Coach Bill O’Brien Teleconference
Sept. 18, 2012
Q. How closely does Temple’s offense resemble the one Florida ran when Steve Addazio was there?
COACH O’BRIEN: There are some similarities. There is no question, though, that Coach Addazio has added his own twist to it.
But there are some similarities. They play at a very fast tempo; they take advantage of their players’ skillsets. It’s going to be a real big challenge for our defense on Saturday.
Q. Could you evaluate the play of two of your defensive players, your safety, Stephen Obeng Agyapong and defensive tackle Da’Quan Jones?
COACH O’BRIEN: Stephen Obeng played probably his best game on Saturday against Navy. He’s a fantastic kid. He works extremely hard in practice. He plays through injuries. He’s a tough tackler. He’s improved his play in space; just a fun guy to be around. Loves playing on special teams. Just one of those football players that you really enjoy coaching.
DaQuan Jones is a guy that’s done so many good things both on and off the field. He’s really a very, very hard working young man in the classroom. He’s turned the corner there. It’s something that’s very challenging for him, but he works extremely hard and we have a lot respect for him off the field as well as on the field.
On the field he’s a tough one on one block. I mean, this is a guy that’s a very powerful guy, strong guy. Plays extremely hard like all those guys do up front. Can really get a lot of upfield momentum going on out of his stance, which is really good for a defensive linemen. So, he’s a very strong powerful guy that’s having a good year.
Q. Can you assess how things have gone for you as a play caller through three games?
COACH O’BRIEN: There is always room for improvement with the play calling. We have got to do a better job of continuing to get the play in quicker. We’ve got to do a better job of calling better plays.
There is always improvement there; always improvement that can be made.
Q. What kind of impact would you like to see from the "Blue Out" at Saturday’s game?
COACH O’BRIEN: From the day I arrived here I felt like it was so important to be involved in the community, like Penn State Football has been in the past, and especially as it relates to putting an end to child abuse.
I believe it’s going to be a great day for the Penn State community. I think it’s going to be a very, very tough football game, but I believe there will be another great crowd. The crowds have been really awesome, the student body, the crowds.
And now to have the crowd dressed in blue T shirts for the Blue Out game and helping put an end and to have awareness to the child abuse problem in this country and everywhere, I think it’s going to be a great day.
I can’t say enough about PCAR and what they do in Pennsylvania. We’re just a small part of PCAR just trying to help them put an end to child abuse.
Q. How difficult has it been for you to deal with the tailback situation with how it’s been with a new starter each week, and where is it at right now looking to Saturday in your eyes?
COACH O’BRIEN: I have a lot experience with that, because when you play running back whether it’s in college or in the NFL you get hit. It’s a very, very physical position. It’s a position where guys really lay it on the line and take some really tough, tough hits. Those are guys that are tough guys.
But, at the same time there are injuries that occur, so I believe we’re fortunate here at Penn State because we have a decent amount of guys there. They all do something a little bit different. One guy is a little bit bigger than the other guy; one guy is more of a third down guy; other guy may be more of a first and second down guy.
So, we’ve got some guys that can really play, so I don’t think it’s been as difficult. It’s more like we said from day one, it’s the next man up. So the next man’s got to be ready to play when the one man goes down.
Q. And how does it look for Saturday?
COACH O’BRIEN: Looks good for Saturday. Some of guys are day-to-day, but I feel good about the backfield situation for Saturday.
Q. You mentioned Saturday that you were friends with Steve Addazio. When did you first meet Steve and how well do you know him? Is there a common New England bond there being you’re from Massachusetts and he’s from Connecticut?
COACH O’BRIEN: Yeah, I probably met Steve when he was at Syracuse on a really excellent Syracuse staff with Coach (Paul) Pasqualoni. Met him at that time. He’ll probably be mad at me for saying this, but he’s a little bit older than me, so I was a young coach and met him at that time.
There was a time there when we were going to be at Notre Dame together for about a day. He was at Notre Dame and Coach O’Leary I believe was going to keep him there. So that was a time there, too.
I wouldn’t say that we’ve known each other for 30 years, but we know each other and have a lot of respect for each other. He’s a tough football coach, he’s a smart football coach, and he’s done a heck of a job at Temple.
We’ve talked on the phone during the off season, and he’s been very supportive of Penn State and what we’re trying to do here. I really appreciate that.
