Bill O'Brien Press Conference: Indiana

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The bye week is over, and Coach O'Brien and the Nittany Lions are ready for some Big Ten football.

The bye week is finally over, and as far as bye weeks go, this one wasn’t too bad.  The NCAA announced it would reduce Penn State’s scholarship sanctions, Lane Kiffin was fired at LAX, and Coach O’Brien said the Nittany Lions had a productive week.  Not too bad at all.  Let’s play some Big Ten football, shall we?

Injury Update:

COACH O'BRIEN: Just to update everybody on the injury situation, Mike Hull is full go and should be ready for the game on Saturday, barring anything that would happen this week. Basically, as you look through our injury report, that's basically all there is. The only other one is Jack Haffner; guy from right here in State College, with an ankle injury, who has been helping us on special teams. Probably won't be able to go for the Indiana game. Everybody else seems to be ready to go.

On the Road:

Q. Bill, I wanted to ask you about your road approach. Last year you guys started very well on the road in all five games, outscoring teams 52 6 in the first quarter. I know it's a different year, different team, but do you stress anything, are you changing anything, can you explain why you guys were so good?
COACH O'BRIEN: I think the road is an interesting issue because basically when you go on the road, all you have there are the guys on the team, the coaching staff, the trainers, the doctors, the people that travel with us and that's a pretty neat mentality. Obviously, you would rather be here, in Beaver Stadium in front of 100,000 fans but when you go on the road it's kind of that - "look, all we need in this room is what we have in this room," that type of mentality, and we talk about that a lot. We deal with noise every day in practice so our guys are used to the communication process with noise and things like that. I think you have to give the players a lot of credit. Like you said, every year is different so we will see what happens this year, but we feel like we have focused players, guys that when class is over, they come to football, they're focused on football and we seem to practice pretty well so I think that has a lot to do with it, too.

Bye, Bye, Bye:

Q. What kind of things did you get accomplished during the bye week, specifically regarding getting better mechanically or whatever you wanted to with your team?
COACH O'BRIEN: Bye weeks are important. We have two this year; we just had our first one. Bye weeks are important for many different reasons. Number one, our staff can get together and look at the things that we have done in the first four weeks. Your team's identity is pretty much formed after the first four weeks so you can look at things like heavy tendencies and different areas of the field or down and distances and whatever you may have tendency-wise and try to correct those. You can look at individual players and figure out what we have to do during the bye week to try to get these guys better. You can look at your team and say, "you know what, we're going to scrimmage our younger guys at the end of every practice and improve the depth on our team, improve these younger players not only this year but for the future." Bye weeks are important, and I think we had a productive bye week. Again, how productive was the bye week? The proof is in the pudding on Saturday against Indiana.

Q. Bill, in respect to the bye week, again, coming after just four weeks, can you talk about in particular how beneficial that break is for your younger guys who you are relying on, specifically, (Christian) Hackenberg and your younger corner backs?
COACH O'BRIEN: I think you're right, it was important for everybody, coaches included, to take a step back and analyze everything and also for our guys to be able to practice without the pressure of having a game on Saturday and then to be able at the end of the week to go home. A lot of those guys were able to go home and see their families and things like that, or if the guys stayed on campus they were able to chill out because they didn't have any football responsibilities. So bye weeks are good, and obviously you've got to give guys that are banged up a chance to heal, too.

Q. You have two games and then another bye. Do you push these guys any harder knowing that there is another bye week two weeks away?
COACH O'BRIEN: Yeah, good question. We pushed them pretty hard last week. Last year during our bye week we practiced three times, last week we practiced four (times) and three of those practices we were in full pads. We practiced hard last night, we went through a longer Monday practice because we had the bye week. Now, all of that is predicated on where you are injury-wise, know what I mean? So, once we get to the next bye week, which is I think after Michigan, we will have to, again, re-group and see where we're at and see how hard we can go.

Keeping it Loose:

Q. With Miles Dieffenbach, he seems like a positive guy and I know he won your (Frank Patrick Total) Commitment award in the spring with Mike Hull. How has his attitude shaped the offensive line?
COACH O'BRIEN: Every team needs a Miles Dieffenbach. He's a good player, he's a good student, he's a very, very good guy. He's very funny; very funny guy, keeps it loose. He's got good timing, a great sense of humor, good timing with it. He's just a good guy. Every good team that I've been around has a guy like Miles Dieffenbach. He is a much improved player, one of our most improved players from last year, he's playing very well for us. Got to keep it going, now is the true test in the Big Ten schedule, but he's had a really good year thus far for us. Another Pittsburgh guy; love those guys from Pittsburgh.

