Bill O'Brien Teleconference Transcript - Sept. 3
Sep 3, 2013
COACH O'BRIEN: As I did last week, I just to update everybody on the injury situation. Deshawn Baker is out, Brad Bars is out for the season, Kyle Carter is day to day, we don't know about his participation (for Saturday) but we think he's doing better. Kasey Gaines is back to train. Matt Lehman will be out for the season, Brent Wilkerson is out for a longer period of time. Same issue there, he had surgery but he will be back at some point in time, we think later in the season.
Other than that, few bumps and bruises but that's where it's at right now.
I'm sure somebody was going to ask me about this, but this weekend, obviously, we have a tough opponent coming in here in Eastern Michigan, we will talk about that as we go here but also it's the reunion of the 1973 team, 12 0, beat LSU in the Orange Bowl. John Cappalletti, won the Heisman Trophy and personally with my love of college football and the love the staff has, we can't wait to welcome those guys back. It will mean a lot to our fans. We're counting on a great turnout from our fans not only for our football team, and the game against Eastern Michigan but also for the fact that that team is coming back.
That was a fantastic team. They were 12 0, they beat Louisiana State in the Orange Bowl, and they had a Heisman Trophy winner on that team, so we are thrilled that have them back on the field with us this weekend.
Q. Bill, now that you've had a chance to look at the tape, can you further evaluate DaQuan Jones' performance Saturday?
Q. Bill, I was wondering, can I get your thoughts just on how the kicking game and the special teams played overall against Syracuse I thought you had a pretty big edge in that game as it unfolded and the progress that the unit has made since the start of last season, the kicking game?
Sam Ficken is a much improved kicker. Now it's one game, and he has to continue to do that and no one knows that better than him, but when you look at the Syracuse game he obviously had 4 or 5 touchbacks, and he was 3 of 3 in the field goal department. I thought that was a really good start for him.
The kickoff coverage itself needs to improve. We've got to get off blocks better, we've got to understand the direction of the kick better and that will happen. There are some young players on that team and you will hopefully see improvement there as the year goes on. I think when you look at the kickoff return team there is some improvement there. I believe we can block it better and return it better so we're going to work hard on that this week.
You look at the punt team, I believe that Alex Butterworth is an improved punter but he knows he can be more consistent. He and I talked about that yesterday out on the practice field. He's a good kid, works extremely hard at it, and he had a couple of nice kicks, one was a high snap, he went up and caught it and kicked it 46 yards.
The return team, we want guys to stick on their blocks better and open the lanes better and we think there is improvement being made there. Overall it's improved, but not near where it needs to be.
Q. Bill, how well do you think Christian (Hackenberg) handled himself running NASCAR (no huddle) on Saturday?
Q. Bill, you've been an advocate for Matt Lehman since last year. What impact will his absence have on the team this year?
But, to talk about Matt, I just absolutely love guys like that, guys that overcame the odds. He was at Shippensburg, he comes here and he tries out and he makes the team and, you know, a year later he's on scholarship.
He's really, really worked hard to improve his game this off season, came back in the training camp and had a fantastic training camp, and I told him the other day, I said, "Matt, I've seen a lot of knee injuries and I can give you many, many examples of guys, most recently Mike Mauti, who just made the Minnesota Vikings, who hurt their knees and have gone on to have tremendous careers," and I think he's a guy that can fall into that category. If he's willing to work at it, he's got a future in football ahead of him.
Q. Do you have more insight into your running game since we talked to you after Saturday? Anything to do better or maybe just anymore understanding of it? Are we close to seeing Akeel Lynch in the game this week?
Q. How about Akeel Lynch? Is he close to seeing time at running back?
Q. You're tough on yourself when it comes to play calling, as you alluded to. How much was the calls or the individual mistakes?
We went into MetLife Stadium with a true freshman quarterback. I think it was 104 degrees on the field throughout the game. We didn't have our best wide receiver in the first half of the game because of what I decided to do there.
