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Penn State Football: Bill O’Brien’s Spring Practice To-Do List

by on March 25, 2012 2:25 PM

It’s the weekend, the time Bill O’Brien usually spends returning email from the previous week.

Spring practice starts in a day, and Penn State’s first-year coach is standing in a conference room at the Penn Stater Hotel, addressing a handful of reporters before the awards banquet for the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Football Foundation.

Call it the penultimate spring practice press conference. And this much is clear heading into Monday’s practice, the first of 15 culminating in the April 21 Blue-White Game.

O’Brien is looking for those who can make the cut.

“No. 1, we need to find out who the top-60 players on this football team are,” he said Sunday. “Who are the guys that are gonna be on that bus going to that game? And then what seats do they fill on that bus?”

Offensive and defensive schemes will be implemented in measured doses. Not too much, not too fast.

“We’re not gonna try to reinvent the wheel in the spring,” O’Brien said. “We gotta find out as a coaching staff who our best football players are.”

And who the smartest players are.

Because Monday, O’Brien will stress situational football in team meetings and on the practice field, starting with basics like what an offense and defense hopes to accomplish on first and second down.

As the spring progresses, strategies on third down, in the red zone, during the last two minutes and with field position backed up near the goal line will all be implemented.

Accruing a depth chart? That will come later. So don’t expect a final decision on the quarterback position until fall practice — not that that’s new.

But O’Brien was asked how he evaluates organizational depth and how deep he prefers each position.

He said he’ll enter spring camp with 16 or 17 offensive linemen, an usually high number, and only about nine or 10 defensive backs.

“We gotta balance that off as we go forward here over the next couple years,” he said.

“What we’ve done to take care of that going into this season is we moved a couple kids. We really leave the decision up to them. This is not something where we dictate, ‘Hey, you have to move a position.’ We tell them, just like we do with everybody in our organization, what their role is gonna be and then we let them think about it a little bit.”

At least five position changes have been made, most notably wildcat/wide receiver Bill Belton to running back and linebacker Dakota Royer to tight end.

Of course, the narrative of Penn State’s 2012 season is Bill O’Brien’s position change, going from offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots to his first-ever head coaching job — all while succeeding Hall of Fame coach and Penn State patriarch Joe Paterno.

O’Brien will call the offensive plays next year and will be more hands on with implementing the offense but said quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher will primarily handle that position.

It all starts up Monday.

Finally.

O’Brien was in church Sunday thinking about how just seven weeks ago he was calling plays in the Super Bowl. Now, he’s 24 hours from his first spring football practice at Penn State.

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Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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