Penn State Football: Little Retooling Needed Even with Redd Gone, O'Brien Says
No Silas Redd. No problem.
That’s the message first-year coach Bill O’Brien sent Monday to a group of reporters huddled up following the first practice of the preseason.
Redd, the junior tailback who rushed for more than 1,200 yards last season and was expected to be the big piece of O’Brien’s offense, bolted west to Southern California after the NCAA sacked Penn State with sanctions, including a four-year postseason ban.
Sounds like the coaching staff has a major retooling job on its hands with the season opener less than a month away.
“You don’t have to retool everything, the next man up, it’s Billy Belton’s time to shine,” said O’Brien, who became only the second coach to lead the Nittany Lions’ first preseason practice since 1966.
“It definitely affects the depth a little bit, but we’re not retooling everything because one player left. This is about a whole team, not one player.”
Belton, the sophomore wide receiver-turned-running back, and the Nittany Lions showed up in shorts and shells Monday. Freshmen and incoming walk-ons are being acclimated to the college practice routine and on-field terminology later Monday night, O’Brien said.
They went through a morning lift with strength coach Craig Fitzgerald, who was spotted on the practice field wearing a blue shirt with the word, “Dominator” on the back in white lettering.
O’Brien does not expect any more to join the nine transfers who have left the program since the sanctions were announced late July.
“I’m very confident the guys that are here today are committed,” O’Brien said. “Again, it’s day-to-day, but I’m confident in these guys.
“They got up at 5:15 this morning and they came out and practiced. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t all pretty, but there were some good plays out here and we’ve just gotta keep getting better.”
- Left tackle Donovan Smith did not participate in the 30-minute window the media was invited to watch practice. O’Brien said Smith is slowed by a minor hamstring injury.
- Safety Jacob Fagnano, who is battling Stephen Obeng-Agyapong for the starting position opposite Malcolm Willis, was also slowed by a hamstring injury.
“These guys, they gotta hydrate better,” O’Brien said. “We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of our hamstrings.”