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Head coach Bill O'Brien
Oct. 9, 2012
Big Ten Coaches' Teleconference
October 9, 2012
Q: Obviously, the game is being sped up and teams are running more plays. With your offensive background, do you think this is a good trend in college football? Is it fair to the defenses with what is going on?
Coach O'Brien: I think football is a trendy sport by nature, especially as it relates to the National Football League and college football. I think that it is important, whether it's offense or defense, to play the game at a fast pace. That's what we try to do here at Penn State in practice. We don't play as fast as some other teams play. We just try to play the game with a sense of urgency and a fast pace. I think with the way the game is being played now, that's a trend. Who knows what the trend will be next year?
Q: How do you judge as a coach if your playing too fast or what speed your team can play at?
Coach O'Brien: There's no question about that. You can't play this game at a frenetic pace, where your quarterback doesn't have any control over the game; he's just out there running plays. You've got to have the ability to control the football game. The way we try to do that is with our quarterback. That's what I'm accustomed to and what I believe in. I do agree that you cannot play the game at an all-out frenetic pace. You have to play under control at all times, but with an up-tempo system.
Q: Coach, not sure if you've heard it, but there's a lot of buzz around you for National Coach of the Year honors. What's your take on that?
Coach O'Brien: We're 4-2 and we have murderer's row coming up here, starting with Iowa. There's a lot of great coaches in this country. I've only coached six games my whole career. That's the farthest thing from my mind.
Q: How has the transition from the NFL to college been compared to your expectations for it?
Coach O'Brien: Everything's new, having never been a head coach. It's kind of like drinking water from a fire hose, so to speak. Something new happens every day. You have to budget your time and do the best that you can. We have a great staff here, a veteran staff that has done an excellent job of coaching these kids and that really helps when you're a brand new head coach. It helps to have a great staff. I've said since day one, we have a great group of players here, just really high character guys that enjoy practice and enjoy playing the game.
Q: After starting 0-2 and now winning four in a row, what does that do for your morale as a head coach?
Coach O'Brien: You can't be up-and-down in this business. You have to come to work every day and every week understanding that each week brings a new opponent. We started the season 0-2, but I felt that we did a lot of good things in those games. I knew that we had a really tough, resilient group of players and a good coaching staff. I felt that if we kept practicing hard and taking care of the little things and maybe doing a little bit better job in some other areas, starting with me. If we did that, maybe we would be okay. It had nothing to do with me, it's about the players and coaching staff here doing a good job of coming together and playing well.
Q: As far as Bill Belton goes, can you give an update on his ankle injury and what the week off can do for him? Also just how the week off can help in his progress as a tailback?
Coach O'Brien: I think that probably Billy's not 100 percent. I think that was a significant ankle injury that he had against Ohio. I think that was a high ankle injury. So he was out and he hadn't played running back, we moved him there in the spring. It's a new offense and now he's out for a few weeks. He comes back and now he's trying to get back in the groove of things. Billy's a good football player and, this week, starting yesterday, he's practiced hard. I do think this bye week will help him heal, but also get back into the rhythm of the offense.
Q: Can you say how you're going to approach special teams work during the bye week?
Coach O'Brien: We're going to really spend a lot of time on special teams. We started that yesterday and we'll continue that today. I do agree that areas of special teams have struggled, but really it's the specialists that have struggled. The kickers, punters, and snapper have all struggled at times. I think overall there has been some really good things on our kickoff team. I would say our punt return team has been decent. I think our kickoff return team is pretty close to doing something pretty good. I think we have to be careful when we say that our special teams haven't played well. I think our specialists need to play better, but overall our kids on special teams have done good things.
Q: What is your degree of surprise or satisfaction with the way your guys have picked up both your offense system and Ted Roof's defensive system?
Coach O'Brien: I think it's been decent. Again, these are smart kids and instinctive football players that work through repetition and practice. They put the effort in the meeting room and on their own. These kids really take a lot of pride in playing football. We knew eventually it would come. We have a long way to go. We're 4-2 and, as I said earlier, we have the meat of our schedule right here. This is going to be a very, very tough stretch for us. Hopefully they'll continue to improve on their knowledge of all of the systems here.
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