Bang, Bang:

Q. Stephen Obeng-Agyapong has proven himself a versatile player for you guys at a key time. Can you remember back, whether it be in training camp or spring ball, when you realized he could be an option at linebacker and how did you come to that conclusion?

COACH O'BRIEN: From the day we walked in here, it wasn't just last spring, he was a guy that was a definite because of his size, speed, toughness, instincts -- that he could be a safety or linebacker from the day we got here and started winter conditioning 20 months ago. He's well-built, tough, plays with heart. A great guy to have on the team; team guy. We have always looked at him as a guy that could play safety or linebacker.

Sanctions:

Q. Bill, what has the reaction been among recruits since the sanctions have been reduced?
COACH O'BRIEN: I think it's been positive. I talked to a few of them, we're only allowed one phone call a week right now. I think it's positive, and it's positive news for Penn State. Our guys feel good about it; but we're focused on Indiana. I wouldn't bother asking our players about that, they won't answer it, I promise you. Our guys are pleased with the news, but we're focused on the Indiana game.

On the Road:

Q. Bill, I wanted to ask you about your road approach. Last year you guys started very well on the road in all five games, outscoring teams 52 6 in the first quarter. I know it's a different year, different team, but do you stress anything, are you changing anything, can you explain why you guys were so good?
COACH O'BRIEN: I think the road is an interesting issue because basically when you go on the road, all you have there are the guys on the team, the coaching staff, the trainers, the doctors, the people that travel with us and that's a pretty neat mentality. Obviously, you would rather be here, in Beaver Stadium in front of 100,000 fans but when you go on the road it's kind of that - "look, all we need in this room is what we have in this room," that type of mentality, and we talk about that a lot. We deal with noise every day in practice so our guys are used to the communication process with noise and things like that. I think you have to give the players a lot of credit. Like you said, every year is different so we will see what happens this year, but we feel like we have focused players, guys that when class is over, they come to football, they're focused on football and we seem to practice pretty well so I think that has a lot to do with it, too.

Indiana:

Q. When you look at the Indiana offense on film what strikes you about it and why has it been so proficient?
COACH O'BRIEN: Well, they do it fast and they have a really good quarterback that throws the ball accurately, and then they have some good, skilled players. They throw the ball to the slot receiver, the wide receiver, the backs, so they have some what I call really good "space" players, guys that can make plays with the ball in space and that's a tough offense to defend. You're going to have to make sure that you swing to the ball, that you tackle properly, that you get lined up and communicate and you're able to decipher the formation that they come out in and make sure you understand what they're doing, what they're lined up in and what can they do out of that formation. So the passing game is all predicated upon, in my opinion, having a good quarterback, a good play caller and a fast tempo offense.

Q. Indiana's quarterbacks have been pretty well protected this year, and I'm sure it's because of how fast they get the ball out and that, but is there anything a defensive line can do to disrupt the quarterback even if they're not going to get to the quarterback consistently?
COACH O'BRIEN: Yeah, no question, you see it more and more with our guys in college football and in pro football with quick drops, guys getting their hands up, you saw it last night in the New Orleans game, and it's part of the rush philosophy. If it's a three step drop, and the ball is coming out quick, some type of a slip screen and the ball is coming out quick, it's useless to try to keep fighting to get there or get a sack because you're not going to sack the guy; you need to figure out ways to get into the passing lanes and block the ball. At the end of the day, though, pass rush is about winning your one on one battle. So certain protection schemes involve what we call slide protections where you have double teams across the line, or at least two double teams, and then two guys that are singled, but they have to win their one on one battles. If you win the one on one battles consistently you're going to get a good pass rush.

Q. Talk about how your offense can help keep Indiana off the scoreboard this week.
COACH O'BRIEN: They play an up tempo style of offensive football so what do we have to do to make sure that we're scoring. I don't think we can come out of this game with a bunch of field goals. Again, we've got to score points in this game, but we have to do it in mixing tempos. We can't go into this game thinking we're going to go warp speed every drive, like I was saying before. So I think we've got to get a feel for that during the game, see how the game is going, where we're at in the game, where is the game at halftime, second half make our adjustments and make sure that we're doing it the right way to play a good team complementary football game.


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