Despite major obstacles, O'Brien has PSU focused
STATE COLLEGE - There was a fury of questions being fired at Bill O'Brien Thursday afternoon at Beaver Stadium. O'Brien just sat there cool, calm, and collected and answered back with what seemed to be an immense amount of pride.
Since taking the job at Penn State O'Brien has maybe had to endure more obstacles than any other coach in the history of college football, and all before the players have even taken the field.
The message O'Brien kept reverting back to was that it was time to move on.
"We had lettermen show up last week, 450 lettermen showed up," said O'Brien. "This is a special place. Now we all have to come together and realize we're in the position we're in. We have to. We have to stop arguing about it, and we've got to move forward."
Many of the Penn State players are also determined to move on and move forward. The Nittany Lions from top to bottom all seem to be focused and ready to play football come September 1st.
"A lot of guys are stepping up for the guys that left," said former Blue Mountain alum and now starting offensive lineman Matt Stankiewitch. "The younger guys have really done a good job of taking advantage of the opportunity they've been given. We have our first game coming up, and now were practicing with helmets and shoulder pads so it's a good opportunity for these guys to show who they are."
Sophomore running back Bill Belton received a lot of media attention on Thursday because now he will step into the spot that Silas Redd has occupied the last two seasons.
Belton was listed as a wide receiver last year and also ran the wild cat offense for the Nittany Lions. Belton spoke about how he felt when Redd left and the transition to the running back position.
"I felt kind-of hurt by Silas leaving, but he's a good friend of mine and I wish him well in everything he does," said Belton. "I didn't think at all about leaving. This is a great school with a great education and we play great football here. It wasn't that big of a switch for me to transition to running back. I played running back in my earlier years of playing football so the transition was easy."
The Nittany Lions may have some questions on the offensive side of the ball, but one area Coach O'Brien does not have to worry about is his front seven, which is arguably one of the best in the Big 10.
"I feel good about our defensive line. I think we're deep there," said O'Brien The four starters there led by Jordan Hill, Da'Quan Jones and we have Pete Massaro and Sean Stanley on the end. Then we've got guys like Deion Barnes who is a really good young player, Brad Bars is going to get in there."
O'Brien also discussed the depth at linebacker and how he expects that unit t perform well all season.
"You have a preseason All-American in Gerald Hodges, who is practicing really well right now. He's making a lot of plays had a nice practice. Really good inside run drill, really seeing some great things from him," said O'Brien. Mike Mauti being back out there is great. He had his best practice yesterday. Glenn Carson has stepped in, he's a tough kid who loves playing, and he'll be good there. Mike Hull is another guy that is going to see time for us. I feel strong about our linebacker unit."
The secondary is where most analysts are saying the Nittany Lions are lacking. There is no question there is an issue of depth in the secondary, but senior defensive back Stephon Morris says he welcomes the criticism as a driving force to play that much better.
"People are saying we're weak in the secondary, but I don't really see that," said Morris. "We welcome the criticism, we just want to go out there and prove everybody wrong. I preach to the young players all the time that you can't let what people say bother you that you need to use it as motivation, so we love the motivation. Your secondary is only as good as your front seven so I'm excited for the opportunities our front seven is going to give us. They're going to play aggressive so we have to make sure we're working our butts off for them so we can take advantage."
After talking to a number of players and coaches it certainly looks like Coach O'Brien has everyone on the same page. Everyone seems in the right mindset to go out and play competitive football. Will the Nittany Lions be able to compete this season with all the losses and obstacles they've had to endure? That's the question on the minds of so many. For now, the Nittany Lions look to be prepared to take the field on September 1st.