Bill O’Brien is keeping all of us on our toes as far as quarterbacks go and I can’t decide how I feel about that. I think, after some deliberation, that I like that we don’t know who’s starting Saturday. I’m one of those people who actually likes surprises: I like that I will be surprised and I like that we’re surprising our old rivals in Orange. And now I won’t say the word ‘surprise’ anymore because I think it’s kind of been over-killed in this paragraph.
Actually, Syracuse hasn’t named a starting quarterback yet, either. O’Brien said that that’s kind of nerve wracking, but I’m sure he’s just being polite. BO'B doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who gets nervous. He said they’ve prepared the defense for two different styles of offense and now it’s up to the players to recognize who’s on the field.
Here are a few things B’OB wants everyone to know:
- There were no bad days at training camp
- He thinks he’s improved as a coach since last year
- He feels good about the linebackers
- MetLife Stadium isn’t sold out yet, and you should all go buy tickets right now
- He can handle the literal heat in the kitchen that is MetLife
- The 2012 season is over
COACH O'BRIEN: As we see it right now, Deshawn Baker, a wide receiver, will be out. He'll return at some point this season, but he'll be out. Brad Bars is out for the season. Kasey Gaines has a hamstring issue right now, and he'll be limited in practice and won't play vs. Syracuse and Evan Galimberti, who's a freshman for us, is out right now. DaeSean Hamilton, a freshman wide receiver, is out right now, and he won't be back for a while.
Adam Gress is full participation and he'll be ready to go on Saturday. Ben Kline is full participation and should be ready to go for the game. Garth Lakitsky, a linebacker, will not be ready for the game. Brent Wilkerson will be out for a while. He's had surgery and will be out for a little while.
Age Is (Not?) Just A Number:
Q: This situation is obviously different than last year with the quarterbacks. Is this because the two people involved are young players? Is that why you're holding off?
COACH O'BRIEN: I think that's part of it. You've got an 18 and a 19 year old guy here. That's part of it. They basically just got to Penn State. Christian got here a little over a month ago and Tyler has only been in since January.
Last year we had a seasoned quarterback who had been through a lot here at Penn State, he was going into his fifth year, it was a totally different story last year.
Again, it's more about what's best for the team. The team understands the direction we're headed and that's what's important.
To me, it's important, going into a first game not really knowing what your opponent is going to do, and I don't really think they know what we're going to do. They're a very, very good opponent. I think it's important to do what's best for your football team, especially going into the first game.
S is for Surprise:
COACH O'BRIEN: I'd say the same answer there as compared to the quarterback. I'll give you the same answer there. You'll find out on Saturday who starts at safety for us.
Both guys are really good players and they'll both play for us. Malcolm is a leader back there. He's a guy that's played a lot of football for us, and he's come in here and, for the most part, been healthy and had a very good, productive training camp.
Ryan Keiser, he's kind of an unsung hero right now after training camp. He's a guy that does a lot of different things for us. He's involved in all four special teams actually, five, because he's our holder on PAT/field goal, and he does a really nice job of that, and he's going to play safety for us, too.
He's an improved football player and it was a great day last year when we were able to put him on scholarship because he’s a guy that really deserved it. He’s a Pennsylvania guy, another Pennsylvania guy that understands the meaning of playing at Penn State.
Maybe We Should Stop Asking About Last Season:
Q: Bill, you touched on the big stage, being in New York. You guys had really gotten a lot of national run in the offseason with the way you finished last year. Do you see this as an extension, opportunity with the momentum that you could build, or do you just look at it as, hey, this is just the start of another season?
COACH O'BRIEN: It's definitely a new season, it's another season, but I do think, any time you play in New York City, you're on the big stage. It's on ABC. It's a big game. But, again, I think that everybody around here has to understand that 2012 is over. I know our players understand that.
So it's not so much building on momentum from last year, it's more about, "okay, what is this '13 team going to do?" And now here we have an opportunity to go play in a great venue and hopefully do a great job for our fans and our supporters.
Q. With the inexperience factor of Tyler and Christian, how much extra emphasis do you put on getting guys like Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton, and Akeel Lynch in the game and relying on them, or do you expect that, whoever the quarterback is, to just kind of pick up where Matt (McGloin) left off last season?
COACH O'BRIEN: I don't compare anything to Matt. Just like I said to Neil, I don't compare anything to last season. I expect that it’s 2013, the quarterback goes in there, whoever the quarterback is, and plays well. There's a high standard of playing quarterback here. That's what the offense requires.
We'll be as balanced as we can be. We're going to really try to be balanced. We can't go into the game and think we're going to win throwing 60 balls, but if we have to throw 60 passes, that's what we have to do. If we have to run the ball 50 times, then that's what we have to do.
We can't go into the game and have our minds locked in on this is how it's going to go because, with first games, you really don't know what to expect. So we have to adjust during the game.
Whoever's the quarterback, whoever plays who's in there at quarterback is expected to play well.
Q: Coach, last year was an emotional game leading up to the first week. You mentioned composure and poise a couple of times. Have you sensed a difference in the team's demeanor going into this year's opening game even though it's in a major venue?
COACH O'BRIEN Again, I don't compare anything to last year. I believe every team is different.
Right now I believe our team is preparing and doing the best they can to learn the game plan. They understand they're playing a great opponent, and they're looking forward to the challenge. Last year was last year, and this year is this year.
B'OB Can Handle The Heat:
Q: It's supposed to be kind of hot this weekend. There's depth concerns, obviously, for your team. How much of an issue or concern is that for you?
COACH O'BRIEN: Early in the season, that's an issue for both teams. One of the things you've seen recently around here, it's been pretty hot for the most part. Yesterday was hot and today's hot. It’s good to get out there and practice around the time we'll be playing the game. That’s important.
I think it's important the guys wear the right things when they play. Not to go into detail, but making sure they're wearing things that don't trap the sweat and they let their bodies breathe a little bit.
I think it's really important that we, as coaches, rotate players in where we can. Some of the positions we can rotate a little more freely than other positions, but we've got to do a good job of that as coaches.
I think early in the game, just like any first game, it's a big game being played in a venue like MetLife Stadium, everyone will be jacked up. Both sides of the ball will be pumped up. There will be a little bit of hyperventilating going on, and we've got to do a good job of calming these guys down and making sure we keep our poise on the sideline and get into the flow of the game quickly.
I don’t think (the heat) is a concern for us, but I think that's something that both sides are probably looking at.
Is it Saturday yet??
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