B1G Media Days: Penn State Head Coach Bill O'Brien

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THE MODERATOR:Â We're joined by Head Coach Bill O'Brien.
COACH O'BRIEN: Honored to be here. Honored to be a part of this conference. I think it's a fantastic conference with great coaches. We've got a bunch of kids back in State College right now that are sticking together, that have been through a lot of tough times over the last six months but have turned the page and are ready to move forward.
And all I can tell you is that we've got a great staff. We've got a tough, smart football team. The fans need to get onboard, our alumni need to get onboard and our lettermen need to onboard. With that I'll open it up to questions.

Q. I was wondering if you could address sort of the challenge of keeping the guys together this week, in particular, keeping other teams from recruiting them and just address those challenges and if other teams have been on campus.
COACH O'BRIEN: First thing I did after the 9:00a.m. press conference on Monday is I had a 10:00a.m. meeting and I talked to our players about a number of things. It's not like me to tell people what I speak about in team meetings. But I will tell you that, number one is, I talked to them about the education that they're receiving at Penn State.
It's a world renowned institution. 600,000 alumni will tell you that. I talked to them about their commitment to each other.
I talked to them about the bond that they've formed with this football staff, a fantastic staff that cares about their players, good teachers, good men, good fathers.
I talked to them about adversity. I gave them my own story, my own personal story on adversity as it related to my wife and I with our son, Jack. And I talked to them about each one of them have stories of adversity in their lives.
Our coaches have stories of adversity in their lives. And the measure of a man is how you overcome adversity. I talked to them about without a shadow of a doubt they're going to be able to play six to seven Bowl games per year in front of 108,000 screaming fans in Beaver Stadium and I expect it to be 108,000 fans in Beaver Stadium.
I talked to them about this staff and our ability to develop these guys for the National Football League. I told them this staff isn't going anywhere and we're committed to the 2012 football team.
So those are some of the things I talked to them about. As far as other schools on campus, I said my peace on that yesterday. I have no idea what schools were on campus, nor do I care.
And I will tell you that that's about all I have to say on that.

Q. Could you give us any update on the Silas Redd situation?

Q. Couple of the coaches who were on earlier mentioned that particularly Bret Bielema, that he wouldn't actively recruit the Penn State guys even though obviously the NCAA's allowing him to because he felt sort of a bond as you guys are in the same conference. Do you expect that sort of attitude and bond with coaches in the Big Ten as far as them recruiting their players now?
COACH O'BRIEN: First of all, let me tell you how much respect I have for Bret Bielema, what he's done at the University of Wisconsin. He's a heck of a football coach and been proven on and off the field. The second thing I can tell you the rules are what they are and guys are‑‑ it's like NFL free agency without the rules.
So they can do what they want as long as they tell our compliance office that they're contacting these kids, and it is what it is. So I don't really have anything to say on that.

Q. Have you talked to Coach Beckman personally about coaches from his staff on campus?

Q. Going into the season, what do you expect to accomplish and what are your goals and what do you think your team can do this year?
COACH O'BRIEN: Again, I'm not into being a genie and standing up here and talking about where we're going to be in November. What I can tell you is that again we have a good, tough, smart football team right now that's back in State College. Three just walked in the door here.
These kids have a lot of pride in Penn State and pride in the university. And most importantly they have tremendous commitment to each other.
So what I expect is when we start practice on August6th that we're going to put forth the effort, the hard work to make sure that we field a very competitive football team September1st against Ohio.

Q. You had to field so many questions about other things, let's just talk about football. What are your initial evaluations of your team and what you have? I know you don't know who is initially going to be there but with what you have?
COACH O'BRIEN: Again, I'll start on the offensive side of the ball. I felt good about many of the positions. I'll start with the offensive line. When I took the job many people told me your offensive line isn't very good and I would beg to differ.
We've got some guys there that had excellent spring practices. We've got good depth there. We've got athletic guys there. We've got smart tough guys there. So I've been pleased with the offensive line and also obviously their development in the weight room hopefully will show up when we start practice in August.
The quarterback situation, Matt McGloin is our starter. He's smart tough competitive, I'm proud to have him as the starting quarterback at Penn State. We've got depth at wide receiver. We've got three, four, five guys there, Justin Brown, Allen Robinson, Alex Kenney. We've got Evan Lewis coming back on the football team. We've got a number of guys there.
Shawney Kersey that we think can really help us and play well. Our tight end position, again, is we've got decent depth there. We've got three or four guys that can play. Garry Gilliam, Jesse James. We feel good about that. Our running back position with Silas coming back and with Billy Belton there and Derek Day, feel good about the depth there. Defensively, feel very good about the front seven.
Jordan Hill, who will be here today, and Mike Mauti at linebacker and Gerald Hodges preseason all‑American, expecting him to have a fantastic season. Our secondary led by Stephon Morris, Malcolm Willis, two seniors that are good, tough smart football players. I think we're going to be in good shape there.
So we feel very good about where we are defensively and special teams wise we put in all of our schemes there last spring and hopefully we'll be able to go out and be a good special teams unit, too.

