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August 28, 2012

Bill O'Brien

Q.  When you measure the emotions of your team this week, are you at all concerned that they may not be able to keep them in check Saturday?
BILL O'BRIEN:  Well, I think our team is very, very excited.  We've had a productive training camp.  We've gone against each other quite a bit, and I think they're ready to play a different opponent.  I definitely will address throughout the week the emotions at the beginning of the game because for everybody involved, it'll be just like most college football teams in the country, a very emotional time, especially when you run out there for the first time and it's your first game.
So I think if our guys can control their emotions and play within themselves and not try to be heroes and just play the way they've been playing in practice, then we'll have a shot to control those emotions early on.  But it's something that we have talked about and we'll continue to talk about.

Q.  I remember when you were on your coaches' caravan tour in the spring.  I think you said you're not a guy that gets real nervous about things, whether it's speeches or games, and is that going to change at all given that this is your first game as head coach, and is there anything you can share about what your pregame routine is like on a Saturday before a game?
BILL O'BRIEN:  I will certainly have butterflies before this game.  I'd be crazy to tell you otherwise.  I mean, this is my first football game as a head football coach.  But as soon as you kick it off, and for me as soon as we start calling plays on offense and get the thing going, then obviously you're focused on the game and the butterflies go away.  That's just the way it's been probably for me in a first game for my whole career, and now especially with me being the head coach.
The pregame routine for me will be very similar to what I've done in the past because I'm going to call the plays on offense, so I'll make sure that I'm meeting with the quarterbacks, continuing in my own mind to just go over the openers, the opening plays of the game, the different things that I think this fantastic Ohio team is going to do to us and try to anticipate some things and understand that it's a first game and a lot of things are going to come up that maybe we weren't exactly prepared for and how are we going to handle those.
I'll just continue to go over the call sheet throughout the hour before the first‑‑ before the kickoff.

Q.  Do you feel better about the depth of your secondary coming out of camp, and how important will that be this week against a passing offense like Ohio's?
BILL O'BRIEN:¬† I feel good about the secondary.¬† Again, just like everybody else, we've got to go out and play and play well.¬† I think they've been very well‑coached by John Butler.¬† He's a very detailed coach and done a heck of a job with these guys.¬† We've got some younger guys that have come in and really improved, and we think they can help us.
So I feel good about the secondary, and now I'm looking forward to watching those guys go out and play again against an excellent quarterback in Tyler Tettleton and a corps of receivers and tight ends that are really good football players at Ohio.
It'll be a great match‑up, and I just really want our guys to go out there and do their best and play as well as they can.

Q.  What would you like to see from Mike Mauti his first game back in a long time to prove to you that he's ready to play?
BILL O'BRIEN:¬† You know, again, Mike doesn't have much to prove to me.¬† Mike has‑‑ he's worked extremely hard in his rehab, and he's worked extremely hard in training camp.¬† He's been a fantastic leader for our football team.¬† And I just want Mike to go out there, and really for Mike, I just want him to play well because he's a guy that‑‑ like a lot of these seniors, I've developed a very close bond with, and I just want to see Mike go out and perform well, because he sure has put in the time.

Q.  As far as the position second string behind Matt McGloin, it looks like on paper it could be more even with Steven Bench and Paul Jones.  Could you talk about how the backup competition has gone, and are those two guys even heading into the first game?
BILL O'BRIEN:  Paul Jones is still the No.2 quarterback, but I will say that Steven Bench has come in and definitely closed the gap.  He's a leader, he's a guy that is the son of a football coach from Georgia where high school football is a really big deal.  So he's been brought up around football his whole life, and he's done a lot of good things in training camp.  But at the end of the day, right now Paul Jones is still the No.2 and we'll go from there.

Q.  Getting back to your level of excitement as the game approaches, it's been eight months since you were hired, and now finally you get to coach a football game.  Were there times during these last eight months that you thought this game would never have gotten here?
BILL O'BRIEN:  You know, when you're working with your staff and your players and everybody is working really hard, time passes pretty quickly, so we were just actually sitting around the other day and saying, well, it's here.  Training camp is over, and it's game week.
I just think it's been rewarding for me, personally, a rewarding eight months because I've got a chance to meet some fantastic people here at Penn State, develop a really good bond with our football team, and we've had our ups and downs obviously, but our staff is working well together, and we're just looking forward to playing the game.

