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Coach speak with Bill O'Brien: Hodges not starting at kick returner but still in mix

September 4, 2012 - Cory Giger
A capsule look at Bill O'Brien's weekly news conference.

Opponent: Virginia (1-0)

Last time vs. Penn State: The Lions won, 35-14, at home in 2002 and hold a 4-2 lead in the all-time series.

Kickoff: Saturday, noon

Television: ESPN

Line: Virginia is favored by 10

Hedging on Hodges decision: O'Brien admitted he might be asking too much of LB Gerald Hodges to have him handle kick return duties -- "Yeah, probably," he said -- but the coach didn't rule out using Hodges there again. Hodges fumbled a punt that led to an Ohio field goal and missed time on defense with a leg injury. "It's a lot on his plate, and his main role is obviously as our outside linebacker," O'Brien said. "He might or might not be back there this week, but there was a lot on his plate, and I'll tell you, I accept responsibility for that. But we'll move forward and we'll find some guys that can return some punts." Hodges is listed as third-string kick returner, behind Bill Belton and Adrian Amos and ahead of Alex Kenney.

Fatigue not a factor: O'Brien disputed the notion that his players got tired in the second half against Ohio. "I don't agree with that. ... When I watched the tape, I saw great effort," he said. "I saw plays that just we didn't make." The coach went on to say the team is in "pretty good condition."

Don't call them walk-ons: O'Brien has coined a new term, calling the non-scholarship players "run-ons." "These guys don't walk, they run on the field, they sprint on the field, they bust their butt on the field," O'Brien said. "These guys are not walk-ons, they are run-ons. I know that goes against everybody's term for non-scholarship players for the last 100 years of college football, but that's just our term for them." Whatever they're called, Penn State will need contributions from a lot of them over the years with the massive scholarship reductions.

Punting problems: The coach didn't hide his displeasure for the punting game after Alex Butterworth averaged just 35.8 yards on five kicks. "It's not good enough," O'Brien said. There will continue to be a competition each week for the punting job. "I think everybody knows that part of our team has to improve," the coach added.

Alma mater tradition off to bad start: O'Brien wanted to start a tradition of having the team sing the PSU alma mater after every home game, but that didn't happen Saturday. "Yeah, I messed that up. That's completely my fault. We'll do that the next home game."

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