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PSU players impressed by O'Brien after first team meeting

January 9, 2012
By Cory Giger, , The Altoona Mirror

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Penn State's players waited out a two-month search but finally got to meet their new head coach Sunday, and they came away with a very good first impression of Bill O'Brien.

"He seems like a great coach. I'm very impressed by him," center Matt Stankiewitch said before later adding, "Straightforward personality, great fit for a Penn State man. Honest, respectable, a lot of charisma."

O'Brien was introduced to the media and school supporters Saturday, but many players had not yet returned to campus from the Christmas break. Most of the team was back in time for a 5 p.m. meeting Sunday with the new coach.

"We were all really excited to get some first impressions of Coach O'Brien, see what he's all about," offensive lineman John Urschel said.

"He's exciting," linebacker Michael Mauti said. "He's a guy that knows what he wants and knows how to get it done and execute what he wants. Encouraging for us."

The team meeting lasted about 45 minutes, then a few players met with the media afterward. O'Brien was not available to the press, and he returned to New England later Sunday night to prepare for this week's playoff game against Denver.

The Patriots would have been playing the Steelers had they won Sunday. Fullback P.J. Byers wore a Steelers jersey to the team meeting, and O'Brien didn't miss his chance to joke around about that.

"[He said], 'My man right here has a Steelers jersey on,' and we all got a few chuckles out of that," running back Silas Redd said.

O'Brien did most of the talking at the meeting, and the players had opportunities to ask questions. None of the players would discuss details of what was said, preferring to keep it in-house.

"There wasn't a lot of give and take," Stankiewitch said. "The questions were at the end. He spoke in the beginning and spoke throughout the most of the time, but most of the questions were probably answered when he was talking, so that's why there wasn't a lot of questions."

Redd was impressed by one particular aspect of O'Brien's demeanor.

"It seemed like he was looking in each one of our eyes, and that really meant a lot to us," Redd said.

O'Brien was introduced to the crowd at Sunday's men's basketball game against Indiana at the Bryce Jordan Center and spoke on the radio broadcast at halftime.

He was asked how much he had been looking forward to finally being able to address his own team as a first-time head coach.

"That's probably the only thing I've been thinking about for a long time," O'Brien said. "I look forward to the challenge. I really can't wait to meet these guys.

"As I said [Saturday], it's really about players and the relationships you have with players and watching them grow and watching them graduate and win games and win championships. So I really can't wait to get started with them. I think I have a good message for them, what my expectations are for them going forward."

The players are excited about moving forward, too, after all they've been through this past season. Having a new coach in place helps them start that process.

"Now that it's happened, we can all start moving forward. ... Get away from all this media, all this nonsense about who's going to do this, who's going to do that," Mauti said. "So we can strictly worry about what we came here to do, and that's play football."

As for his new coach, Mauti said, "He definitely is excited about working with us, and that feeling is reciprocal. So we're excited to have him."

SUBHD: New RB coach

Penn State's new running backs coach is Charles London, who spent this past season as the offensive assistant and quality control coach with the Tennessee Titans.

Galen Hall had been the running backs coach and offensive coordinator.

"We are going to do our best to try and restore the name of Penn State football," London told The Tennessean. "I really had no reservations in going. I believe in Coach O'Brien, and that made it easy for me."

Penn State did not confirm the London hiring Sunday. O'Brien said he wants to announce all of the staff changes at once and expects to have 90 percent of it in place by Wednesday.

SUBHD: Bradley missed

Defensive lineman Jordan Hill said he had not yet spoken to former defensive coordinator/interim head coach Tom Bradley but wanted to wish him well.

"It's a sad thing seeing a good guy like that not be here, but as a player, you just have to be ready to move on," Hill said. "It's sad to say that, but I really wish him the best of luck whatever his plans are to do."

SUBHD: Recruiting update

O'Brien wants to make sure Penn State doesn't take any more hits with its current recruiting class.

"I'll get on the phone with these guys and secure the commitments that we have," he said. "We've made a commitment to keep those guys and then try to get some other guys that other coaches on the staff know about and we'll go from there."

SUBHD: News and notes

Quarterback Matt McGloin said he is still taking concussion tests and has another one lined up soon. He missed the TicketCity Bowl after suffering the concussion in a locker room fight with receiver Curtis Drake on Dec. 17. ... Redd hyperextended his knee in the bowl game but said he will not need surgery. ... Mauti said he is not quite back to 100 percent but is ahead of schedule with his rehab after tearing the ACL in his left knee in week four. He hopes to be able to do some drills in spring practice.

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