UNIVERSITY PARK - What has Bill O'Brien gleaned from watching film of Penn State's returning quarterbacks?
On the first day of spring drills in his first season as the Nittany Lions' new head coach, O'Brien met the media Monday, and his overriding theme was clear: He plans to blaze his own trail - especially on offense.
The former New England Patriots' offensive coordinator said he has intentionally not studied any tape of Penn State's offense the past couple of years because, "I wanted to start with a clean slate with these guys and just evaluate them and the winter conditioning and now into spring practice."
He said he will monitor quarterbacks Matt McGloin, Rob Bolden and Paul Jones during practices and will chart statistics during scrimmages and 7-on-7 passing drills while keeping a close eye on decision making, reads and grasping of the offense.
He also said the demands of the job since taking over fulltime on Feb. 6 have forced him to prioritize, and forming opinions of how McGloin and Bolden played the last two years - along with the other returning offensive players - was sacrificed.
"I had to decide what's the most important things for me to get accomplished over the last three months, and so it was making sure I was up to speed on all their academics or situations with each kid on the team, recruiting, and then implementing our systems," O'Brien said. "So I felt like if I could just take one thing and not do it, that would be evaluating the offense from last year, and now going into spring I'll continue to evaluate them right now."
Another factor: It's clear the offense he'll run is far different than the one presided over in the past.
"I didn't want to make any judgments on what they did ... especially offensively, with not really knowing what they were doing scheme-wise and not really knowing how they were coaching it and all those different things," he said.
Conversely, O'Brien has watched film of the returning defense.
"We've got a lot of guys back, and we feel strong about where our defense is going to be going into spring practice and then at the end of spring practice," he said.
He's been impressed enough to suggest Ted Roof's defense will be well ahead of the offense.
"We'll probably be lucky to get a first down," O'Brien said. "That's what I keep telling Ted: We'll be lucky to gain an inch this spring."
While he did say, "I really like," all three returning quarterbacks, the looming possibility of Danny O'Brien, who quarterbacked Maryland for the past two years and is transferring with two years of eligibility left beginning this fall, may be another reason not to pick apart McGloin and Bolden.
O'Brien - Danny - was on campus Monday and has now visited Penn State twice and could commit sooner than later. He was the Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year in 2010 with a touchdown-interception ratio of 22-8 before Ralph Friedgen was fired.
O'Brien - Bill - would like to win sooner than later and, even without watching film, he knows the Lions have lost 10 games in the last two years behind Bolden and McGloin, often failing to score 20 points against quality opposition.
The potential O'Brien connection could be why the coach isn't dissecting McGloin's reads against Florida or Bolden's inability to sense the blitz.
Rest assured if the O'Briens shake hands on this, it's not for Danny to be a backup, which will render last year's offensive tape even more moot.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.