Coach Bill O'Brien Teleconference
Oct. 31, 2012
Q. Bill, now that you have had a chance to review the film, why do you think your team committed so many penalties against Ohio State?
Q. Bill, you talked a little bit about Purdue yesterday. What's the bigger challenge in your mind? Dealing with the size of their defensive tackles or just getting ready for their multiple offense?
We have a big challenge ahead of us. Offensively they're a varied, multiple offense. You're going to have to defend the field both horizontally and vertically, you've got to do a great job on third down, so it's a big job for our defense.
Special teams - we've got to play better on special teams than we have in the past. Especially last week, so that's what we're trying to do is shore up some things on special teams and it's a big challenge for us.
Q. Bill, for your seniors, they're down to four games left. After everything they have been through, and how will that affect them this final month?
They understand that they have four shots left, and it's been really neat to come to practice this week and watch these guys practice with great effort, with passion, compete against each other. Yesterday's practice, the pads were poppin' and that was really good to see. Again, that's all because of our senior class and their leadership.
Q. Bill, could you provide a quick update on Kyle Carter, and also with regard to the tight end, how long has that been important to you as an offensive coach, and what do you expect from the guys that play that "F" spot?
That tight end position, really, we've always thought that the tight end was a big part of what we've done, whether it was Georgia Tech, whether it was Maryland. Georgia Tech we had guys like J.P. Foschi, Maryland we had guys like Vernon Davis and Jeff Dugan. And obviously, New England the past couple of years with Rob (Gronkowski) and Aaron (Hernandez). So we've always felt the F tight end and the Y.
What people have to understand is those positions are interchangeable. That F guy can be a Y and that Y guy can be an F, depends on the personnel group you called and what you're trying to do with your personnel groupings. Those are two difficult positions in our offense to learn, second only to the quarterback position, because you're involved in all facets of the game. You're a route runner, a blocker, all the things that go into playing that position, so it will always be an important part of what we do here at Penn State.
Q. Yesterday you mentioned how you know you need to improve the kickoff return game. Do you think the issues are with the guys with the balls in the hands, the returners themselves, the guys in front of them block and go how close do you think you are to fixing the problems?
Again, when you're starting drives inside the 20-yard-line, inside the 15-yard-line, in the Big Ten it's hard to drive the ball consistently 90 yards, 85 yards. It's easier to play on a shorter field, so hopefully we can show the improvement that we think we have seen in practice, hopefully we can show that in the game on Saturday.
Q. I was wondering how Sam Ficken was looking in practice lately and is your confidence with him to the point where you will put him in in a tough situation the rest of the season?
He was able to go in Saturday and kick off and I thought he had some nice kickoffs. I went for it on fourth down, and I think it would have been a 37 yard field goal and again, that was more because I felt good about the play call and had nothing to do with my lack of confidence in Sam. I have confidence in Sam, I just felt we needed to get a first down and get in for a touchdown on that drive, so that's where we are right now.
Q. Earlier today in his interviews, John Urschel said that he thought that you got a little the team got a little too excited for the game, and they need to calm down and stay collected. Did you see any of that?
Q. Alex Kenney, can you talk about his progress and why his role has decreased as the season has gone along and also would he be a guy that you might be looking at for kickoffs, since it sounds like you're going to open up the competition this week?
You have to know your assignments, you have to catch the ball, you have to run good routes, you have to block properly in the running game. That's what we're striving to do with every position and at the end of the week we determine who plays based odd how they have practiced so that's what we would say for every position on the team.
In the return game we're looking at a few different guys this week and by the end of the week we will make a decision on who is returning kicks.
Q. At the risk of hitting you with another John Urschel question, he mentioned that they have been working on improved communication between the linemen and between Matt (McGloin) and the linemen. Do you think that's an important thing and how do you go about working on that in practice?
We've also met about it, I've sat down with Stank (Matt Stankiewitch) and Matt McGloin about it, two great kids, bright guys, and, again, I think it starts with me, with coaching, so we have tried to coach it better and be more detailed about this week and hopefully it will be better this week.
Q. The NASCAR offense is exceptionally demanding. How much of that can be credited to the stuff that Fitz (Craig Fitzgerald) is doing with his new strength and conditioning program?
I think that does have a lot to do with the off season conditioning program of Fitz, and that helps in the up tempo way we play. I think we practice fast, we run from drill to drill, a lot of you guys have been at practices and you can see we go from stretch to sprint to the next drill and we try to practice at a fast pace and I think that helps the level of conditioning.
Q. What do you think of Fitz' pregame routine with the worm and all that?
Q. Bill, in your three losses you've been outscored 42 3 in the third quarter. Does that concern you, and what do you have to do to play better in that quarter?
I think in some games, like you said, that's our three losses but obviously in our five wins we have done a better job of coming out at halftime, but that's a fair criticism and we have to make sure that starting this week we do a better job at halftime.
Q. On Fitz, Mike Hull said earlier today when he was asked about the craziest thing Fitz has done, he said he licked the floor. Is he a different kind of guy?
They enjoy lifting in there, conditioning with him, they enjoy going in there and talking to him. As far as, like, licking the floor and things like that, you'll have to get him over here and you can ask him. I don't know about that.
Q. What type of defensive end has Deion Barnes been for you this year and what has his relationship been with Sean Stanley? What type of relationship do they have?
He and Sean Stanley, that whole defensive line, that's a close group. Offensive lines and defensive lines are always close with each other and with their coaches, because that's a very, very physical position that they play. It's a different deal playing those positions, offensive line, defensive line, and you're getting hit on every play and it's just different. So they have close relationships with each other and with their coach.