Q. Other than Allen Robinson, you don’t have any wide receivers who have done a whole lot in real big numbers. Is that a concern, and what can you do about it?
COACH O’BRIEN: Not really a concern. I think on Saturday (vs. Navy) we spread the ball around pretty well. Allen had a good day, but I believe seven or eight guys caught passes.
I think if we continue to spread the ball around those guys that work really hard in practice…Brandon Moseby Felder has made a ton of improvement. Alex Kenney has made a ton of improvement. Christian Kuntz, Matt Zanellato, those guys are getting in there, and Trevor Williams.
So I believe if we just keep working at it, we just take what the defense gives us, we throw to the open guy, we throw to the one on one guy, and hopefully we can continue to do that and these guys will continue to work hard and improve.
Q. Just wanted to ask you about the Nyeem Wartman. Do you expect to get him back soon, and how disappointing is it to see a guy get sidetracked just when he’s getting started?
COACH O’BRIEN: It is disappointing because you feel bad for the guy. He’s just a great kid who has a really, really bright future at Penn State. You are just feel bad for him that he was playing pretty well and then he has the injury.
I wouldn’t expect him back for a while, though.
Q. Can you talk about Mike Hull’s development? Has he made enough strides where you sort of have to find a way to get him on the field, or is that more a function of his versatility that he can play inside and outside?
COACH O’BRIEN: Well, he’s a guy that I think has played a decent amount. He’s played on special teams. That’s one thing, too. He’s a guy, along with Mike Yancich and Micheal Zordich and Ben Kline, those type of guys, on special teams, they have done and excellent job.
We’ve talked about special teams where maybe our punting and kicking hasn’t been great, but overall our special teams, our cover teams, kickoff cover, punt cover, you got some guys on there really working and doing some good things there.
Hull is a guy that played well on Saturday when he got in there on defense. We’ve got a very strong linebacking corps, and we do try to get him in there and, you know, spell some of those guys that are ahead of him right now. He’s gone in there and played well.
He’s a tough guy. He’s a Penn State linebacker, and we’ll continue to play him.
Q. You guys had (forced) eight turnovers in the past two games. Has that been a play of emphasis for your staff since you came on board?
COACH O’BRIEN: Yeah, just probably like every defensive staff in the country, we drill it. We work on tip drills, interception drills, strip drills, strip sack drills. We do a lot of different things to try to emphasize it with our players.
We have been really fortunate that our players have done a really great job of going out on the field and taking the drill work to the game field, which is fun to see.
It’s really a matter of effort, and these guys are giving fantastic effort. That’s really what’s stuck with me over the last three games, is the effort of our defense to get to the ball and try to get the ball out.
So hopefully it continues.
Q. How much are Derek Day and Bill Belton able to do right now?
COACH O’BRIEN: I would say that Day’s probably a little bit ahead of Belton as far as where they are injury wise. But they’re both, no pun intended, day-to-day. We will just continue to monitor that.
Like I was saying to the other question, these guys get beat up during the season. They’re running backs. That’s the nature of the position, so the next guy has got to be ready to go.
We’ve gotten decent production out of other guys. Curtis Dukes came in and did some good things on Saturday; (Michael) Zordich did some good things; (Zach) Zwinak needs to probably play a little bit more.
So we’ve got some guys there that can step up, we believe.
Q. As Paul Jones develops at tight end, can we expect to see him getting more time out there against Temple and more playing time as the year goes on?
COACH O’BRIEN: Yeah. Definitely probably should’ve got him in the game a little more than I did last week. But he’s a guy that has improved over the last two weeks at that position. Definitely somebody that we need to look to he’s just a 260 pound guy that can run. He’s smart; he’s tough; he can catch the ball. As you can see on that one catch he made, he can pluck the ball and advance it up the field.
So we will definitely look to try to get him in the game a little bit more this week.
Q. What’s your daily involvement like with the quarterbacks, and how closely do you work with them compared to other positions?
COACH O’BRIEN: I probably work closer to them than any other position on the team. Charlie (Fisher) and I, I install the plays and then Charlie has a certain amount of time to meet with them. We divide up the responsibilities, and Charlie has done an excellent job of that, in coaching these guys up on the little detail things.
