Aug. 16, 2012
An interview with: COACH O'BRIEN
Have you moved anyone to the secondary?
We haven't moved anyone to the secondary. I have been very pleased with the secondary; I've been pleased with the defense as a whole. The secondary has a number of good returning players. Also some younger players in there that we think could really help us like a Da'Quan Davis
or Jordan Lucas
. In addition to the obviously "steady Eddies" back there - Stephon Morris
, Malcolm Willis
, Adrian Amos-he's had an excellent camp. So I'm pretty happy with where those guys are at.
Q: What do you believe the strengths will be on offense?
COACH O'BRIEN: I don't really have a feel for that yet. I think that any good offensive team has to be able to run the football when it has to absolutely gain yards. We have to be able to run the football. I think we have to be really good in situational terms: third down, red area, two minute. We've had a lot of work on that, about halfway through camp here. It's been pretty decent, hasn't been all pretty, but I think we've made progress. I think we're still working on the identity of what the offense will be. Hopefully we'll have a better grasp of that over the next week.
Q: What positions are still the most competitive for the starting positions?
COACH O'BRIEN: I'd say starting on offense, Matt McGloin has definitely solidified there. He's had a good camp. He's really got a good feel for how we operate. He's getting better every day. For receiver, we have a pretty good rotation of six or seven guys I think that Allen Robinson has had a really, really good camp to this point, and he'll be a starter. At tight end, there are four or five guys there that will all play. With the fifth guy, the addition, being Brent Wilkerson, who's really impressed us, as an incoming freshman here as a player. For the offensive line, you've got the usual suspects up there. We've got decent depth although we've been banged up a little bit lately. But looks like depth going into the next few weeks will be okay, so we feel pretty good about that.
Defensively, we've got the front four, we will rotate a number of guys, but obviously Jordan Hill, Pete Massaro, Sean Stanley, DaQuan Jones, those guys will start the ball game for us, I'm sure. The linebackers, definitely (Michael) Mauti, (Gerald) Hodges, Glenn Carson and then Mike Hull. Mike Yancich has had a good camp, Ben Kline, has shown flashes. We've got six guys there that we think can really help with the three starters being Mauti, Hodges & Carson. Glenn Carson's had an excellent camp, so has Hodges, really good camp. Secondary-wise you've got Morris, Amos, Malcolm Willis. Back there you've got some younger guys who are working in the mix there. Jake Fagnano has been out a little bit, he's had a hamstring. So he needs to get back in there and get his spot solidified. But you've got some younger guys there, with Jordan Lucas and Da'Quan Davis, so I'd say there are some position battles there, but we feel pretty good where we're at starter-wise.
Q: Can you talk about Gerald Hodges and what you expect from him?
COACH O'BRIEN: Gerald is obviously one of the top players on our team. He had an interception for a TD yesterday in practice; made a heck of a play. He's being used in a lot of different ways; he's a guy who has had a really good training camp. Off the field, he's a guy we will definitely expect to be a leader. We will expect him to do the right things off the field, and lead the young guys. This is obviously his last year and we expect him to go out there and lead us both on and off the field.
Q: Can you give us an injury update?
COACH O'BRIEN: Injury-wise, I'd say (we have) a lot of bumps and bruises, typical for training camp. Hamstrings here and there. Couple fingers, things like that, ankle twists. I wouldn't say at this point there is anything major. Had a couple kids to come down with a little bit of flu-like symptoms last couple weeks, but nothing major.
Q: Would you say the seniors have taken more a leadership role than you might have expected?
COACH O'BRIEN: There is no question that we have a strong senior class. All these guys that are going into their last year, have really, really put forth extra effort both in the weight room and on the field and then obviously off the field. And they are very, in many ways, they are a very mature group. They really have a great understanding of what they need to do as leaders both on the field and in the community. It is really a pretty neat group of guys to be around. I wish we had them longer, that's for sure. We only got them for three more months.
Q: Can you give us an update on Bill Belton and his progress in training camp?
COACH O'BRIEN: He's definitely cemented himself as a starter at this point. Other guys will play, but Billy will start the game. He's had a good camp, he had an 80-yard touchdown run two scrimmages ago, his pass protection has gotten a lot better, he's catching the ball out of the backfield. Billy's a good football player. And we've got some good players at that position -- we've got Derek Day who's had a good camp. We've got (Zach) Zwinak, he's had a good camp. We've got this freshman, Akeel Lynch that's come in here and really done a good job picking things up. So other guys will play, but Billy will start.
Q: Can you talk about how Miles Dieffenbach is doing and the competition at that spot (left guard)?
COACH O'BRIEN: Miles has had a really, really good training camp. He's picked up where he left off after spring practice. If he keeps really being technically sound and taking the coaching from Mac (McWhorter) he will be the starter there at left guard. (Mark) Arcidiacono is a guy I really feel bad for, a really great kid that has just been injured, and he's one of those guys that's been on a shelf a little bit for his (right) foot. I just feel terrible for him because I think he's a great kid who cares about playing; he just hasn't been able to get on the field. Dieffenbach has basically solidified that starting spot. Another guy there, a young guy, Angelo Mangiro, we've used at both guard spots and he's also been at center, he's a guy that will factor in also as a backup.
Q: Do you plan to play all of your scholarship players in the first game?
COACH O'BRIEN: I can't tell you if we plan to play (them), it depends how the game goes. Obviously, if it's a close game, we're going to play our best players. We're going to do what we've got to do to try to win the game. Redshirting-wise, we'll play that as it comes. As far as three or four games into the year, we'll make a decision on redshirt candidates and things like that. There's definitely some freshmen that have really stood out to us that more than likely over the next week we'll have discussion about them going into the Ohio game, how much these guys are going to play. Because again, if you're going to play a freshman, you need to really play them so they don't come out at the end of the year with a freshman only playing 10 plays and he burned his redshirt year. So that's a discussion for over the next week or so.
