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Penn State Football: 55 Changes in the First 55 Days of the Bill O’Brien Era

by on March 01, 2012 10:00 PM

There’s never been anything like the past eight weeks of Penn State football.

Unless you are talking about the nine weeks before that.

Revelation, consternation, trans-formation. In total, there’s been 17 weeks of it – only a third of a year. But, really, it’s been a life and a lifetime.

It has been 55 days since Bill O’Brien took over the reins as the Nittany Lions head football coach from Tom Bradley, who succeeded Joe Paterno (on an exemplary interim basis) on Nov. 9.

Two months later, on Jan. 7, O’Brien was introduced as Penn State’s 15th head coach in 125 years – just the second in 46 seasons, and only its third in 62 years.

That was just the first change of the O’Brien Era, the actual hiring of O’Brien. Since then, there have been (at least) 54 more. Here’s a rundown of how BOB has altered the face and the future of Penn State football – and it’s still six months and a day until the 2012 season-opener against Ohio University in Beaver Stadium on Sept. 1:

1. Seven new full-time assistant coaches.

2. A new strength and conditioning coach.

3. And three strength and conditioning assistants.

4. An Olympic-style conditioning program based on free weights.

5. The weight room was gutted.

6. Got new weight equipment, Penn State’s second new set since September.

7. New turf is planned for Holuba Hall.

8. Reassigned the head coach’s secretary out of the football office.

9. Same with the director of football operations.

10. Brought in a new head of athletic training.

11. The chief videographer left.

12. Fired the director of communication and branding.

13. And his firm.

14. And the several Penn State grads who worked on the “Penn State Football Story.”

15. A new production company (or PSU) will produce the highlight/coach’s show.

16. Players are allowed to wear facial hair, hats indoors and earrings.

17. Players wear bandanas, do rags and trooper hats with flaps during conditioning drills.

18. Beards. Long hair.

19. Team conditioning practice at 5:30 a.m. twice a week, with assistant coaches in attendance.

20. An entire practice open to the media.

21. Media interviews with the head coach, individually and in groups, in the offseason.

22. An off-campus speech at a high school coaches’ clinic.

23. PR people calling reporters to offer coaches for interviews.

24. Video interviews with the assistant coaches posted online.

25. Players are available – often – for in-person interviews.

26. The top coach is visible at wrestling matches, men’s basketball games, women’s basketball games.

27. And at a Make-A-Wish function at the football building during THON, as well as the upcoming local National Football Foundation dinner.

Nos. 28 – 37: RECRUITING

28. No one hid or didn’t talk on last month’s National Signing Day, including the coaches.

29. And the players.

30. And the PR people, who posted the signees, with stats and photos, online.

31. A whole new recruiting landscape.

32. ACC country is now a priority.

33. So is the SEC.

34. And even California.

35. The first verbal commitment is earlier (Feb. 28, 2012 vs. March 19, 2011).

36. Recruiting is more all-hands-on-deck.

37. There’s a new recruiting coordinator.

38. The full playbook, just handed out to the players, features a pro-style offense.

39. There’s more emphasis on the quarterback position.

40. Lift For Life will have a team emphasis.

41. And it will probably be held at night.

Nos. 42-43: TEXTS, I SWEAR

42. Personal texts to players from the head coach.

43. Much more cussing.

44. A new player grading and evaluation system.

45. Blaring (is there any other kind?) heavy metal music during outside conditioning drills.

46. No talk about the head coach retiring.

47. Coaches’ introductions during basketball games.

48. The head coach personally answers email.

49. He also wears a ball cap.

50. Much of his work is done in the office, not at home.

51. Many of the coaches’ cars in the Lasch parking lot have out-of-state plates.

52. The defensive coordinator has coached at 10 schools (vs. his predecessor’s one).

53. There’s no Penn State graduate on the core coaching staff.

54. The head coach’s salary package is $2.3 million, with bonus clauses for on-the-field success.

55. But none for academics.

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979. He is a senior lecturer in Penn State's College of Communications and teaches a pair of classes in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism: “Sports Writing” and “Introduction to the Sports Industry.” He created and taught for several years the Center’s course on “Joe Paterno, Communications and The Media.” Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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