened and to move forward.¬† Does the fact that several groups are trying to appeal these sanctions, does that hinder what you're trying to do and distract what you're trying to do?¬† Can you speak to that?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† I respect everybody's individual decision to do what they have to do, what they think is right.¬† That is their individual opinion or their group's opinion, and I respect that.¬† I would never step into the middle of that.¬† That's not what I want to do.¬† I'm here to be the football coach.
I've got to make sure that our football team does a great job of coming together, playing as good of football as they can play and then involving themselves in the community in many ways because we've got to move forward.¬† We can't keep‑‑ I always talk about this meeting can't be a review of the last meeting.¬† We have to accomplish what we did in the last meeting, put those‑‑ implement those ideas and then move on to the next meeting.¬† We've got to get going that way, forward.
So that is my goal with this football team.¬† Hopefully that helps the University.
Q.¬† How important is winning to you, and do wins and losses mean more or less this year than they usually do?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Winning‑‑ I mean, I respect the question, but winning is hugely important.¬† Will we win at all costs here?¬† No, that's not what I'm saying.¬† Every time you step into a drill, every time you step on to a practice field in a competitive situation, every time you step on this field, your goal is to win.¬† We have a saying.¬† We will never accept losing at Penn State.
Now does that mean we're going to win every game?¬† No.¬† But we've got to learn from the loss and come out a better team the next week.¬† But we're going to go out there and try to win every week.
Q.¬† When you came into the job, did you have any notions how you wanted to use freshmen, and have the events of the last month changed that?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† The events of the last month haven't changed that.¬† I want to play the best players.¬† So I knew when these guys would come into training camp, if they went on the field and knew their assignments and produced and did a good job of taking the coaching and showed us they were going to play, the events of the last few weeks, whatever, they haven't changed that mindset at all.¬† Not at all.
Q.¬† You talked about moving forward several times.¬† In light of the restrictions and sanctions coming up in the next few years, how important is it to set a tone this year with the performance on the field and off the field as well?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† It's important to set a tone every day.¬† It's not year to year.¬† It's important to come in there every single day you go into a meeting, whether you're the head coach, coordinator or position coach and set the tone for that day.¬† So that's my job.¬† My job is to make sure every day I do the best I can to prepare the football team for that day which hopefully leads to that week, that game, that year.¬† So that is basically the mindset that I take.
Q.¬† Is there a phase of your team that concerns you more than another area or aspect?¬† And can you comment on what the losses have meant to your team from an overall depth perspective?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† There is no area that keeps me up at night.¬† I tried to get five or six hours of sleep at night so there is no area that I sit there and worry about.¬† I do think in the secondary we've got some depth issues there, which we had going into the season or before the NCAA sanctions.
So I do worry about just making sure that we're keeping a good tab on our team and making sure that they are not‑‑ we're not overworking them.¬† Making sure we do a good job keeping them healthy.¬† We have some hamstrings and that.¬† But there is no one area that concerns me.
As far as the losses, we've had some guys transfer, and those are the individual decisions.¬† The next guy steps up, next guy is ready to go.¬† It's your chance to shine.¬† That's why you're here.¬† Some of those guys, that's why you're on scholarship and let's get going.¬† That's like in pro football, isn't it the same as if a guy came into the season and was injured and couldn't play the rest of the season?¬† Can't that happen at a moment's notice in football?¬† Yes.¬† So these guys need to step up and be ready to play.
Q.¬† How closely is what you're doing in this training camp to maybe what you did at the NFL level?¬† What are some of the restrictions that prevent you from doing some things that you were able to do with the Patriots?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† The one thing that's good about the NCAA as it relates to preseason is you only have one practice a day for the first five days here, so that's good because you get a lot of meeting time, then walk through time, and you're able to go out there and practice.¬† So we do form our practice schedule similar to what we did in New England.
But at the end of the day, we can have a fairly long practice during these one‑a‑days and keep guys healthy.¬† Practice will be more of a walk through and things like that, and that's kind of how it is in pro football.
After the CBA came out, there are not a ton of two‑a‑days in pro football anymore.¬† It's a hard practice and more of a lighter practice.¬† So that is the model that we're following.