I’m more of maybe the big picture type guy. But we both meet with the guys. I probably spend more time with the quarterbacks than I do with other position on the team.
Q. How often do you meet with them?
COACH O’BRIEN: Every day. Well, every day except their mandatory day off, which is Sunday – make sure I say that.
Q. How concerning is it to you that you haven’t scored a rushing touchdown this year?
COACH O’BRIEN: Yeah, good question. We just try to score as much as we can. I went with a pop pass down there on Saturday that I felt like if we had a running formation maybe we could get them on play action. That worked out pretty well. But that’s kind of a run. You’re faking it and you’re just popping it to the receiver.
So, yeah, but we’re definitely looking for improvement in the running game. And we can run the ball. The offensive line has done a really good job of run blocking for the most part. It’s probably more me having to call more runs and get them into the game a little bit more.
That’s something I believe we can improve on probably more from my standpoint than the players.
Q. Walk on tryouts; how many guys are looking to try out and what are some of the positions you’re looking to bolster maybe through that process?
COACH O’BRIEN: I believe they try out tomorrow. They try out tomorrow after practice. Not sure how many guys will show up, but I believe males or females, I’m not sure how many will show up. We’ll see after practice tomorrow.
I would say positionally you would love to, hopefully, maybe there are a couple DBs in the crowd there. You know, that’s usually the position right now that we’re looking for because of numbers wise.
Other than that, I just want to try to get out there and see if we can find some good football players, you know, guys that are just hungry to play football that can move around a little bit, maybe catch the ball well. Maybe they’re bigger guys that we think have a future as a lineman.
Just different things we’ll be looking for. Just looking for football players, though.
Q. What has Michael Mauti’s presence meant to the team so far this season, especially the past few games?
COACH O’BRIEN: I just can’t say enough about Mike Mauti. Usually when you guys ask me a question about an individual person I try to relate it to the team.
With him, I’m more than happy to talk about him individually. He’s just a fantastic guy. He’s a guy that I’ll keep in touch with the rest of my life. He’s just a guy that has meant a lot to this football program, to this team, to his teammates. He’s great in the locker room.
Just watching him play, boy, you wish you could have played that way. He just plays every play like it’s his last play and plays within the scheme of the defense and just does an excellent job out there.
He’s a guy that means a lot to me and means a lot to our football program.
Q. After the game you said you thought you had a good play on fourth down rather than kicking the field goal. Are you sticking with that?
COACH O’BRIEN: Yeah, I did. I felt like we had a play that’s been a bread and butter play for us for a long time. We’ve thrown it for two touchdowns over the first two games against Virginia, and we had basically the same type of play against Ohio.
So it’s a play that I think has really been a bread and butter play. I went with it. We blew the protection on it. I think if we got the protection picked up we had a play there, but Matt (McGloin) had to scramble.
So, yeah, no I felt good about that play.
Q. Are you concerned with building confidence in your kicker at that point? How are you going to deal with that?
COACH O’BRIEN: I believe the confidence comes from practice. In practice last week he (Sam Ficken) was I think 10 for 10. During team situations he did some good things.
I talk to Sam all the time. I have belief in Sam. It’s just at that point in time I felt good about that play call from the yard lane, the hash mark that we were on, the time in the game, so I don’t think it has anything to do with confidence with Sam.
Q. If he would have made the extra point you still would have gone for it on fourth down?
COACH O’BRIEN: Yeah, I would have. I would’ve gone for it there. It would’ve been 21 nothing at that time if he had made that extra point, and I would have gone for it on fourth and eight.
I mean, at the end the day, it’s fourth down and fourth and eight. Let’s go. Let’s let it all out there. You’ve got a good play call, let’s call it and see if we can score.
I don’t think twice about any of that.
Q. Were you trying to get (Steven) Bench in, or were you not want to use him late in the game?
COACH O’BRIEN: No, I felt like it was still a ballgame there. I know what the scoreboard said, but I just felt like it was still Matt’s game and I stuck with Matt there.
Q. Over the first three games your defense has played a lot of snaps. Are you concerned at all about them potentially wearing down at all?
COACH O’BRIEN: They did play a bunch of snaps against Ohio; not as many against Virginia; and a then they played a bunch of snaps against Navy.
