Alright let’s get to it. Check out the video above by Tony Mancusco of GoPSUSports.com for some sweet player interviews. Before we get to the really long Bill O’Brien press conference, make sure you at least peruse this story about Penn State fan Kelsey Hirsch, who is raising a ton of money for RAINN even though she’s only 12 years old. Follow her cause on Twitter.
Now for the press conference. It was kind of ridiculously long. You can read the entire transcript here. I just made note of the more important things that were said:
- Morale has been excellent.
- O’Brien is confident the players on the current roster will stick together.
- There is a plan in place to deal with the scholarship and bowl restrictions, but it’s a secret.
- The team’s toughness will be determined by stuffing the run, running the ball and coverage on punts and kickoffs.
- Sales pitch to current players: “unity, one team, sticking together, commitment, education, 108,000, TV, a great weight room, chance to develop as a player”
- Defense is “ahead of” the offense right now. That is usually the case at this point.
- This season is not about PSU against the world. It’s about PSU helping the State College community heal and bringing more awareness to child abuse.
- Quarterback Matt McGloin has gotten better since the spring, specifically in the mental part of the game.
- O’Brien respects PSU traditions. The jersey names are to put spotlight on players who will be community leaders. The blue ribbon is the most important part of the uniform.
- Bill Belton’s size influenced O’Brien to make him a running back. He will be capable of carrying the ball 20 to 25 times per game.
- Kicker Sam Ficken has kicked the ball “consistently” so far.
- The media doesn’t realize how good the wide receivers are. Shawney Kersey and Allen Robinson are 6’3″, can jump and have great hands. Alex Kenney and Evan Lewis are slot receivers.
- O’Brien doesn’t think about replacing Joe Paterno. The media session has upset today’s practice routine.
- O’Brien has a lot of confidence in strength and conditioning coach Craig “Fitzy” Fitzgerald.
- Winning is “hugely important” and will never be accepted, but Penn State will not “win at all costs.”
- Penn State has depth issues in the secondary, but there’s no one area of the team that keep O’Brien from his five or six hours of sleep at night
- Despite the darkness surrounding the football team, practices have been fun and upbeat. There is a lot of “chop busting” going on.
- Dakota Royer is a great kid. He’s just decided not to play football anymore.
- Redshirt freshman defensive end Jordan Kerner is still on scholarship despite an upcoming summary trial
- Matt McGloin led some unofficial team activities in the off season
- O’Brien has enjoyed fan support when he’s out at dinner or at his son’s soccer matches.
- Paul Jones is an “instinctive guy” and a “playmaker.” He’ll see some playing time this season.
- O’Brien feels good about the offensive line.
- Training camp is awesome and a great bonding experience for the team.
- O’Brien fancies himself a solid game manager, much like Bill Belichick. However, PSU will not be scoring 35 to 40 points per game this season. The team will play well on defense and special teams while scoring enough on offense to win.
O’Brien also talked about which freshmen he expects to have an impact this season. With shortages at the “skill” positions, I would be surprised if we didn’t see halfback Akeel Lynch and wide receiver Eugene Lewis at some point. The lack of depth in the secondary could be helped by newcomer cornerback Da’Quan Davis as well as safeties Jake Kiley and Jordan Lucas.
The strength of the team is considered by O’Brien to be the front seven. Jordan Hill and Da’Quan Jones should start at the defensive tackle position, while Sean Stanley and Pete Massaro attack from the outside. Pash rushers Brad Bars and Deion Barnes should also be part of the rotation. The linebackers should be solid with Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges, Glenn Carson and Mike Hull, while the secondary should be boosted by the emergence of Jesse Della Valle, who was scarcely heard from in his 2011 redshirt freshman season.
Interestingly, O’Brien says he plans on naming different captains for each game leading up until the Wisconsin game (the final game of the season). For that game, O’Brien plans on naming “permanent” captains, which I suspect will be players that he thinks will be leaders in 2013.
I was pleased with O’Brien’s responses during the press conference. Mostly I’m excited to see which fresh faces will step up and make a difference this season, especially at the wide receiver position. I know it looks like Penn State has nothing going on at receiver, but I suspect someone will take the bull by the horns and become a star. Remember, Deon Butler become an NFL prospect despite a low recruit ranking and having to play behind Derrick Williams.
I was kind of surprised that O’Brien seemed so certain that Paul Jones would get playing time. Does this mean that he’ll see the field even if the game is still up for grabs. It’s certainly possible that all of Penn State’s games are so competitive that there’s minimal opportunity for recruits to play in garbage time.
One guy I’d like to see more of is Curtis Dukes, who averaged 5.8 yards per carry last season on 41 carries. However, O’Brien mentioned Derek Day before Dukes when discussing running backs. Hopefully Dukes isn’t completely ignored, although I am optimistic about the playmaking ability of Belton.
You can follow me on Twitter @apy5000 for more Penn State fun.