Q.¬† The underlying attitude of everything around here for nine months has been necessarily grim and dour or at best kind of resolute, nose to the grindstone.¬† But a team, I'm thinking, can't work that way all the time.¬† Have you gotten to any point where there is a little levity in a few moments that we don't see?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† I'm telling you, we've had a fun camp.¬† We're very positive.¬† We like to laugh.¬† If you've been around our staff a lot, there is a lot of chop busting going on.¬† Same thing with the players.¬† The players have respect for us, but it's football.¬† We have fun, we come compete.
At the same time, as it relates to everything that's gone on around here, we're very mindful of what happened here.¬† But it's time, in my opinion‑‑ this is just my opinion‑‑ it's time to stop the dour attitude, it's time to think about ways to help us through this.¬† It's time to understand that we've got to move the University, the athletic department and the football team forward.
Does that mean we're going to go on a 36‑game winning streak?¬† I don't know.¬† We're going to go out every day and try to compete and win and do the best we can.¬† But we've got to be positive about this University.¬† We've got to be positive about this athletic program.
We've got 31 head coaches here.¬† Some of the best coaches I've been around.¬† We've got to be positive about the football program.¬† Like I said a couple weeks ago, people need to jump on board and keep supporting us in all the thing that's we're going to do:¬† Playing football, community involvement, going to school, all the things that these kids are going to be involved in.
Q.¬† Dakota Royer announced yesterday that he was leaving the team but staying in school due to circumstances beyond his control is what he said in his statement.¬† Can you shed any light on that?¬† Is he costing you a scholarship?¬† Is he still on scholarship?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† You'd have to ask him about circumstances.¬† You'd have to ask him.¬† I respect Dakota, think he's a great kid.¬† He's just decided not to play football anymore.¬† I'll keep the conversation between him and me.¬† That's the rule.¬† That is the NCAA rule.¬† They're allowed to stay on scholarship and not play, so that's the rule.
Q.¬† You mentioned Lynch is one of the true freshmen that will step up.¬† Any others stepping up that you might be relying on especially in the defensive back field?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Yes, let's talk about the freshmen class as a whole.¬† This is a class that we've been very impressed with.¬† It's an athletic class.¬† It's a smart class footballwise.¬† We've seen guys come in there and pick things up.¬† We were kind of taken aback saying these guys are picking this up pretty decently.
In the secondary so far I've seen Da'Quan Davis.¬† I think he's a good communicator, a tough kid.¬† I think he's got good quickness, and I've enjoyed watching him play.¬† I think we've got Jordan Lucas back there that is an athletic guy that can play corner or safety.¬† I've been very happy with him.¬† And Jake Kiley we're playing at safety, and he's picking it up.
On the offensive side of the ball I've seen really good things from Eugene Lewis, the receiver.¬† I've seen good things from Trevor Williams.¬† I've seen good things from Brent Wilkerson, and our two offensive linemen, Anthony Stanko and Wendy Laurent have shown some good things.¬† I've been happy with the class.¬† Akeel has shown flashes of being able to help us.
That doesn't mean when they get over here you're allowed to talk to them.¬† Stay away from the freshmen and talk to the older guys.¬† But these guys are going to help us.
Q.¬† What is the status with Jordan Kerner's off field issues what is his status?¬† Is he suspended?¬† What is the status of Jordan Kerner?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Yeah, he was medical.¬† That's not a discipline issue at all.¬† He was medicaled with a various number of injuries.
Q.¬† No, Jordan Kerner from Fairview?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Yeah.
Q.¬† He has a summary trial coming up.
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Yeah, that's not something for me to comment on right now.¬† I'm just talking about his medical issues with us.
Q.¬† So he's still on scholarship?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† He's still on scholarship, Yep.
Q.¬† And he's not suspended?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† No.
Q.¬† How would you say the team's cohesiveness has been after losing a few of your starting players and a few other players in the first couple of days of practice?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Did you just get here?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† I feel good about our cohesiveness.¬† I think we've come together as a team very well.¬† There is a lot of camaraderie.¬† These guys are working hard, there is unity, and I feel really good about where they're at right now.
Q.¬† You kept talking about how you couldn't wait to coach.¬† How much of these past few days have been maybe a little bit of a return to the Norm for you compared to everything that's happened?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Yeah, it was great to get out on the field and coach and get back to really what you love to do, and that is to teach and to compete and to communicate with your players on the football field.¬† It's been a lot of fun to get back out there on the field.
