Coach Bill O'Brien Teleconference
Nov. 13, 2012
Q. Coach, how did yesterday's practice and the players' attitudes compare to the Monday immediately following the Ohio State game?
Q. I know Kyle Carter has been ruled out for this week. Is there a chance he could be out for the rest of the season? I was also wondering, could you evaluate the play of Garry Gilliam. He's a tight end that you don't get asked about a lot and he does the dirty work for you.
He's a tough kid, he's an improved player. He plays a significant role for us, as a blocker, then he plays for us in a role in certain passing schemes that we ask him to run, certain routes, so he's a great guy to coach and he loves playing for Penn State. That's what I would say about Garry Gilliam.
Q. All four of the team's losses you have been leading or tied at halftime. Have you seen common issues in the second half of those games or what needs to be better there?
So in the off season we're going to dive into this thing and scout ourselves and see if we can improve, but over the next two weeks we need to make sure we do a better job of coming out after halftime.
Q. Do you think you could explain what happened to Kyle Carter and summarize the season he had for you?
There are so many different things that you have to know, and I thought as a young player he came in here and did a really nice job. He's got excellent hands, he's a tough kid, he's a great kid, just a really good guy to have on the team.
Q. With Sam Ficken, what do you think he's improved at the most from, say, the Virginia game, beginning of the season until now? How has he worked through his quadriceps issue?
Q. In light of what Matt (McGloin) said on Saturday with regard to Penn State not getting any calls, do you like guys who speak their mind postgame like that, or do you feel a need to coach 'em or caution them after a game against getting too upset?
At the end of the day, it's a free country and Matt can say what he wants, and that's what he did. He's an emotional kid but, look, it's time to move on to Indiana and that's it.
Q. There's apparently going to be a number of NFL coaching openings and at the end of this season. If there is, it's inevitable that some of those people are going to contact you. If they do, have you thought about how you're going to handle that?
Q. Matt Lehman is a guy who hadn't played very much before the start of the season, and I wondered what you thought about him in the first few practices in March and as he blossomed into his role as a player?
He's become a better and better route runner all year, and he's come up with some big catches for us in these games, and it's because of his hard work. Those guys are coached well by John Strollo. John cares about those kids and he's done a nice job with that position and making sure those guys improve every week.
Q. Deion Barnes is a guy that you talked about a lot before the beginning of the season and I'm just wondering if his playing has lived up to your expectations and how much room does he have to grow as a player?
Q. You look up and down this roster, I think it would be safe to say that a lot of the players have met expectations. Are you surprised that you're 6 4 this year considering some of the individual successes you have had?
We are just looking forward to you know what? I'm looking forward to practice today. Can't wait to go out to practice today and tomorrow and Thursday and Friday and then play in front of this home crowd on Saturday, so I'm looking forward to the Indiana game.
Q. The tight end position has evolved over the last 10 years in the NFL and college, and with your success at the Patriots and here with the tight ends, you've been at the forefront of that. Can you talk about when you realized the tight ends could be such an important part of the offense you run?
We basically started fresh with new tight ends, so in that draft, that 2010 draft, we were fortunate enough to draft Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and I'll never forget the day they came to New England for their rookie mini-camp. We knew right away that we had two uniquely talented guys, and we knew they would be match up problems for teams.
So what I learned there was because of their size and their speed and their catching ability and their football instincts that they could be problems for defense, especially on the inside of coverages. And then I learned when you split them out wide, they're a little bit of a problem, too, because they're going against corners that aren't as big as those guys are; Rob was 6 7 and Aaron 6 4. Then coming here I have learned even more.
I think we have a great group of tight ends here. They are smart, tough, they can do both, they can block, run routes, catch. Some guys are better blockers than route runners; some are better route runners than blockers, but they all work hard, and they're all instinctive players, and I hope we can continue to grow in that position.
Q. I believe you said earlier in the season that before the season begins you evaluate your players and project where they're going to be. I'm curious where Zach Zwinak was in that evaluation?
He came out there and he really did a nice job of doing what we coached him to do. Charles London does a great job with those guys, teaching them what to do every week. He's a tough kid, he can run, he's faster than people think he is, he's a 235 pound guy, he's strong, he's a punishing runner. And are there things that he needs to get better at, of course he does. He's got to get better at ball security. He can be a really good route runner if he concentrates on it, and I know he will. He's been a guy who has done a great job for us this year.
Q. Bill, this was addressed briefly after the game at Nebraska, some speculation that people are against Penn State or are out to get Penn State. I'm not sure you are aware, but today the NCAA apparel store stopped selling Penn State gear. They called it a glitch, but it has your fan base up in arms. What would you tell your fan base about this notion that people are against Penn State?
Penn State has a football team this year that plays with extremely good effort, plays hard. Penn State has a senior class on this football team right here that to me will go down in the history of college football as one of the better senior classes of any college football team.
At the end of the day, football is a sport played by guys that compete hard, and it's just a great team sport, and that's what it is, and nobody is against Penn State.
Q. When you guys go into the locker room at halftime, without getting into in game strategy, how much do you split up the time meeting with the coaches versus the players? Do you address the players as a group and does that vary game to game or do you have a set procedure for that?