Q. I'm wondering if there are challenges in practicing through the storm this week. I know you were inside for a lot of it, was it hard to get everybody together? Was that difficult for you guys?
We're going outside today for at least part of the practice, if not the whole practice.
Q. Are there risks practicing on a wet field?
Q. You have some players from New York and New Jersey, any of them have impacts in terms of the storm and the flooding?
I think right now all of our players' families are doing okay. Again, our thoughts and prayers go out to all those folks in New Jersey and everywhere that you're seeing on the news, it's a brutal deal, but I think our players haven't been necessarily affected by it.
Q. You were pretty hard on yourself last week after the loss. Are there one or two areas you are trying to improve on going against Purdue?
Q. What have you seen out of Purdue's secondary on film, particularly their safety, Landon Feichter leading them in tackles, what stands out?
Q. Is there an art to building a coaching staff? Do you lean on your contacts more or is there recruiting gamesmanship on keeping an eye on what good assistants are doing a good job around the country and at some point looking at bringing in outside guys.
When it comes to coaching, are they guys, in my opinion, that I have worked with before or that I trust somebody that I know that's worked with them before and trust their opinion of them. Things like that.
We have an excellent football staff of coaches that communicate well with the players, that are smart, that have been in a lot of different situations football-wise that are good teachers and excellent recruiters, so this is a staff that can hopefully stay together for a while.
Q. In terms of balancing, retaining assistants, young assistants oftentimes have desires to move up the coaching ranks. How do you balance stability versus bringing in new coaches for fresh ideas so that your product doesn't become stale over time.
I've been only a head coach for nine months; I just was there. I always wanted to be a head football coach. I think you want guys on your staff that aspire to those things, too, and some guys are older, and they don't necessarily want to be that; they just want to do the best job they can for Penn State and in their role on the staff. But this is a smart staff, a good teaching staff, a good recruiting staff, a staff that gets along together and a creative, bright staff.
So I don't see the word "stale" being used for quite a while with our staff.
Q. You were just talking about getting better every day and always wanting to improve with your coaching. What are the biggest challenges that you've encountered as a head coach eight games in now at this point?
The one thing that I've tried to do every single day is work extremely hard and be organized in my work. That's what I'll always try to do here and the other thing I've tried to do is be open, honest with our staff, with our players, and to make sure that everybody has an idea every single day of where they stand, what do they you can't stay the same, you have to figure out ways to get better.
Hopefully I've done that every day. Other than that there has been a lot of challenges, just being a first time head coach there is a ton of challenges. We would have to be here all day for me to tell you exactly all that there are, but there are challenges on the field, off the field, everywhere.
Q. Has anything been different than what you expected?
I can't tell you how much I enjoy these players. I've had the most fun coaching that I've had compared to any year. I had a ton of fun last year, we went to a Super Bowl, that was great, and this has been just as much if not more fun and rewarding, coaching this team and being around these players.
Q. Can you describe your adjustment and satisfaction to the Big Ten officiating process not specifically the officiating but the process. Obviously there is going to be a couple of calls per game, do you break that tape down, send it to them? In particular, the call at the end of the half, the hold. I'm curious whether that came up in terms of questioning.
And we do send if we have questions on certain calls that were made we do send it in, but that will be one of my questions, okay, what happens when we send 'em in? We get a response, but what's done about that?
Do we try to fix the problem, do we just, okay, that was the answer, all right, next game? So those will be things I will try to address after the season, but I have a lot of respect for the Big Ten officials, they're good at communicating, and I'm sure they haven't had a lot of fun with me, certain crews haven't had a lot of fun with me, and I'm going to fight for my staff and for Penn State and that's the way I'm always going to be.
Q. You have talked about your seniors. You're not going to have a bowl game, are you seeing junior leadership develop and particularly how important for the next month or so?
Q. You talked about Sean Stanley, he had a nagging back problem earlier in the season but Saturday he had arguably his best game of the season. How have you seen him develop over the season?
He almost blocked a punt the other nature and we were only in punt safe and he came close to blocking a punt because of his own effort, his own work ethic.
Q. Kyle Carter, how surprised are you with his success? Is there a tight end in New England that he most reminds you of?
Rob Gronkowski is 6 7, 275 pounds with a low percentage of body fat, Aaron Hernandez is 6 4, 245, 250 pounds that runs a :4.5 40, so you're talking about totally different players, all thee of these guys, and Kyle being a college player, those guys are professional athletes, but they have different skill sets, and I haven't been surprised at all with the production that Kyle Carter has this year.
Q. I know you like to focus on what you have going here but with Danny Hope on the hot seat and Purdue needing a couple of wins to be bowl eligibility, is there any doubt in your mind that your team will be able to match their intensity on Saturday?
You only like baseball plays every other day, sometimes every day, basketball plays every other day. We only play once a week. We play once a week. We practice five times very hard for that one opportunity to play a game.
So, you know, regardless of whatever is going on with any team that you play, and vice versa, we've got to go out there and our players, I believe, understand that we have only four more opportunities. We only play once a week, that's all we have. So we're going to put it all out there hopefully on Saturday.
Q. If Kyle can't go, how does that impact your personnel sets and are there particular guys that you think will have to step up?
Q. Adrian Amos got the first interception for the secondary, Saturday night. Do you and Ted (Roof) pay attention to turnovers, and are there specific practice drills that you guys work on to increase that?