UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the sun began to rise over a hazy Mount Nittany on Monday morning, head coach Bill O'Brien and the Nittany Lion football team opened a new chapter with the first official practice of 2012 training camp.
Exactly seven months from the day O'Brien was hired to lead the program, the squad hit the finely manicured fields adjacent to the Lasch Football Complex at 6:15 a.m. on Monday to kick off preparations for the season. Coach O'Brien couldn't sleep on Sunday night with the excitement of the first day of practice. He arrived to work at 4:45 a.m. ready to lead the team into its first of 29 allotted practices before the season-opener against Ohio.
"Just like every team in the country, you only have 29 practice opportunities, so every single day we come onto the practice field, we can only do two things - we can get better, or we can get worse," O'Brien said. "We will be more consistent tomorrow when we come out here, and we are going to try and improve on the mistakes we made today, and we are going to try to improve on the things we did well today. We just need to keep improving and getting better."
Like it did during the spring season, practice moved at a swift pace with players hustling from station to station following each period. Monday's first session included a walk through, special teams work, positional drills, 7-on-7 and scrimmaging.
"It wasn't great at all times, but we made some good plays out here and we just need to keep getting better each day throughout camp," O'Brien said after practice.
The Nittany Lions moved into the Nittany Hall dorm on Sunday, the team's home for the duration of preseason practice. The student-athletes have been counting down the days to the start of training camp, and the squad was thrilled to be back on the field focusing on football.
"We had a good team meeting on Sunday, and we have a close team with a strong senior class," O'Brien said.
With summer classes still in session, the Nittany Lions have scheduled practices around the academic schedule this week.. Final exams for the summer academic session will be held on Friday.
Under NCAA rules, teams are not permitted to practice in full pads until the sixth practice of the fall. The Lions practiced in helmets, shorts and jerseys on Monday. The Nittany Lions will practice once per day each day this week leading up Saturday's full-padded practice. Saturday is also the first two-a-day session of the training camp season.
The true freshmen on the roster did not participate in the opening practice of the season. To get acclimated to the practice structure, the true freshmen will practice on Monday night before participating in the full-team practice on Tuesday.
Football is back in the air in Happy Valley.
- Following each practice during training camp, each member of the roster will
get weighed and then soak in a two-person cold tub to assist with total body
recovery, similar to the structure numerous NFL teams use.
- After wearing No. 5 as a true freshman, sophomore tailback Bill Belton practiced in the No. 1 jersey for the first time on Monday. Coach O'Brien said after practice that this is Belton's opportunity to shine for the Nittany Lions.
- The Nittany Lions will practice in the afternoon on Tuesday and Wednesday. Media day is Thursday in Happy Valley.
Stay tuned for video and photos from day one of training camp...
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