B1G Media Days: Penn State Head Coach Bill O'Brien
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Bill O'Brien.
COACH O'BRIEN: Excited to be here. This is my second Big Ten media day. It's always a sign that obviously the season is right around the corner.
And brought three players with us here for these two days. John Urschel is an offensive lineman for us. Malcolm Willis, safety for us. And Glenn Carson, middle linebacker for us. It's great to be with them.
It's good to see the other coaches in the league. I have a lot of respect for all the coaches in this league.
We have some really good coaches, and it's great to meet with them. We had a good meeting with Jim Delany, Commissioner Delany, this morning, and that's alwaysâ€‘â€‘ it's always good to reconnect with the coaches here.
Really excited about the season. We have a group of kids that have worked extremely hard in the offâ€‘season to try to improve their individual skill set and now we have to go out and have a productive training camp, but it's a great group of guys to work with.
Our staff is really excited about it, and I believe our first practice will be August5th. So it's right around the bend and can't wait. So I guess I'll open it up to questions.
Q. What about the prospects of starting a true freshman at actually quarterback in Hackenberg? Would that be â€‘â€‘
(Technical difficulties â€‘ telephonic disconnection.)
Q. Coach, now that you've had the job for over a year, do you feel that the challenges that have arisen because of the sanctions imposed, are those challenges what you expected?
COACH O'BRIEN: When you go into a job like this, you always have to expect the unexpected, regardless of what has happened in the last year.
Really, I'm here to talk about the 2013 team. You know, a lot of the things that we talked about last year, when I was here, it's water under the bridge. We're in a situation at Penn State right now that is unprecedented, sure. But at the same time I've said this over and over again, our staff, myself, we're thankful for our players.
Our players are tough. They're resilient. They're good kids. They're hardworking. They go to class, and we're looking forward to working with those guys. The rules are what they are. And that's what we play under. And that's what we're going to do. So we're excited about the season, and again just really want to concentrate on the 2013 season.
Q. Ideally, when would you like to decide on who the starting quarterback will be?
COACH O'BRIEN: I think you have to make a decision about halfway through training camp, I really do. I think in order to give that guy, whoever that guy will be, Tyler or Christian, in order to give him enough time to prepare for an excellent Syracuse team that throws a lot at you defensively, you have to give them a couple of weeks to get ready for the first game at the very least, especially a young quarterback.
Probably halfway through, we'll have enough valuation of our practice film and all the different things that go into being the starting quarterback at Penn State, not only on the practice field but in the meeting room, and we'll make a good decision. We'll do what's best for the football team.
Again, it's an exciting time for us. It's not a time we look at as: Woe is me. It's more of a time exactly the opposite of that. We look at the fact that we have a chance to work with two really talented young quarterbacks. So it's an exciting time for us at Penn State and one we're looking forward to when training camp starts.
Q. How do you see the loss of Brad Bars affecting your defense? And has he or will he apply for a medical redshirt?
COACH O'BRIEN: First of all, one thing that we've instilled in our players I believe over the last 19, 20 months that I've been on the job is the phrase: Next man up. We knew when Brad went down there was guys that were in that defensive line room now had to move up because they potentially move up the depth chart. So we've learned that phrase at Penn State. So there's some guys there that need to step up.
Now, as far as Brad Bars is concerned, I was reallyâ€‘â€‘ I felt bad for him, because here's a guy that probably hasn't been talked about enough. He's a fantastic student. He's a tough football player. He was not only a defensive end, a candidate for starting job for us at that position, but he was also a really good core special teams player. So next man up on special teams, too.
And more than likely, I don't want to speak for Brad, but I believe that he will come back for a fifth year and rehab the Achilles and he'll be back next year.
So I would want a guy like that back because I believe he's a core type of guy. He's a Penn State guy. He's again just like John Urschel and a lot of the other guys on our football team, he's what a studentâ€‘athlete really means.
Q. A related question regarding depth. How concerned are you with depth both along the defensive line and at linebacker?
COACH O'BRIEN: Well, again, we're going to have to go into training camp and see how much some of our younger players have improved at those positions. Remember, if you look at linebacker in the spring, we didn't have Ben Kline in the spring. He was out with a shoulder operation. He'll be back for training camp. We're looking forward to seeing him.
He stopped by the office the other day. He's had an excellent summer, looks in great shape, and he's ready to go. So we get him back. Gary Wooten, another guy that we felt was improving during the spring, can he add depth there.
