I was fortunate enough to attend the penultimate day of the Coaches Caravan in Cleveland on Tuesday night. Since there wasn't much interest from the Northeast Ohio media, the press conference prior to the event consisted of just Tim Tolley of Victory Bell Rings and myself sitting across the table from Bill O'Brien. Below are some of the more notable comments that came from BOB during the presser and the Coaches Caravan.
From the press conference:
On implementing a new offense:
"We put everything in (for the Blue-White Game), but we weren't going to show our hand too much on all the things that we're doing. We put the bulk of the offense in so when training camp starts our kids aren't hearing things for the first time. We won't have any problems getting everything in by September 1st."
On naming a starting quarterback:
"I'll probably release a depth chart by the end of the month or beginning of June.The day after the Blue-White Game our staff left to recruit. So we haven't even had a staff meeting to assess it. I have a very good idea about the depth chart and the top 60 players, but that's why we have nine assistants. I want to hear what they have to say. So I'm not trying to hide anything but before I announce anything I want to discuss it with the staff and you'll get something after that."
On working around the personnel and shifting positions:
"(Bill) Belton has a really good running back skillset, that was a good move. In his time out there he showed flashes of really being able to help us. He needs to work on his ball security. Nate Cadogan is more of a tackle than a tight end. He's worked his way into a backup position where he can come in and help us next year. With (Dakota) Royer's skillset, he has a better chance at playing at the 'F' tight end than at linebacker. I think he can be a really good special teams guy. But he's going to stay at tight end."
On Jordan Hill:
"Jordan Hill is one of the best college defensive linemen I've ever been around. He's got great explosiveness and built-in leverage. And he's a great guy in the community, a leader of the team and one of our best players, if not the best player."
On selecting captains:
"We'll name our game captains throughout the season. I want each senior to be a captain in my first year. I really like our senior class. They went though some really tough times before I got here and it's really important to reward those guys, whether they are practice players or starters. Before the final game I'll name permanent captains."
On if he had any comments regarding Curtis Drake's status as a member of the football team:
"No." (Dead silence, steely gaze).
On Jesse James, and his thoughts about early enrollment:
"I've only been here four months but it's obvious this is a demanding football program and university. There's no basket-weaving at Penn State. To bring a kid in mid-year we better make sure he's properly trained and ready to be a college student. Jesse had some tough times in the first semester but he ended up doing OK, and we're really proud of him."
On Donovan Smith:
"Donovan is a great kid and mature for a young player. I love his size. He's explosive, he's tough and instinctive. I'm probably putting pressure on him, but I think he's got a chance to be a pretty special player. We left him at right tackle because we're impressed with (Adam) Gress. Probably when Gress graduates we can move Donovan to left tackle. I like our tackle position."
On Eric Shrive living up to potential:
"He's a backup guard but he's got a chance to play. He's at the top four of the guard position. He's a tough kid, he needs to work on his pass protection. He loves Penn State and he's a great kid. If he keeps battling and plays like he did in the spring he's got a chance to play for us."
On Penn State's week one opponent, the Ohio University Bobcats:
"That's a very tough opponent. He's (Frank Solich) a fanatic coach that I have a lot of respect for. He's been a head coach a lot longer than me. They took Ohio State to the final gun last year. They're a bowl team. So anyone who thinks that it's gonna be a blowout...I don't know. That's not going to be a blowout. That's gonna be a tough game and everything we do from here forward is going to be in preparation for that game."
On playing Virginia on the road:
"When I was at Georgia Tech and Maryland, every time we played Virginia at home we would win. But when we played them at Scotts Stadium, we didn't win. So that's a very tough place to play. They have a great head coach, Mike London, who has done a great job there. They're big, they're physical, and they're playing at home."
From the Coaches Caravan speech
On Joe Paterno:
"He was head coach for 46 years and had 409 wins, but that's not half of what he did. That will never happen again. I've spoken with hundreds of lettermen that he coached that have tremendous success stories. I'm not here to be Joe Paterno, I'm here to ensure the standard that he set."
O'Brien also gave credit to Paterno for the high character of the current players. He also mentioned the "tremendous" mentoring program for football players that was started by Joe and Sue Paterno.
"I can see why they call it Happy Valley. Has anyone ever been in a bad mood in Happy Valley?"
"We are one athletic department, one team- not 39 different programs."
"I've never been to a school where you can drive around and every student is dressed in school colors. It's really special"
"After the bowl game when I was so excited to address the team for the first time. I told them they should be very, very proud to be a Penn State football player and student. Not everyone gets to do that."
"I tell the players to ignore the noise. Look at the crowd and look at the pride. That's all that matters."
O'Brien mentioned that a man in an Ohio State shirt (yes, a guy actually wore an Ohio State shirt to the event) asked to take a picture with him, but he refused. This garnered thunderous applause. He also thanked Cleveland for Bill Belichick.
O'Brien also asked all the former Penn State student-athletes in the room to stand for a round of applause.
From the Q&A session with audience members
A fan asked O'Brien if he would wear a shirt and tie to the Ohio State game. O'Brien said he respected the question, but wouldn't be wearing a tie to a game.
O'Brien was asked about the difference between coaching NFL players where football is their full-time job and coaching college students that have to balance school and football. O'Brien said that he spoke with Nick Saban and other coaches with NFL and college coaching experience who assured him that 20 hours is plenty of time to implement your preferred systems as long as you have the right kind of players that can keep up.
Someone in the crowd asked the obligatory "Who will be the starting QB" question. O'Brien responded, "I will name a starting quarterback soon enough. We'll be fine."
A former player who identified himself as Tommy Schumacher thanked O'Brien for all of the respect he has shown for Paterno. O'Brien shared that his father went to Brown just as Paterno was graduating, and on Saturdays growing up in Boston, Penn State was always on the TV. His dad told him that Joe did things the right way, and thay he's honored to follow Paterno.
O'Brien said he's fine with players saying "Well I didn't like him, but I respected him." He hopes that these players will come back after 10 years and just say "Thank you."