Q.  One of the things that Coach Paterno got that was much mentioned about him was that he did not have a special teams coach.  I see with your staff you don't have anybody who has that specific responsibility, either.  How are you going to handle that?
BILL O'BRIEN:  Well, John Butler oversees special teams, so he coaches our secondary, and then he oversees special teams, and he'll run the special teams on the sideline.
And then we have coaches that are divided up on the staff, that divide up the responsibilities of what we call the big four, the punt team, the punt return team, the kickoff team and the kickoff return team.  But on the sideline on game day, John Butler will be in charge of special teams.

Q.  What have you liked about the way Mike Farrell has performed so far, and how happy with you with the depth on the offensive line?
BILL O'BRIEN:  Mike Farrell has come in, he had a really good summer.  You can tell he definitely did a great job of prioritizing football over the summer and getting in shape and getting stronger.  He's one of the most improved players on our football team since spring practice.
I feel good about the depth of the offensive line.  Again, when you're in the NFL, sometimes you bring seven linemen to a game, sometimes eight if you're lucky.  I believe we've got between eight to 10 guys there that can play, and so you won't just see five guys play; you'll see other guys rotate in there and play and give some guys some playing time, and I think that'll bode well for us now and in the future.

Q.  In regard to Paul Jones, you said on media day that you do plan to play him this season.  Has that changed at all after training camp, and has he made the kind of progress you had hoped to see?
BILL O'BRIEN:  I would say that Paul will play this season.  We'll have to see how the games go, have to see how this game goes and what type of game it is.  It's always a matter of the flow of the game, the rhythm of the game, and Matt McGloin is our starter, and he's done a really good job of coming in here in training camp and improving where he was from spring practice.  We'll just see how the game goes.  But I would still say that Paul will play.

Q.  How do you think the new rules on special teams, especially kickoffs, are going to impact the games this fall?
BILL O'BRIEN:¬† Yeah, that'll be interesting to see, you know, how teams approach that, whether they just kick it through the end zone or pooch kick it.¬† We're actually prepared for all different kinds of situations there.¬† Again, we've done a really‑‑ I think a decent job of preparing our players for all the different circumstances, situations that could come up with the new rules.¬† So we'll see how that goes, and this first game, just like every first game, we're going to have to see how that goes when the game starts.

Q.  As of today do you expect that Pete Massaro will be able to play Saturday, and will you have to kind of monitor his reps for the first few weeks?
BILL O'BRIEN:¬† I think that's a good way to put it.¬† I do expect Pete to play.¬† Pete has played a lot of good football for Penn State, and he's really a top‑notch kid.¬† He plays hard.¬† He's had some knee issues, and so I expect him to play on Saturday, but again, we have four or five days here to go before then.
And then as the season goes on, just like with most veteran older players, we're going to have to monitor how much he practices and plays.

Q.  You had said that you were unhappy with your punting game.  Any progress in that?  What are you expecting on Saturday?
BILL O'BRIEN:¬† Yeah, I wouldn't say‑‑ I don't think I said I was unhappy.¬† I would just say that I would like to see more consistency.¬† And I think it's gotten better over the last three, four practices.¬† You know, Alex Butterworth will be our punter.¬† And again, like I've said all along, we can always go for it, too, on 4th down.
Again, we'll see how it goes, but Alex has definitely developed some more consistency over the last three or four practices, and we'll give him a shot to punt on Saturday.

Q.  What do you see in Ohio University?  What concerns you, and what is your team going to have to do to be effective and win the game Saturday?
BILL O'BRIEN:  Well, this is an excellent football team.  This is Coach Solich's eighth year in the program, and this is probably his best football team.  This is a team that was in the MAC championship game last year and has huge aspirations for this year.
Offensively it starts with their quarterback.¬† This guy is an excellent athlete, Tyler Tettleton.¬† He can run, he can throw, he's definitely a dual‑threat guy, and he just poses a lot of problems.¬† He's definitely somebody that we have to do the best we can to contain.
They've got four or five receivers that we think are all very, very good players.  They've got a tight end corps that we're going to have to do a good job of keeping track of, and they've got two running backs there that have a chance to have a really good year for them.  Offensively they're a very, very dangerous team.
Defensively they're very well coached, they're tough, they're sound.  They've got a lot of returning players back there on the defense.  They do a lot of different things.  They don't just line up and give you the same look two plays in a row.  So we're going to have to be on top of our game and try to string some plays together and do the best we can on Saturday.