Defensively, we put the defense in some tough situations, we did this with 65 scholarship players. We've got a tough, resilient football team. Personally I'm going to try to do the best I can to improve this week as a head coach and do a better job offensively, defensively and special teams.
To me, I just think we should be talking about that a lot. I think what's going on here look, it's just one game but I think it's an important subject to make sure that we all understand how, again, we've got a great bunch of kids that have stayed committed to Penn State and I think it's great fun to be around them.
Q. Bill, before the season you said that you had changed some things in your practice and stuff to deal with the heat. It looked like at the end of the game on Saturday like the defense in particular had a lot of energy, like maybe they looked like the fresher team. Do you feel like that stuff worked? Can you tell us a little bit about what kind of things you do to make that happen?
But, what we tried to concentrate on in the off season was conditioning and conditioning in the heat. We would condition in the middle of the day, during the summertime and things like that, or condition in training camp, maybe we would go into Holuba, and it would be hotter in there and we would condition in there. I do feel like our team is in decent condition and hopefully the conditioning improves throughout the year.
Q. What initially made you and the staff think that Stephen Obeng-Agaypong might make for a good option at linebacker and are you surprised how far he's come given his performance on Saturday?
Q. You mentioned that the '73 team will be honored this weekend. Are you the kind of coach that would have those guys come in and talk to the team at all or have them around practice?
Q. I'm wondering how your wife reacted to you calling Fitz every day on vacation?
Q. I noticed Glenn Carson, your starting middle linebacker, was long snapping. Is there a concern about him doing too much?
He's one of our leaders, just a really dependable guy, and that's Glenn. So going forward you will see different guys long snapping.
Q. How have you been able to enhance the offense from last year while still teaching Christian the basics?
Q. What's the balance? You did win the game and that's the most important thing, but there were situations with the running and 1 for 16 (one third down). How do you balance that with the guys?
I have looked to try to improve every single day and I look to try to improve them every single day and, again, I'm just trying to go out there and do the best job I can for the team, along with our staff, but there is a two way street there. We don't go into a meeting and say, "you, you, you," it's "us" all the way. Like you said, winning is the most important thing, and we won the football game. It's like saltwater; it cures everything. And you're from Pennsylvania so you don't even know about saltwater, but I'm from the Cape (laughter).
I thought it was collectively a good team effort. We did a lot of different things, we quick kicked, went for it on fourth down twice. Although I will disclose there, the first time we went for it, I thought we got the first down on the previous play. It was like (John) Belushi in "Animal House" "just let him go," like "when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor." (laughter)
I learned early in my coaching career you shouldn't go into halftime with all of your timeouts left, so we could have done something in the two minute drive there, but we had a lot of situations that came up in the game, and I felt like the guys handled them well and we need to make improvements every week.
Q. I think you guys took 16 freshmen on the road trip and it was 16 out of 72
Q. What do you hope those young guys get out of that, the experience being on the road and what do they gain from that?
Q. Talk about Ty Howle and how he filled the role replacing Matt Stankiewitch and how he worked with Christian on Saturday?
Q. What makes him (Howle) a nasty guy on the field?
Q. DaQuan Jones on Saturday, he had an excellent game. I was wondering in training camp could you visibly see a lot of improvement in him from last year and how so? I also wondered with (Jordan) Hill gone, do you think that he's really kind of knew that he had more responsibility this year and embraced that?
I feel like both myself and Larry, especially Larry, did a nice job with him in practice of limiting his reps, getting him good, quality reps so he would be fresh for the games and that showed up on Saturday.
But the guy it goes back to the individual. He's a fantastic kid. You talk about a guy that's overcome the odds in the classroom, overcome the odds on the football field, he's a great kid to coach, one of the leaders of our football team and hopefully he continues to play well.
Q. The breaking news is Cory is from Arkansas.
Q. We've adopted him.
Q. There was a famous coach who felt that a team made its biggest improvement from the first to the second game, and I wondered how you felt about that?