Now the thing that’s interesting about that, I do think about that a lot. I’m not as concerned about it right now. What’s interesting with that is with Ohio and Navy, those are ball control teams. Those are teams that offensively when you go against those teams you’re only going to get eight or nine possessions, especially Navy.
So you’re expecting a lot of plays because it’s that type of grind it out offense. As we move forward we’ll have to see if there is any similar offenses we’re going to play that are like that.
Again, part of that is offensively staying on the field and controlling the ball, controlling the game, and part of that is defensively getting off the field on third down.
I believe that they’re improved in that area. Right now, through three games, I’m not that concerned about how many plays.
Just trying to get another win here, against Temple, is the biggest concern.
Q. You talked Saturday about how winning breeds confidence. Last couple days, talk about the mood of this team. Do you do anything differently after a win than a loss?
COACH O’BRIEN: I would say that right now the team is about the same as they have been since I took the job. I really mean that. These guys are resilient, hard working guys. They understand that it’s just one win and they’ve got to practice hard and get ready for a really, really good athletic, tough Temple team.
These guys don’t change much. They come to work every day with their hard hats on and they’re ready to go. I think at the end of the day that’s the way it should be. That’s one thing that’s fun about coaching this team. I don’t change. I do the same thing I did yesterday that I did a week ago Monday. I show them the tape, what was good, what wasn’t so good, what do we need to improve on, and then move on to Temple and start talking about what they’re doing and how we’re going to combat what they do.
Q. A lot of guys said after the game on Saturday that they were happy to win for you. What does that mean to hear that many coming from your players? Why do you think you’ve been able to develop that relationship with them three games into a season where a lot of other coaches it takes them a couple seasons to develop that type of relationship?
COACH O’BRIEN: I don’t know. I really have a very strong relationship with these guys, and so does our staff. We talk all the time to these guys. They’re not always like these rose colored conversations, but they’re honest conversations. I think the guys appreciate that.
I try to be fair. I try to critique but do it in a fair and positive way. I think the staff does that. We’ve got a really good staff of communicators.
Again, like I’ve said from day one, the team that’s here right now, I just really have a strong feeling about this team. I don’t know what’s going to happen. We have a tough schedule ahead of us. I really enjoy being around these guys and how they work and how they operate and talk to each other and how they talk to us as a staff.
So, I just really like this team.
Q. Might a little early to ask this and injuries obviously dictate this but are there any imminent plans to play any more true freshmen, or are we going to have some redshirts with most of those guys?
COACH O’BRIEN: I would say right now, going into the fourth game, it’s more of a plan to try to redshirt these guys that haven’t played.
Again, injuries do, like you said – you’ve just got to these guys are ready at a moment’s notice. They are. They practice that way.
Some guys go back and forth between the Dirty Show and the first and second team practices. That’s tough on them, but this is a very strong freshman class that I think has a really bright future here.
We’ll see how it goes the rest of the year, but, yeah, at this point right now you would like to try to redshirt the guys that haven’t played.
Q. You have some coaches on your staff that coached against Temple last year. Does their knowledge impact the way you delegate responsibilities this week? COACH O’BRIEN: No, not really. It’s the same. Everybody has the same responsibilities every week. Every guy on the staff adds extreme value to the staff. Every single guy on that staff has a role on that staff that’s hugely valuable to the staff. That’s what makes the staff, I believe, a strong staff.
At the end of the day, some guys have seen Temple last year and the past couple years, that’s true, but we all have to study our film and come up with our own ideas and then put it all together and do the best job we can with the players of teaching them how to attack Temple.
Q. What did you see from Kyle Carter from the spring and then pre season camp and then into the season that kind of led him to the top of the depth chart there?
COACH O’BRIEN: Well, I noticed right away that he was a playmaker and that he had really good hands and he understood how to run routes. It was very instinctive. I noticed right away that he was a very bright smart guy, very smart. He could pick up the schemes at a rapid pace, which is tough.
He got it. He plays two or three different positions. One snap he’s a Y, one snap he’s an F, one snap he’s a Z. So in order to do all that, you have to have a heck of an IBM up here (points to head). So he’s done that.
Again, he’s part of that sophomore class year. They’ve designated themselves the "Supa 6," which I don’t know about that. But that’s a really good core group of players, and he’s definitely in that mix there.