Q.  You've spoken several times about Allen Robinson making good progress.  How about the rest of the receiving corps?  Are there a couple of guys that have really made a lot of progress, and how do you feel about that group?
BILL O'BRIEN:  Yeah, Allen has definitely had a really good camp, but there's a bunch of guys there that have played well, starting with Alex Kenney and Evan Lewis.  Both of those guys will play for us.  They'll play outside.  They'll play inside.  Both of those guys have really improved over the course of training camp.  Shawney Kersey was injured for a little bit during camp, came back the other day, and he looks to be a guy that has really improved since spring practice, and we're really happy to have him there, too.
We've got some other guys there that have played in the past in Christian Kuntz and Matt Zanellato and Brandon Moseby‑Felder, so we've got some guys there that are role players for us that will also see time, and then we've got freshmen that have come in and looked good in Geno Lewis and Trevor Williams.¬† So we think we've got about six to eight guys there that can all help us, and they've all improved over the course.¬† It's not an easy offense to learn as a receiver, especially a young receiver or a new receiver because there's a lot of different elements to route running and blitz breakoffs and things that go on.
I think these guys have made big strides, and I look forward to watching them play on Saturday.

Q.  Who do you plan on having return kicks and punts on Saturday, and does Alex Kenney fit in that mix at all?
BILL O'BRIEN:¬† Yeah, Alex will be a candidate.¬† Haven't really decided on that yet.¬† Probably you'll see‑‑ you guys will see for yourself on Saturday who we have back there.¬† That's something that's ongoing, and the places that I've been before, it's a competition throughout the week, and then on game day we'll let them know who's returning kicks and punts.

Q.¬† You were talking about how you're going to keep your routine for Saturday morning and everything before game times.¬† Like the night before games are you going over last‑minute stuff or are you trying to relax?¬† What do you do the night before?
BILL O'BRIEN:  Yeah, I thought I'd relax, go play nine holes over at Top Trees (laughing).
No, we'll go to the hotel, we'll have meetings at the hotel, we'll have unit meetings, we'll have special teams meetings.  We'll offer a couple religious services over there.  We'll have a snack and we'll go to bed, and then we'll wake up and have more meetings.
Right up until game time, there will be no shortage of going over the game plan, because football is about repetition, so the more you go over it with these guys, over and over and over again, then when they get out on the field, hopefully it makes the game a little bit easier because they've got it down in their head what their assignment is.  So we'll continue to meet right up until we get on the bus, really, and come over here for the game.

Q.¬† Two‑part question for you:¬† Given what you guys are up against with the NCAA and the limitations, can you talk about what is inside the players who are staying to fight, especially the guys who are so talented that they could have played and started anywhere in the country and competed for Bowls and National Championships?
BILL O'BRIEN:  I think, again, you'd have to really ask them because I'm not inside of their heads and their hearts.  But I can tell you what I see.
What I see is a very, very close bond of guys that came in together maybe as a recruiting class or have developed close friendships over the last few years or have been through some tough times together, and they've developed a close bond.¬† And I think‑‑ I also believe that our staff has done a good job of communicating with these guys and just talking to them, not lecturing them but just talking to them about Penn State, what a great education it is here; Penn State, what a great opportunity we have on Saturday to play a great football team in front of 108,000 fans on ESPN, just all the things that they can be involved in in the community, all the different things that we're going to ask them to do in the community and how that's going to help them later in life.
I think you've got a group of guys that really understand that they're in a very unique situation but it has a chance to be a special situation.  No matter what happens out on the field, these guys, they've developed in my opinion an unbreakable bond.  That's what I see.  You'd have to ask them how they feel.