Again, we've got to look at all the different players we have on defense as it relates to the linebacker position, what can a guy like Adrian Amos do? Can he play safety? Can he play corner? Can he play linebacker? Stephen Obeng, can he come down and play some linebacker for us.
I think our staffâ€‘â€‘ I know our staff led by John Butler has done a really good job of really looking at that and being prepared for all the different scenarios. Defense lineâ€‘wise certainly Brad Bars not being there, again, gives us a little bit of a problem there depthâ€‘wise, but a guy like Evan Schwan, does he step up now, a younger player that maybe hasn'tâ€‘â€‘ obviously he redshirted last year, we don't know a lot about him as a player right now. He's a great kid. He's had a really good, hardworking summer. Is that a candidate to step up and take a Brad Bars type of spot there.
Are we concerned? I don't think we use the word "concerned" too much in our program. We just look for different ways to be able to relate to the different scenarios that may occur.
Q. When you take the field against Syracuse, Scott Shafer is going to be coaching his first game. What challenges do you remember from your first game last year and in what ways can that give you competitive advantage going up against the firstâ€‘time head coach?
COACH O'BRIEN: I don't know. I don't think too much is said about that. I think that Scott Shafer's an excellent coach. Watching them last year, how they played on defense, I think they're going to have a very good defensive football team back. And then again, watching them on offense, they're going to have a really good offensive football team back.
Firstâ€‘year head coaches, first games, all those different things, everybody's different as to how they handle it. Obviously, if you look at my own situation last year, I certainly could have done a much better job on opening day than I did last year.
So, again, Coach Shafer is a great coach, and he's going to do a fantastic job at Syracuse.
Q. A year ago you came in without experience and there were all the sanctions talk, all that kind of stuff. Just how different is the feeling today compared to a year ago at this time for you?
COACH O'BRIEN: Well, it's certainly different. I mean, last year I think we arrived here the day after obviously the penalties being announced, so I think we're in a better mood this year.
But obviously you're a lot more comfortable with your position as a head football coach after havingâ€‘â€‘ it's only been a year, but you're more comfortable with the players, with the staff, knowing each other, the chemistry, all those different things that go into it.
Again, does that lead to victories? Who knows. We're going to have to go out there and play extremely hard.
It's a very difficult schedule, nonâ€‘league schedule to start the season, and then obviously a very Big Ten schedule.
We really enjoy coaching our players. We have a lot of good players, tough players, hardworking guys, and we're just really excited about the season.
Q. You said Tyler Ferguson will obviously compete for the starting job. He's not on campus right now, obviously. So what kind of setback is that, him not being a part of the summer workouts? And has he told you yet when he expects to be back on campus?
COACH O'BRIEN: He'll be back. Summer's voluntary. Right? The last time I read the NCAA rule book, summer's voluntary. He's not there. He's at home. He's got some personal things that he's dealing with at home. To me, again, he'll come in. He'll be here for training camp.
What time, what day, all those things, I mean, I don't know. I am sure he'll be in the first team meeting and he'll be ready to compete with Christian for that job.
Q. Have you seen anything different out of Glenn Carson in this past offseason considering that he's a senior leader of those linebackers now that Mauti and Hodges have gone their ways?
COACH O'BRIEN: Glenn is certainly a guy you would describe as highâ€‘character guy, very intense, heart and soul type of guy. Glenn's not a real rahâ€‘rah guy. Glenn is very serious about his position as the middle linebacker at Penn State. He understands the tradition of linebackers at Penn State and obviously linebacker U.
So he understands that. He was a leader last year. He's a leader right now, and we're looking forward to him having a really good year for us. He, again, is another guy that you would say as it relates to Penn State, he's what being a Penn State football player is all about. He's a good student. He's a tough kid. New Jersey High School state champion wrestler.
He means a lot to our football team, and we're certainly glad he's on our team.
Q. Do you anticipate Kyle Carter and Zach Zwinak to do everything in training camp this year?
COACH O'BRIEN: As far as health? Yes, I do, I anticipate both guys will be back for training camp, Kyle Carter obviously injured his wrist against Nebraska, so he's had a little bit more time to heal. Zach did his in the blue/white game, so he hasn't had as much time. So you'd probably say Kyle a little bit ahead of Zach in that department.
But both guys will be ready during training camp, Kyle right at the beginning, and Zach will participate, but he may not be full contact right away.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.