Penn State Football Atlantic City Notebook: O’Brien Confirms Caravan, Squad Size and Getting His Irish Up
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – A few interesting pieces of Nittany Lion football news got lost in the shuffle of the program’s recognition weekend at the Maxwell Football Club Awards.
The biggest news may be that second-year head coach Bill O'Brien -- named the Maxwell Club's 2012 coach of the year -- confirmed that he will hit the road again this spring for a reprise of Penn State's Coaches Caravan.
O'Brien said on Friday that he will once again do a bus tour of the Commonwealth this spring, but said it “won’t be as many stops.” With O’Brien headlining a rotating lineup of about a dozen Penn State coaches in 2012, he barnstormed through seven states in nine days, with 18 stops.
O’Brien didn’t elaborate about the 2013 tour, other than to joke that “I hope they tie the seats down” on the bus.
There have not been any official announcements, but this year’s caravan will most likely feature a pair of three-day tours at the beginning of May, with about a dozen combined stops in Pennsylvania, New York City and the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area.
On The Road Again
From Atlantic City, O’Brien flew to Orlando, Fla., where he spoke Saturday at the Nike Coach of the Year Clinic. He shared the program with a slate of Southern coaches -- Jimbo Fisher, head coach of Florida State who spoke about defense; Mark Richt of Georgia (offense) and James Franklin of Vanderbilt (quarterbacks). Clinic materials indicated that O’Brien was going to speak on a variety of topics.
On Sunday, O’Brien will be in back in Pennsylvania, and will travel to the Allentown area. He will be the featured speaker at the annual scholar-athlete banquet sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.
Current Roster Size
Spring practice starts on March 18. Penn State’s students are gone March 2-10 for spring break, so that will give O’Brien one week to round his players back into shape for 15 days of official practice, culminating with the April 20 Blue-White Game in Beaver Stadium (noon kickoff). His roster for spring drills is basically complete.
“We have 93 total guys in the program working out,” O’Brien said. “The scholarship range is maybe low 70s, (with) not less than 70 going forward, when training camp starts.”
NFL scouts by the dozens will converge on Holuba Hall next Monday, March 11. That’s when recently graduated Penn State players, as well as those a year or two out of school – like Derek Moyes, Chima Okoli, Eric Latimore and Ollie Ogbu – will work out in what is essentially a job interview.
Michael Mauti, Jordan Hill, Gerald Hodges and Matt Stankiewitch were invited attendees at the official NFL Scouting Combine last week in Indianapolis. Mauti, rehabbing from knee surgery, said on Friday that he will not participate in any drills on campus.
For his part, Hill won’t participate in much, either. “I’m not going to do a lot. I did everything I could at the Combine,” Hill said. “The Combine is definitely not what you see on TV. All you see on TV is the drills and stuff, but that’s the very least you have to be worried about. It’s about the interviews and the physical – which I passed with flying colors.” Hill had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in early December.
O’Brien Still Likes Ireland
His team denied the opportunity to play in a post-season game until at least 2016, O’Brien said he is continuing his quest to have the Nittany Lions play a future regular-season game in Ireland.
One hold-up? The Big Ten (and we’re not talking about the conference withholding bowl revenues of about $13 million from Penn State over the next few years, either).
“What’s difficult about that is – because I always get in trouble with my bosses on this, although I think it’s fun to talk about – the Big Ten is deciding on whether to go a nine- or 10-game (conference) schedule in the future,” O’Brien said Friday in Atlantic City.
“So we kind of have to wait to see what they do. It could stay at eight conference and four non-conference (games). Or nine conference, then three non-conference. Or 10, with two non-conference. So we have to wait. And then we have to find an opponent who is willing to make that trip. We’re definitely exploring and trying to be aggressive about it.”
Lynch Set to Appear in Court
Penn State running back Akeel Lynch, a redshirt freshman in 2012, was charged with criminal mischief for an incident at a campus residence hall in November, it was first reported week.
“That’s something where he has to appear in court,” O’Brien said. “But again, like I usually tell you, this is a great kid. I believe he was wrestling around and his foot went through a window. Maybe that’s something he shouldn’t have been doing, but I certainly don’t think it’s a felony. He has to appear in court and pay his penance that way. I don’t think it’s something that is going to set him back too much.”
Chip and Bill
Between Christmas and New Year’s, O’Brien met with the brass of the Philadelphia Eagles about their head coach’s position, which opened up after Andy Reid was fired. A few days later, without being offered the job, O’Brien said he was staying at Penn State. Later in January, Oregon head coach Chip Kelly – a longtime friend of O’Brien’s -- was hired.
“I do know Chip really well. I have a lot of respect for him,” O’Brien said. “He’s one of the brightest coaches I’ve been around; he’s a really bright guy. …He thinks well on his feet, with a lot of great ideas. He’s creative. He knows how to surround himself with really good people, which he has done in Philadelphia. …We’ve texted back and forth.”