We can go to the film room and say, "this is what we need to do better, this is what you need to do to get better, and if we make those improvements we got a chance to improve each week," and that's what you're trying to do, and that's why you see that game one to two improvement, and hopefully you will see that this week.
Q. Bill, the general trend in college football and pro is about time of possession. Does that mean anything anymore? It seems as if the mentality has gone from withhold as long as possible to score as fast as possible!
I think if you're playing Oregon, or somebody that averages 50 points per game, you better be worried about scoring because chances are you're going to have a tough time stopping them, nobody has. So I think it depends on the opponent you're playing. We don't look at time of possession, we look at scoring one more point, that's the biggest thing.
Q. Given how Christian played the majority of the game on Saturday, is Tyler Ferguson still in the plans to get him action like you did on Saturday, or is Christian the guy?
Q. You mentioned special teams earlier. Could you talk more about Sam Ficken and where his confidence is as compared to last year?
Q. Can you talk about Eastern Michigan and what you see from them coming into this week?
We have a lot of respect for Eastern Michigan and I have a lot of respect for Coach English, they have guys that coached at the University of Michigan with Ron English and Stan Parrish, so we have a lot of respect for their team.
Q. Talk about Garry Gilliam and Adam Gress (RT) on the depth chart.
Q. And going off special teams you saw Von Walker and you singled him out a couple of times as a freshman that stood out. He took an interesting path to get here.
He has pretty good playing strength for a young guy right now and he can field the punt, he can catch, he has good ball skills, so his journey is interesting and he's a fun guy to be around. I like tough, competitive kids and he's one of those kids.
Q. Bill, how much is a balancing act between integrating new concepts for Christian and game planning toward things that he's comfortable with and is there a timeline when it comes to getting him deeper into the play book?
He's a bright kid, he's been able to pick up so many different things in our offense, so it's more me doing a better job with him than him doing a better job, to be honest with you.
Q. You not only trusted Christian with your offense but you let him come out and talk to us afterwards. Why was that important that he do that?
Anyway, I think he's mature, well-spoken, he's bright, humble, he loves his teammates and he loves Penn State. Here is a guy, just like a lot of these guys in the freshman class that could have gone anywhere. He had scholarships to over 50 schools, and he committed to us before the sanctions came out, and he stuck with us when the sanctions came out. Down the road, no matter what happens in his career, 10 years down the road he's all of these guys that did that, because there is more than just him, they're better men for having done that.
I felt like after a game like that and just, "why wait?" He's going to talk to you guys eventually anyway so it's good to get 'em out there after a win and let them see what that's about. Kind of like shaving your head with a cheese grater is what I told him just kidding.
Q. You can do more with recruiting now (after Sept. 1). Have you changed anything in the evaluation process from anything that you did last year?
Q. Tight end was considered by you guys to be one of the deepest position. Losing Matt Lehman, does that limit you or change how you do things?
You have to think out of the box. I don't think it's as much about limiting, it's more about being able to think out of the box and put guys on the right spots.
Q. Bill, the Virginia game last year for Sam Ficken was a nightmare for him and the stuff he got on social media and Twitter after that. Were you worried about his ability to rebound mentally or his psyche after that game? He seems like he's in a good place.
I don't know, I just you go on there and - "I brushed my teeth today!" Who cares? This is ridiculous! (laughter) But, anyways, I think he came through that with flying colors and he ended up absolutely helping us win games at the end of the year and now he's picked up where he left off and hopefully he can continue to do it. It's a fine line. He's working extremely hard to do it, and we will be with him every step of the way.
Q. You complemented Stephen Obeng's play at linebacker when he took a lot of snaps there on Saturday, but it was a situation where you had kind of a need. If there was a long term injury is there a chance that he could permanently move to linebacker, fill in, go into the depth chart as linebacker, or is he more of a safety and fills in when he can?
Q. How many multi purpose guys do you have like that?