One of the things that is interesting in college football is the halftime is a lot longer than in the NFL, so it took me a while to get used to that. In the NFL it's bang, bang, bang; there are no bands. When you're playing the Jets, there are no bands. And that's not a shot at the band, I love the band, obviously, so it's about a 20 minute halftime, and that's what we try to do and we make adjustments.
At the end of the day, sometimes those adjustments work and sometimes they don't. It's a bunch of good kids and good coaches trying to do the right thing. I wouldn't make too much out of the second half thing. I know that's what maybe you guys are driving at, but we just need to coach it and play it better.
Q. You know when the season ends, the transfer free agency stuff is going to open up again. Have you and your staff thought much about that yet or how you plan to deal with that situation?
Do we have a strategy for whatever that is? I wouldn't say we have a strategy, we just try to go out there with this 2012 team and just have open lines of communication and coaching them to the best of our ability and coach them to be well rounded guys. That's what we do.
Q. I know for your final two games you would love a full stadium, especially the student section for your seniors, but I am a student here, and I know a lot of kids are talking about going home and relaxing over break and not coming back for the game. Are you going to try to do anything to convince kids to come back for that Wisconsin game?
So as fans, as students, can we not choose to support them in their last two games, eight quarters of football? I don't know, to me that's what I feel. I think this is a team that's poured its heart and soul into this season. We're not an undefeated team, can't do anything about that now, we have two games left starting with a tough Indiana team.
I would hope and I would expect that our students and our fans understand what this team has been through and what they did to commit to each other, to commit to this university, to stay together and come support them in their last two games, especially this senior class.
Q. Given Matt McGloin's season, what do you think is in store for him, after the season? Is he a guy that could have a job in some capacity in the NFL even if he doesn't come back?
Q. Was your sideline warned at all before that penalty? Has your sideline been warned this year?
Q. Matt is not available this week. You figure it was a good time to give him a week away from the media, based on maybe after the game? Did that have something to do with it?
Q. You've talked about varying losses, and was this one, because of the circumstances, a little more difficult? Is your resiliency as a leader taxed through some of the disappointments?
And when they come back on Monday, they seem to be refreshed and for the most part every Monday they have come out and practiced well. No, we will be ready to go for Indiana. We will be ready to go.
Q. Coach, you talk about the special senior class and the most attention goes to (Matt) McGloin, (Michael) Mauti, (Gerald) Hodges, those guys. What can you say about the rest of the seniors? Shane McGregor, is going to be here talking to us. A guy like that that doesn't play much, what does he mean to this team?
There are a bunch of guys like that. I don't think we talk enough about Stank (Matt Stankiewitch), our center or (Mike) Farrell, our tackle. Those guys have played well for us...Pete Massaro and what he's gone through and Stephon Morris is one of the best corners in the Big Ten. A lot of people doubted how Stephon Morris was going to play this year. He's come out and had a hell of a year, and I hope people take note of that. It is a great senior class of guys and guys that have poured their heart and soul into this team.
Q. At the risk of beating a dead horse with the NFL stuff, you're in a unique situation after this season, where players have decisions to make, recruits are looking. Do you feel at all a need to make a definitive statement on your future, given the situation and that your name has been floated out there with some different teams?
Q. The group that calls themselves the "Supa 6" have you heard of them?
Q. What kind of camaraderie do they have and do you ever rib them at practice?
Q. Are you worried that they might make a move in the off season because they're so young and talented?
Q. I wonder if you can talk about Jim Bernhardt's role in the organization. Is he kind of like your Berj
I owe a lot to Jimmy. He's a behind the scenes guy here at Penn State. He is definitely my right hand man and, you know, I don't want to get into the details of his role because then I would have to kill you, Nate, but he plays a big role for us in our program (laughter).
Q. You have stressed the importance of the future of the walk on program here a couple times this season. Without giving too much away about your future recruiting strategies, of course, how do you entice a player to become a walk on given the circumstances as opposed to taking a scholarship offer from another school?
Q. What are your impressions of Indiana? When you see they gave up 500 yards to Wisconsin in running, does that make you change your focus to the ground game?
We feel like we have to play well on special teams because they're going to come to play on special teams and we're going to do the best we can to get an edge there. Kevin Wilson has done an excellent job with that program from when he got there to where it is now, so it's going to be a tough game for us on Saturday.
Q. We know that you like keep your starters in the game for most of the game but you're talking about the senior class do you have any plans to get Shane McGregor or any of those seniors more snaps with two games left in the season?
Q. Can you talk about the development of your defensive ends as a group, as a whole, throughout the year?
It was a little different run, gap control scheme so every week Larry (Johnson) has done a nice job of explaining the game plan and watching these guys improve. I think all of them have unique abilities. They're not all the same; some guys are better pass rushers than run guys, and some guys are better run guys than pass rushers, so we try to use them in that way, and it's a unit that has improved.
Q. Indiana has given up a lot of yards but they have the ability to get after the quarterback. They're third in the conference in sacks; you've got to be concerned about that a little bit.
Q. Malcolm Willis is listed as day to day on the weekly injury report. Can you provide an update on him? Did he practice yesterday or what are the chances he places on Saturday?
Q. Bill, James Terry is coming in here next. What does he do in terms of the defensive line?