Q: How is Donovan Smith doing and who else has been playing in that spot?
COACH O'BRIEN: We've had Adam Gress and Mike Farrell there at tackle. Mike Farrell, he's had a good camp. He's going to play for us this year. Donovan's had the hamstring so he hasn't really practiced a whole lot yet and hopefully he'll get back out there today and tomorrow.
Q: How do you feel about the progress of the kicking game?
COACH O'BRIEN: (Sam) Ficken has done a really nice job of placekicking. His kickoffs look decent, his field goal range looks pretty decent. I've been happy with Sam. I think the punting situation is still a little up in the air. Alex (Butterworth) shows flashes, (Matt) Marcincin shows flashes and then the next punt isn't very good. They really have to be a lot more consistent and I think that's still an on-going battle there.
Q: Where does Stephen Obeng-Agyapong fit in, in the secondary? Is Adrian Amos playing safety and cornerback?
COACH O'BRIEN: Stephen Obeng's had a really good camp. I should always mention him with the secondary. He'll play in the secondary and he'll be a major factor on special teams. He's a core special teams guy. He's a great team player and I'm happy with where he's at. He's gotten a lot better since the spring. Adrian Amos is a guy that we move all around. He's a guy that can do a lot of different things. We're happy to have him on the team; he's one of our better players.
Q: Have there been many adjustments you've had to make going from the NFL back to college?
COACH O'BRIEN: There's definitely a transition, just from being an assistant coach to a head coach. You're practice planning and things like that and then having a little bit of a numbers issue. We practice more like an NFL team, (the way we) practice during training camp. As far as advice, I have a lot of friends in coaching and guys have helped me. Those are conversations between myself and those coaches, but there are a lot of good guys out there that have definitely given me some good advice.
Q: Could you update us on the training camp grind and the practice schedule once the season starts?
COACH O'BRIEN: The daily grind is still a daily grind in training camp. That's what training camp is all about. You're trying to get game ready and throw a lot of different situations at these guys and make them think and also make them grind through a practice. That will go on right up until the end of next week, when school starts (Aug. 27). There's not a lot of light at the end of the tunnel with that. Our practice week; we're going to practice like a normal college team with practice, maybe a little shorter practices and things like that. We'll definitely practice like a normal practice, so we'll have a normal practice week. What I'll probably do is give them Sunday off. You have to give them one day off, we'll give them Sunday off. We'll come back and introduce the gameplan on Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday will be tougher practices physically. Thursday start motoring it down and getting ready for the game. Friday we'll have a big, situational walk through-type practice. Then head to the hotel and go play the game on Saturday.
Q: How much harder has recruiting become and how much more important have the official visits become?
COACH O'BRIEN: We just try to talk about the great things that there are here at Penn State. We try every single day to tell the truth and be ourselves and I think people appreciate that. Recruiting is about relationships and making sure there's a trusting relationship between yourself and the person you're recruiting. Recruiting is about a fit: does the player fit your school, your university, your football program? Obviously, official visits are important, no question about it. That's when you can show the recruit your hospitality and university and get the chance to experience a lot of different things. The official visits are really important.
Q: How do you feel like the tight end position is progressing?
COACH O'BRIEN: I know a lot's been made of that. I think we all have got to be real careful, because the two tight ends we had in New England are two of the best players in the NFL in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. We're not asking our tight ends at Penn State to be Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, we're just asking them to block well and understand route technique and understand their assignments. We've got four or five guys there that can play and we feel good about the position. I think we have to stop with the comparisons about what we did with Gronkowski and Hernandez and what we're going to do at Penn State.
Q: Can you talk about your relationship with Ted Roof?
COACH O'BRIEN: We have a great relationship. We're friends, our families are friends, our wives are very close. We go way back. When I was at Georgia Tech, it was 1998 and I was the running backs coach and Ted was a great player at Georgia Tech and George O'Leary hired him back in 1998 to be the linebacker coach. We both climbed the ladder at Georgia Tech to be coordinators and we were competing against each other in practice. We just had a really good working relationship and a really good off the field relationship. There's a lot of trust there. I worked with him at Duke. Those were a couple of tough years that people seem to mention a lot. We felt like we did the best we could for Duke. At the end of the day, when Ted left Duke, it was a better football program than when he took the program over. He's a hell of a coach and a great friend and a great father, husband, the whole deal. We're really lucky to have him at Penn State and the defense looks pretty good right now.
Q: Can you talk about some of the younger players, the sophomores you mentioned at media day, and their ability to lead?
COACH O'BRIEN: Anytime you're a younger player, if you're a good player, and you're out there on the field and you're making plays, you have a chance to be a leader on the team. Not just vocally, just as a guy who can set examples for how to go out there and play good football. That group of kids is a good group. They care about school and they care about the team, Penn State, and that's a talented group of kids in that sophomore class.
Q: Who will be the long snapper and who will return kicks?
COACH O'BRIEN: We're pretty happy with Emery Etter. He's a guy that's been doing a nice job in training camp. Great kid, smart guy, cares about the position and knows what his job is. I really enjoy (being around) Emery and more than likely he'll be our snapper. We've been looking at a lot of guys as returners. You'll see on September 1st who returns kicks.
Q: How has Deion Barnes looked in camp?
COACH O'BRIEN: Deion Barnes is another guy that is an excellent young player and really plays hard. He understands the scheme that he's playing in and that's a very strong position for us, that defensive line spot. He'll play and rotate in there at defensive end with Sean Stanley and Pete Massaro. That's a good, solid position for us and he's had a good camp. He's a good pass rusher. He's an athletic guy, who's tough and I've enjoyed watching him play this camp.