Penn State Football: Bill O'Brien Says There's More Work to be Done
FOGELSVILLE, Pa. — Bill O’Brien was picked up at the airport Friday afternoon by Matt Millen, who sported a black NFL Network track jacket and gray goatee.
O’Brien was here for the Nike Eastern Pennsylvania Coach of the Year Clinic, but before arriving at the Holiday Inn, they made a quick lunch stop.
“That’s why he’s chewing some gum,” Millen said. “I put so much garlic in (his food) that he’ll knock people out.”
Garlic hasn’t been necessary for O’Brien to assert himself 57 days since being hired as Penn State’s football coach Jan. 6.
“The No. 1 goal that I wanted right away was to make sure everybody in that building that’s associated with the football program understood their role,” O’Brien said. “That includes the players.”
He’s already dismissed Shawn Oakman from the team — a decision, he said Friday, that will not be changed.
Support staff and personnel have gotten the boot, too, from the strength and conditioning staff to marketing and branding.
More changes are coming.
“There’s still some work to be done,” O’Brien said, without elaborating.
But where is the line drawn?
“The line has been erased, the line’s gone,” Millen said. “It’s been the same line that was drawn since 1966 and it’s gone. That line has been blurred and we move on from that. Change is inevitable. The only thing that’s consistent is change.”
Guido D’Elia, the former director of communications and branding was fired earlier this week, and Penn State cut ties with his Pittsburgh-based firm, Mind Over Media.
Only Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden were retained from the former coaching staff, and no Penn State graduates are on staff.
Not even players are safe, provided they act in line. Oakman, a redshirt freshman defensive end from outside Philadelphia, is proof.
“We have a policy book we put together,” O’Brien said. “We went through the rules with our football team two weeks ago, and there are certain things that are off the field that I’ll leave between the team and myself that we will have no tolerance for.”
The policy book runs about 80-100 pages and involves job descriptions for players and staff and scheduling for things like spring practice, which begins March 26.
“It’s something you put together your whole career, especially when you get to the point you may be a head football coach,” O’Brien said. “You better be somewhat prepared for it.”
However, all change has not been bad.
O’Brien, without going into specifics, of course, sounded pleased with the start he and his staff have made on the recruiting class of 2013.
Four-star quarterback Christian Hackenberg and four-star cornerback Ross Douglas gave verbal commitments earlier this week. Nothing is binding until they sign a national letter of intent next February, but it’s clear they like the direction O’Brien has Penn State headed.
“We got to do a great job of recruiting Pennsylvania,” said O’Brien, who could not comment on whether Penn State was showing interest in Maryland quarterback transfer Danny O’Brien. “From there we’ve gone into Florida, we’ve gone into Georgia and then we’re nationally recruiting anybody that has an interest in Penn State.
“So if a quarterback from Texas calls us or sends us a tape and says, 'I’m interested in Penn State,' and he’s a really top-notch student-athlete, then we’re gonna recruit that guy.”
Good month? Great month?
“It’s been a great month,” O’Brien said. “It’s been a month where I’ve gotten to know our players better at Penn State. I’ve been able to talk about my vision for the football program.”