Q. Just wondering if you've turned to any other coaches or if there's a mentor in your life that's been helping you make the transition going from the NFL to being a college head coach?
COACH O'BRIEN: Well, again, I've been fortunate to work for a lot of good head football coaches. George O'Leary at Central Florida, I've worked for him at Georgia Tech. Ralph Friedgen Maryland and worked for Mark Whipple, the quarterback coach for Cleveland Browns when I worked for him at Brown University, and obviously Bill Belichick, and of course those guys are friends of mine and, of course, some of those guys I've spoken to over the last six months since I took the job and those guys' friendships mean a lot to me. And they've been very supportive of our program over the last two or three days also.

Q. Did it surprise you at all that the Big Ten didn't put any transfer restrictions within the conference? What's your thought on that? And did you have any communication with your administration about that before the issue came down?
COACH O'BRIEN:Â Nothing surprises me, no, so the answer to the first question is no and I have no thought on that.

Q. Can you talk about your idea to possibly change Penn State's uniforms? That's something that resonates a lot with the fans.
COACH O'BRIEN: Sure. There's a lot of discussions going on with our football team right now. We've got a group of young men there, like I said, that are sticking together. And there's changes that have taken place at Penn State over the last six months that are reflected already.
The new era of Penn State football. And some of the changes people will have to wait and see until September, on September1st.

Q. Have any of your players informed you that they intend to transfer?
COACH O'BRIEN:Â Right now, no.

Q. How have Coaches Johnson and Vanderlinden aided in your transition?
COACH O’BRIEN: They've been two key components to the staff. When I was hired back in January, Rodney Erickson and Dave Joyner and some other people recommended those two men to me and held them in very high regard. And the reason was there were many reasons. Good recruiters, good teachers, good men. The players had fantastic relationships with them.
So I decided to sit down and talk with them and then obviously decided to retain them on my staff and over the last six months I'm very glad that I did that.
These are two good football coaches. We've got a lot of good coaches on our staff. And we feel very good about our staff. The chemistry on our staff, the open lines of communication on our staff, and in many ways the championship pedigree of our staff.
So we feel good about it. And those are two guys that are a big part of it.

Q. What did you think of the way that your bosses at Penn State negotiated the sanction agreement with the NCAA, and would you support an appeal of those NCAA sanctions which seems to have some traction with the Board of Trustees?
COACH O'BRIEN:Â I think our Board of Trustees came out with a statement last night that as I've said over the last two days that it's time to move forward, turn the page.
The sanctions are what they are. It's time to get up and get going, which we started doing Monday at 10:00a.m. I think Dr.Erickson is a tremendous leader. I think over the last six months he's had to make some very difficult decisions and he's made them. And I would say the same for Dave Joyner. So I'm proud to work for those two guys, and I stand by the decisions that they make.

Q. What will be the key to have success on the field in these upcoming years with the restrictions?
COACH O'BRIEN: The key is number one to keep this 2012 team together, which right now it is together. And we've got to continue to communicate with our players and that's what we're doing on a daily basis, minute to minute, we're communicating with these players.
So that's number one. And then moving forward, you know, again, I've said this this morning and I've said this over the last couple of days. I've heard the talk that this is so bad and what are we going to do. I don't see it that way. I don't see it that way. I see it as an opportunity. I see it as a little bit of adversity that we need to overcome.
I came from a league where there were 53 players on the roster, eight practice squad players and 45 players on the active roster, 21 on offense, 21 on defense, three specialists on game day.
So I'm pretty well aware of how to handle a roster of 65 scholarship players. So we have plans in place. I'm not going to get into the details of those. They're already in the works. But I don't think that that's as bad as everybody says it is.

Q. You come from one of the most successful offenses in the National Football League, one of the best quarterbacks in the league, I'm interested as you flip on the film for some of your young players at Penn State, especially your quarterback, Matt McGloin, what's the excitement level, interest level in that offense, and realistically how much of that complex offense do you anticipate getting in this year and executing on?
COACH O'BRIEN:Â You know, when I was hired at Penn State and we started to get ready for spring practice, we sat down and obviously we were watching a bunch of Patriot film from the last couple of years from New England, and I looked back at the team and I saw a lot of white eyes, because they were watching that film as fans.
So I shut the clicker off or the projector off and I said: Look, guys, we're looking at the schemes here. Don't worry that that's Tom Brady and don't worry that that's Wes Welker and Gronkowski and the other guys and that was a pretty fun moment in our team meeting room.
But what we're trying to do there is put in the foundation of what we did in New England. Of course, when you have Tom Brady, who is the best quarterback in the NFL a future Hall of Famer and all the different things that you talk about when you talk about Tom, the thing that people have to understand, he's been in that offense for 12 years.
He would tell you the same thing, that offense has evolved as he's evolved. So that's what we're doing. We're just, we're putting in the foundation of it and spring practice I felt like towards the end of spring practice guys were getting it pretty well and hopefully we hit the ground running when training camp starts on August6th.
THE MODERATOR:Â Thank you, Coach.