Q.¬† Tradition is so important here.¬† How difficult was it for people to embrace changing some of the most important traditions, and why did you put the names on the helmets and the blue ribbons‑‑ the names on the uniforms and the ribbons on the helmets?
BILL O'BRIEN:¬† Again, you'd have to ask the people who have grown up around here or went to Penn State or played at Penn State.¬† I can't answer for them.¬† All I can tell you is that, number one, I have respect for many, many of the traditions.¬† I have respect for all the traditions that have gone on before I came here, and so what I decided to do was put‑‑ not put my own stamp on the program, but to just put our own philosophy as a staff into place.
So when we decided to put the names on the back of the jerseys, I felt it was important for the people out there to really know who these kids were that stuck with this program, that stuck with this University, that are going to help‑‑ not lead, just help this community moving forward.¬† I felt it was important for the people to know who these kids were and what their names were, because when you put the helmet on, you can't really tell sometimes.
At the end of the day, though, what we've talked about to our team since day one is we play as one team.  We play off of each other.  Offense gains momentum, defense has to stop the offense, and vice versa.  Defense gets a turnover, offense has to turn that into points.  We play as one team, special teams.
It has nothing to do with individuals.¬† It's more about just people on the outside just knowing what these kids are all about moving forward and these kids are high‑character guys that really care about Penn State, and that's why I decided to put the names on the back of the jerseys.

Q.¬† You mentioned going for it on 4th down a little bit.¬† This obviously is your first go‑around as a coach.¬† Do you consider yourself a gambler?¬† Do you even know what kind of coach you are at this point?
BILL O'BRIEN:  I have a pretty good idea what type of coach I am.  I consider myself a football coach, and I would never put a label on myself, but I have a pretty good idea what type of coach I am.  I'm a coach that believes in sound offense and sound defense and playing good on special teams and not turning the ball over, not committing stupid penalties, and at the end of the day, hopefully that's a winning recipe.

Q.  You touched on this earlier with the wide receivers, but Trevor Williams' name was high on the depth chart yesterday.  What have you seen from him in camp?
BILL O'BRIEN:  Yeah, he's an instinctive player.  He's got good speed, he can catch the ball, he's smart.  He picks up on schemes pretty easily, and he's got a heck of a future for us.  So we'll have a chance to see hopefully on Saturday what he can do, and I'm really happy that he's here.

Q.  Building on that, you had 12 true freshmen on the depth chart yesterday.  How much are you counting on these guys and how much can you realistically expect these guys to step in and contribute?
BILL O'BRIEN:  Well, if they're on the depth chart, I'm counting on them to go out and contribute.  These guys are good football players.  It's a strong freshman class.  These guys are smart.  They've got good character, and will they be nervous in their first game, sure, they'll be nervous, but they've proven to us in practice that they're instinctive players that understand what we're trying to do offensively, defensively and special teams, so if they're on the depth chart, they have a chance to play, and if they play, we would expect them to contribute in a positive way.

Q.  What's the status of Jake Fagnano?  Can we expect him to play on Saturday?
BILL O'BRIEN:  Jake will play on Saturday, yep.

Q.  Do you feel the team is carrying the torch for more than themselves based on everything they've been through and the fact that it's now the opener?
BILL O'BRIEN:¬† You know, again, I've said this before, that there is a lot of this that is a little bit more than‑‑ about a little bit more than football, and I understand that.¬† But as we head into this first game and we get out there on Saturday, it's about football.¬† It's about going out there and playing as good as you can, then when we ask you to, as a student athlete, just like all the student athletes here at Penn State, when we ask you to contribute to the community and things like that, then they're going to do the best they can.
But again, they're just a part of this whole thing.¬† I wouldn't‑‑ we're just the football program that's trying to be a part of making sure that we go out there and play well but also help the community as much as we possibly can as a part of it.

Q.  Also, if you can elaborate on some of the game day traditions, you're going to dress here, could you talk about what went into that?  Getting here early, is that more in line with the NFL?
BILL O'BRIEN:¬† I'm not sure what they did in the past.¬† All I know is we're going to go to the hotel Friday night.¬† Saturday morning we're going to wake up, we're going to eat breakfast, we're going to get on the blue buses.¬† The blue buses are going to drive us to Lasch Building, we're going to pick up a fourth bus over there at Lasch Building.¬† We're going to take the same exact route that they've always taken, before I got here, I guess, right up this‑‑ I don't even know the names of the streets, which I'll probably get in trouble for saying that, up the street over here, the same exact route, and we'll get dropped off.
Now, we will dress in the locker room here, so our pads and our helmets and our taping and all that stuff will take place here.  So that's what we're doing.  I'm not trying to say that that's not a big deal, I'm just trying to say that what is a big deal is how we play when the ball is kicked off.

