Bill O’Brien: “My goals are to make alumni and our letterman very proud of the football team we put on the field in the fall.”February 21, 2012 – 6:20 am by Steven Cuce
It’s quite a challenge to replace a legend at any big time college football institution, especially at Penn State University, where the king that was Joe Paterno coached for 46 years before being dethroned by an alleged child sex abuse scandal involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky. Throw in Paterno’s passing, along with the New England Patriots crushing Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants a few weeks ago, and you find yourself in Bill O’Brien’s world.
The former Patriots offensive coordinator feels the transition to Penn State wasn’t too bumpy, and even though he is in no way affiliated with the previous Penn State coaching regime, he is vowing to make the alumni proud. This is a tall task, but O’Brien had been craving for a chance to be a head coach. He’s got his shot now in one of the toughest transitions the college football world has ever seen.
Bill O’Brien joined 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh with The Morning Show to discuss his emotions coming off the New England Patriots Super Bowl loss, being the first head coach of Penn State in the post Joe Paterno climate, the biggest adjustment he will be making in the college football world, getting a feel for the Penn State way, and his expectations for next season.
Talk us through your emotions of being hired then coaching in the Super Bowl and now being ready to be Penn State’s head coach:
“Really it was a transition that was a lot about people on both ends. We had a great staff in New England that was great there and we had a group of 8 men here and a support staff that really did a great job of finishing up the recruiting class and starting on the next recruiting class. So really it was more about the people than anything else. It wasn’t too bad at all.”
Was it twice as hard to keep up with Penn State recruiting given that you were still a coach for New England during a Super Bowl run and dealing with the post Joe Paterno world of this team?
“Again I was able to hire two guys off the previous staff: Ron Vanderlinden and Larry Johnson. Those guys did a great job of helping the new coaches transition over to this recruiting class. We really did a good job of holding onto the guys that were committed to us. A lot of the guys that went to other places they had decided to move on before I was hired, so we did a good job of hanging onto the guys that were committed and we added a couple of other guys. We’re really proud and happy with the recruiting class that we put in and can’t wait to start coaching them.”
What’s the biggest adjustment you are making from the NFL to college football?
“Honestly the big adjustment is the hash marks on the field. In the NFL the ball is basically in the middle of the field all the time. That is one of the bigger adjustments I’ve had to make. As far as players? Professional players? They are being paid and you’ve got to coach them and point them in the right direction and in a lot of ways college players just want to be coached too. These guys here all they want to do is get better and be coached, so as far as coaching? It’s kind of like riding a bike. Myself? We just jump on and we’ve hit the ground running.”
Are you starting to get a sense for what Penn State football is all about?
“I think anytime any time there is a transition from some coach like Coach Paterno, who had been the head football coach for 46 years it’s hard for anyone who gets the job from the outside to understand because there’s been a head coach in place here for 46 years. The thing to me is you quickly understand what a special place this is. The setting, the student body, the stadium, the kids on our team and how important football is to the fans here. The alumni. There’s 600,000 alumni here. It’s one of the largest alumni groups in the country. I have a pretty good understanding. I am learning every day and again we are working very hard. All of my goals are to make alumni and our letterman very proud of the football team we put on the field in the fall.”
What are your expectations for this season?
“We are just taking it day-by-day right now. I feel really good about the kids on this team and their work ethic. We’re in a process of evaluating a roster as we go through winter workouts and I feel good. We got a good core group of kids on both sides of the ball and special teams and we’ll show up for every game.”