Penn State Football: Bill O’Brien Has a Busload of Leaders to Captain His Team
The first player off the first big blue bus that shuttles Penn State’s players and coaches to Beaver Stadium home games in 2012 won’t be a quarterback.
Unless, that is, first-year coach Bill O’Brien names senior QB Matt McGloin a game captain.
Traditionally, Penn State’s starting quarterback led his teammates off of the bus and into the stadium.
Not any more. On Thursday, O’Brien announced two changes in that regard, as he continues to set the tone for a new era of Penn State football:
1. The first players off the bus will be game captains. (Of which McGloin no doubt will be one at some point during the season.)
2. O’Brien will select captains for each of the first 11 games, then name permanent captains for the year before the season finale against Wisconsin at home on Nov. 24.
“We’ll have game captains and those will be the guys that step off the bus with me,” O’Brien said at the team’s media day at the stadium. “Those will be the game captains. Then before the Wisconsin game, we’ll name permanent captains."
“So,” I asked O’Brien, “will you be the first guy off the bus?”
“I might be driving the bus,” he grinned, offering one of the few light moments in the 40-question, 43-minute and 18-second session with about 200 media members. Actually, it wouldn't be that much of a surprise; he's done just about everything else the past seven months.
“Do you need a special license to drive one of those things?” O'Brien joked. “People better get out of the way if I'm driving it.”
Good question. So we posed it to the folks in Penn State’s transportation department. Their quick reply: “In order to drive a (Penn State) bus, a person must have a CDL, Class B license and meet all associated requirements.”
So, Bill, that’s…uh…a “no.”
Still, as it is, O’Brien said he has no shortage of clutch leaders to drive the team.
“We have a really strong senior class. That’s where it starts,” he said. “You can’t say enough about our seniors. (Gerald) Hodges, (Michael) Mauti, (Jordan) Hill, (Michael) Zordich, McGloin, (Matt) Stankiewitch, (Mike) Farrell -- you just cannot say enough about our senior leadership.”
The starters on defense, especially, have banded together. It’s been reported that when the NCAA sanctions were announced, they all pledged to stay at Penn State, even when presented with the option of transferring without penalty.
Glenn Carson -- who started all 12 games at linebacker, played 617 snaps and was fourth in tackles in 2011 -- says that’s true. And he’s a smart guy to listen to, considering he was Academic All-Big Ten last season.
“We definitely talked among ourselves,” Carson said, “and we made sure everyone was staying and everyone was OK. People who had doubts we definitely understood where they were coming from. But we talked it out and a lot of guys in the end realized that it was not that bad of a situation and we had a good thing here at Penn State.”
O’Brien also praised several younger, but experienced, players for their leadership.
“We have a group of young players, younger players, guys that aren't seniors, who I think are really good football players that are also part of that leadership group,” O’Brien said. “Billy Belton, Adrian Amos—plus (two) seniors I didn't mention, I should mention in the secondary -- Stephon Morris and Malcolm Willis. But getting back to that younger group, you have those guys, plus Donovan Smith, Kyle Carter.
“And we’ve got good freshmen leaders that you can see already in our freshmen class.
“So we’ve got leaders all the way through the football team, and I think that says a lot about those kids, and we're letting them lead. That’s been good. So it’s a strong senior class, but it trickles down throughout the team.”
And, of course, it all begins with the man driving the bus.