Q.¬† To follow up, September 1st is still your first game as a head coach in college football.¬† With everything that's been going o how has that affected your nerves, per se, leading up to what will be your first game as a head coach?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Do I look nervous?¬† I don't know.¬† Again, I keep things in perspective.¬† I try to prepare the team every single day, and I'm looking forward to the first game.¬† But I'm thinking about today's practice.
Of course when I'm sitting in that locker room before we go out for the first game, of course I'll have butterflies.¬† That's what a competitor has.¬† But it's my job to focus on the football team, the situation in the game, and call the plays and do a great job with the football team.¬† So that's what I'm looking forward to.
Q.¬† How do you feel different as a head coach today in August as you did when you were introduced in January?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Sure I feel a lot more confident in my knowledge of our team and knowing our players and knowing what type of team we may have.¬† I feel a lot more confident in that just from being here and getting to know these kids.¬† I feel really good about our staff, working with these guys.¬† We've got good chemistry on the staff.¬† They're really hard workers and good communicators, so I feel good about that.
So, yeah, I feel better about where I am now than where I was seven months ago just from knowledge.
Q.¬† You touched on this a little bit already.¬† Can you talk about how much progress the offense has made overall in grasping the playbook, and how much progress they made in the off‑season?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Right.¬† I think they've made a lot of progress.¬† Time will tell when we get out there for our first scrimmage and things like that.¬† But I think they've made a lot of progress.¬† We're not allowed to work with them in the off‑season that much at all, really, especially in the summertime.¬† So they've had to do a lot on their own, and I think that helped them.
Matty McGloin got those guys together, and they'd do some things on their own, which is really, really good, and I think that helped them a lot.¬† You can see where there's been progress with knowledge.¬† Now we have to make a lot of progress in execution, because that is kind of up‑and‑down right now.
Q.¬† We've talked a lot about changing the culture over the past several months.¬† You've lived here several months.¬† Have you seen a culture change in the community?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† I get up early and I live close to here, and I just drive to the football building and try to work as hard as I can.¬† So I don't know if I've totally tried to analyze the culture change.¬† But I know there has been a lot of support out there.
I really enjoy‑‑ when my wife and I go out to dinner or go to Michael's soccer game or whatever it may be, the support has been great and people are‑‑ it's a great town.¬† It's a bunch of nice people that are hard‑working people that enjoy living here, because it's a college town.¬† They obviously love their football team.
Q.¬† You've mentioned that we've got to stop arguing.¬† Have you been asked or have you reached out to the board of trustees as a board or individually to send that message?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† No, I'm just a football coach.¬† These are just‑‑ this is just my opinion, and I think it's all a part of staying on message and making sure that guys stay together and University stays together, and we move the thing forward.¬† Let's get going.
Q.¬† As for your quarterback, what is your philosophy on the back‑up quarterback?¬† Do you see Paul Jones challenging, trying to get him in various games how do you see that evolving?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Yeah, Paul will play this year.¬† Paul will play.¬† Paul is a good player, an instinctive guy, a play maker.¬† He's progressed.¬† So he'll definitely see time this year.
Q.¬† Could you walk us through the defense from the guys up front, to the linebackers, to the secondary.¬† Tell me what you expect from each of those units and what you think your strengths are on that side of the ball?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Sure, I feel good about our defensive line.¬† I think we're deep there.¬† The four starters there led by Jordan Hill, Da'Quan Jones and we have Massaro and Sean Stanley on the end.¬† Then we've got guys like Deion Barnes who is a really good young player, Brad Bars is going to get in there.
You have a lot of guys that we can play a lot of guys up front.¬† So I feel that is really the strength of our football team with the linebackers, the front seven is the strength of our football team.¬† So you have a preseason All American in Gerald Hodges who is practicing really well right now.¬† He's making a lot of plays had a nice practice.¬† Really good inside run drill, really seeing some great things from him.¬† Mike Mauti being back out there is great.¬† He had his best practice yesterday.¬† Glenn Carson has stepped in, he's a tough kid who loves playing, and he'll be good there.¬† Mike Hall is another guy that is going to see time for us.¬† Feel strong about our linebacker unit.