Q. I know you mentioned Paul Jones has done everything you’ve asked of him. Mentioned he was a little hesitant with the switch to tight end. Do you think it was something that you said that helped him follow along with the switch, or do you think he knew that it was the right move for the team?
COACH O’BRIEN: I think it was a little bit of both. I’m sure he talked to his parents and they had some input on that, too. He’s a young guy. I want these guys to make their own decisions, but I understand that part of it’s me, part of it’s their family.
Obviously, it comes down to him and his willingness to do it. He’s a team player. He loves the team. He loves Penn State. He just knew he wasn’t going to get as much playing time at quarterback right now.
So he felt like he could help the team; I felt like he could help the team at that position; and now we got to keep getting him acclimated to that position and get him into the game more.
I would say it was more a mutual couple conversations, and he felt good about the move at the end of the day.
Q. Do you expect Donovan Smith to be available this week? Just to quickly follow up on the question about the redshirts, do the scholarship limitations factor into those decisions at all?
COACH O’BRIEN: No. We think about the here and the now, what’s best for the football team right now. There are certain conversations that we have that do look to the future a little bit, but not as it relates to this team here, this freshman class here right now. That doesn’t have a factor in it. It’s just what’s best for the Penn State football team in 2012.
Donovan is day to day. I know you guys hate that answer, but it’s the truth. If he comes out today and he can move around, then maybe he’s got a better chance to play. If he comes out today and he’s gimpy, then he probably won’t play.
Q. You talked about turnovers earlier from a defensive standpoint. On offense you haven’t turned the ball over in the past few games, only once in the year. Is that something you can keep up, and how much does that stress the practice from your side of the ball?
COACH O’BRIEN: (Knocks on dais) Again, it’s really a credit to the players. We just have to continue to emphasize it.
At the end of the day, you’re exactly right: If you don’t turn the ball over and the other team turns the ball over, you have a better chance this win. Although we proved that theory wrong in the Virginia game, hopefully that theory holds true most the time.
We have to continue to take care of the ball. We stress it all the time. Again, it comes down to the individual player, and so far they’ve done a decent job of that.
Q. I know you’re new to the series, but Temple hasn’t won since 1941.
COACH O’BRIEN: Thanks, leave it to you to point that out to me.
Q. Do you address that with your team, fact that it’s been 29 consecutive years (Penn State wins in series)?
COACH O’BRIEN: No. No. At no point in time do I ever address winning streaks. That has nothing to do with this game. Every year is different. I don’t know what they were like in 1940, but in 2012 this is an excellent Temple team with a bunch of good players.
It started when Al Golden went there, and Steve Addazio has done a great job of keeping it going. This is a good football team. These guys had, what five or six guys off last year’s team drafted? Looks like they got a bunch of draft picks on this football team right now.
So I don’t know about series or win streaks or anything. All I know is that this is going to be a very, very tough football game on Saturday.
Q. You mentioned before that Sam Ficken hit 10 of 10 field goals in practice. We saw him hit five on Wednesday. What happens during the games then? Is there just added pressure on himself? Is there any chance we can see (Kevin) DiSanto on Saturday?
COACH O’BRIEN: Right now it will be Ficken on Saturday. Again, I think it comes down to technique. Like I said, a little bit inconsistent with the plant foot.
Like I said earlier and I think these questions are very much I understand you have to do your job, but I think overall special teams wise, if you look at the our punt team, our punt return team…our kickoff team has done an unbelievable job.
Our kickoff return team has gotten better. We were one block away from having a big return on Saturday. I think we’ve got to look at the whole picture of special teams before we say one part of it is not going so well.
Obviously, we’ve got to kick the ball more consistently than we’re doing. But, I think overall, special teams has been pretty good. Sam just needs to continue to get better at his technique.
Q. Temple has been really close to beating Penn State recently. They refer to this as kind of their Super Bowl. Second question is, it’s early, but weather is not supposed to be that great. Will that alter your game plan at all?
COACH O’BRIEN: We only have 12 games this year, so every game for us is a very, very vital football game. I mean, we’re playing in front of 100,000 people here at Penn State. I would assume our players will come out with a lot of intensity. We’ve only got two more months to play.
So I’m glad it’s their Super Bowl, but this is a big game for us, like every single game this year. On November, whenever the season is over, so this is a big game.
I don’t know what the weather is yet. We’ll have to see. I don’t make judgments on that until later in the week.