UNIVERSITY PARK –
Bill O’Brien met with reporters for about 15 minutes Tuesday and then opened practice for roughly an hour. Here are some observations from his Q&A as well as practice:
– Matt McGloin has clearly established himself as the No. 1 quarterback, and he seems to have distanced himself from redshirt sophomore Paul Jones.
O’Brien, who raised a few eyebrows at Media Day when he said McGloin would start but that Jones would also play, offered a rather frank assessment of Jones’ play through the first two-plus weeks of training camp.
“I think Paul needs to pick it up and do better,” O’Brien said.
Jones is easily the most physically gifted of the quarterbacks, but O’Brien hinted that true freshman Steven Bench is pushing the Sto-Rox graduate for the No. 2 job. He is probably just trying to get Jones’ attention though it will be interesting to see how much Jones plays in the season opener, particularly if it is a close game.
– Freshman tight end Jesse James got his share of reps with the first-team offense during the first hour of practice. The South Allegheny is a physical specimen and O’Brien all but said he will be among the true freshmen that play this season (see below).
– Derek Day is the No. 2 tailback for now, but Curtis Dukes appears to be getting more comfortable in the offense he has had to learn on the run. O’Brien said Dukes, Penn State’s leading returning rusher, has practiced better recently. Dukes didn’t practice in the spring so he could focus on academics.
What should really excite Penn State fans is the praise O’Brien lavished on starter Bill Belton for his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
He is a serious mismatch for most linebackers and Penn State will try to get him the ball in space this season.
– How bleak is the punting situation (see below) when the head coach points out that he can always go for it on fourth down? Paging Ralph Giacomarro.
– Belton, true freshman running back Akeel Lynch, cornerback Adrian Amos and wide receiver Evan Lewis were among those that returned kickoffs during a special-teams drill.
Q: Have you gotten any better feel for the offense since we talked to you last?
A: I feel like Matt’s got a real good grasp of the operation, how it all fits together. We’re going to be a multiple personnel team, a multiple formation team, run play-action, empty (backfield), change the tempo, hopefully be pretty good in situational football and hopefully we’re able to put that on the field September 1.
Q: How has the defense done picking up new schemes and concepts under coordinator Ted Roof?
That front seven, and I’ve been around some good front sevens, that’s a really good group for a college football team. Maybe it’s putting pressure on them for me to say that but I’m sure they would accept the challenge and I’m sure they feel like they’re going to go out there and play well.
Q: Do you feel any better about the situation at punter?
A: I wouldn’t say I feel great about the punting situation. I think Butterworth’s had a better week, he’s been more consistent and they’re all great kids. It’s just a matter of being more consistent in their punting. I wish it was a little more consistent but it’s getting better. And we don’t always have to punt. We can go for it.
Q: Have you not mentioned Jesse James when talked about true freshman since he enrolled last January?
A: He’s a little bit ahead of the freshmen. I’d say his blocking’s got to get better, just as with most young guys that play in the line of scrimmage. Sometimes the strength and speed of the game is a little bit hard for them initially but he’s obviously got a huge future for us.
Q: How anxious are you to play in a real game?
A: We can’t wait to play. We’re probably tired of hitting each other. I’m tired of three staff meetings a day and ready to go play some ball.
– Scott Brown