Q.¬† Do you have in your head at all an ideal type of run‑pass ratio in terms of how you'd like to attack Ohio's defense on Saturday?

Q.  Following up a little bit, there will be a lot of eyes on this game for a lot of reasons.  How important is it just to play well and do the things that you want the team to get done out there on the field to kind of say, hey, we're still here, we're still doing what Penn State does?
BILL O'BRIEN:  Right.  You know, again, to me, on Saturday the goal is to go out there and play efficient football.  On offense, don't turn it over, don't make a bunch of mental mistakes, coach the best you can, be alert, don't commit a bunch of stupid penalty, line of scrimmage type penalties, get aligned correctly, take care of the football.  Defensively, do the best you can to stop the run, stop the run, communicate well, control your emotions, and do what you've been doing the whole training camp.  Special teams wise, look, if we can create a turnover on the kickoff team or create a turnover on the punt team or we can change field position with a good punt return or kickoff return, that's what we're trying to do.
It's our first game as a new staff in basically a new era of Penn State football, so I just want us to go out there and do the best we can, work extremely hard and play smart football.

Q.  You just said that Saturday is about football.  How will you define success of this season for yourself and for the team?
BILL O'BRIEN:  Well, again, every time we go out, whether it's a practice or a game, we're going to go out there with the expectation to win.  Does that mean that we're going to win every single game we play?  No.  The expectation is to go out there and play your best, play smart, play hard, play clean, respect your opponent, and to do the best you can to win the game.  If we don't win the game, then we go back, we review the film, we correct the mistakes, and we get back to practice the next week and get ready for the next opponent.
But the expectation, as long as I'm the head football coach here, as it's always been, the expectation is to go out there and win, and I'd say that would be the same for every football program in America.  So that's what we're going to try to do.

Q.  Have you determined how deep into the game you're scripted, and if you haven't picked it, or have you picked the opening play on offense?
BILL O'BRIEN:  No.  You know, again, I'm not going to get into the details of how we do all those things.  It is the same that I've always done, and hopefully I pick the right plays.  We've got a very, very good opponent we're going against, and they're going to be ready.  They're a veteran team that's going to be ready.  So again, we'll do the best we can and try to play smart and move the ball forward.

Q.¬† How does getting back to football this first game Saturday help the team and perhaps the school move forward after what happened this off‑season?
BILL O'BRIEN:  Again, Saturday is about a football game.  I think overall we've just got to continue to do a great job here with our players of making sure that they go to class, that they're respectful on campus, that they graduate, that they do the best job they can as students, and then play as good a football as they can.
And then when we ask them to, we think it's really important to get involved in the community, because people really want to meet these guys.  People want their help.  Our guys want to be involved in the community.
So I think as far as Saturday goes, Saturday is about football, a great college football game between really two solid, really good football teams, and that's what Saturday is about.  But then as we move forward, we've got to continue the mission of good student athletes that graduate, that are involved in the community.

Q.  A week or two ago you said you were still trying to find kind of the offensive identity.  Have you found that yet, and if not, what have you learned in the last week or two about this offense?
BILL O'BRIEN:  I feel good about the offense.  I think we'll be a multiple personnel offense.  We'll be in different personnel groupings throughout the day.  I feel good about Matt McGloin and his ability to run the operation.  I think these guys have really grasped what we're trying to do, and again, I don't think it's a real intricate game plan.  It's just a game plan where we want these guys to go out and be able to play fast, play at a good tempo and try to find some balance.  But again, we've got to do game plan wise as the game progresses, we've got to do what's necessary to win the football game.  So if we have to throw it 60 times, we're going to throw it 60 times.  If we have to run it 60 times, we're going to run it 60 times.  Whatever it takes to win the football game, and I think these guys understand that.

Q.¬† Does your offense need a go‑to receiver, and if so, can Allen Robinson become that kind of guy?¬† Does he have the characteristics to be a No.1 receiver so early in his career?
BILL O'BRIEN:¬† This offense has never had just one go‑to receiver.¬† It's more about throw to the guy that's open.¬† But I'll say this about Allen:¬† He's a guy that has done a really good job of understanding what we're trying to do.¬† He's picked it up really well.¬† He can line up in a bunch of different positions.¬† He's big, he's fast, he's got good hands.¬† Like I said, he's smart, he's instinctive, so he's a guy that we think is going to be a good player for us.

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