In the secondary, we have four guys there that, in my opinion can play.¬† I'll say five.¬† Not counting the freshmen right now, because we're still going to keep watching these guys develop.¬† But with our older guys, you have Stephon Morris who has had a good camp.¬† Adrian Amos can play safety or corner, Malcolm Willis is a safety.¬† You have Jake Fagnano back out there who is nursing a hamstring, so he's got to get out to continue to progress.¬† Then you have Jesse Della Valle who is playing corner.¬† Has come into camp in good shape, and you have the freshmen I talked about, and hopefully they can keep progressing and contribute for us this year.
So feel good about the defense.¬† They have to stay healthy like most teams in the country.¬† But at the same time, if we do, I think we'll play well on defense.
Q.¬† Coach, it's up front what counts.¬† Your offensive line had a lot of good things to say about it coming out of spring practice.¬† They seem to have gotten bigger, stronger, and are you impressed?¬† Do you feel really good about your offensive line coming into preseason practice?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Yeah, I was talking to Larry Johnson yesterday before practice a little bit, just asking him what he thought because he's been here and was here last year.¬† So that's one thing that he said.¬† These kids are much better, they're stronger, they're more explosive and in better shape.¬† That is no disrespect to anything in the past.¬† He just feels and we feel these guys are playing pretty well right now.
They've got to get better every day like everybody else.¬† But I felt good about their toughness, athletic ability, their intelligence, so I'm expecting those guys to go out and play well.
Q.¬† I've heard several NFL coaches in the last couple weeks talk about how special training camp is.¬† I was wondering, do you agree with that?¬† That training camp is special and why in this case would you say it is?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Training camp is awesome.¬† Training camp is a lot of fun.¬† I mean, that's where when you were growing up and you went to camp, everybody loved going to camp.¬† Well, this is you're going to camp with a team.¬† You're starting to come together as a team and you're bonding.
So at your night meetings, you're doing different things, having different speakers come in.¬† Maybe you're doing different things with your team as far as team building activities and you're talking about football.¬† Starting on Saturday you don't have to worry about school for a while, because summer school is over tomorrow.
So you start Saturday where it's just football.¬† You're not worried about school, you're coming in, and talking about football, and practicing and competing, and it's hard, it's a grind.¬† You're doing it together.¬† To me that's one of the best parts of being a team.¬† That's why good teams do a great job of coming together in training camp.¬† It's a lot of fun.¬† It's a lot of fun to put the practice schedules together and think about what you have to accomplish that day.¬† Get this done, this done.¬† So you're thinking about the practice schedule, so training camp is a great time of the year.
Q.¬† Have you decided what and when you're going to do about captains for the season?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† We'll have game captains and those will be the guys that step off the bus with me.¬† Those will be the game captains.¬† Then before the Wisconsin game, then we'll name permanent captains.
Q.¬† Will you be the first guy off the bus?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† I don't know.¬† I might be driving the bus.¬† Do you need a special license to drive one of those things people better get out of the way if I'm driving it.
Q.¬† We know how Bill Belichick have influenced coaches that have coached under him.¬† How much of what we see on Saturday will be a product of what you've gained from him?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† Yeah, I think there will be some things that you see.¬† I think hopefully, situationally, we're understanding of the situation in the game, whether it's third down or red area or two minute, or four minute.¬† Will that be very clean right off the bat?¬† I don't know.
Again, this is our first team here and kids are learning things every single day.¬† But hopefully as time goes on quickly, these guys get better and better at situational football.
We were always pretty decent on special teams in New England, so I really want to be good on special teams, and right now I feel good about where we are right there.¬† So hopefully you'll see that.
What you won't see, I'll tell you, is I wouldn't expect 40 points a game, 35 points a game.¬† I wouldn't expect the 207 New England Patriots.¬† I would expect a good, tough football team that plays good on defense, good on special teams and is able to score some points on offense.
Q.¬† In terms of away games this year, are you expecting a little more hostility?¬† Are you preparing your players, especially the young players for that?
COACH O'BRIEN:¬† I don't really get into that too much.¬† I talk about focus.¬† We have crowd noise and blast music and things to use our sigh silent cadence.¬† If you've got rabbit ears on the road, you're in the wrong line of work.¬† It's time to play football, and you have to focus on the game and the task at hand, not the crowd around you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports