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Family on the line at PSU

October 11, 2012
By Tim Schoen ( , The Altoona Mirror

UNIVERSITY PARK -Penn State offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and his wife Becky have developed a way that they can both play a role in helping to prepare the linemen for each weekend's game.

"I push them to the edge, and she babies them so we have got a good mixture there," McWhorter said in his thick southern accent.

While McWhorter pushes his players to the limit each day in practice, his wife is there to provide a comforting touch to the players after.

Part of coach Bill O'Brien's coaching philosophy is to have a family orientated program. O'Brien sometimes allows coaches' children and spouses to attend practice, and he tries to make the team have a family friendly feel to it.

Becky McWorther, or Mamma Hog as she is affectionately known to the offensive linemen, is one of the wives that loves being around the players.

McWorther said on a conference call Wednesday that his wife even hugs every linemen after practice, no matter how sweaty or smelly they are.

Mamma Hog has a Friday ritual where she cooks up what McWorther described as hot treats for the linemen for them to have before the next day's game.

The ingredients in those treats remain a mystery, however.

"There are some things that she cooks up, and there are special ingredients in those things that allow them to play at a high level," McWorther joked on a conference call Wednesday. "I would really have to kill you if I told you what was in them, it is that secret."

In addition to cooking the treats for her hogs, Mamma Hog also prepares a speech for the players that tells them what the food will allow them to do the following day's game.

McWorther is back to coaching after retiring from Texas in 2012 where he served as associate head coach and offensive line coach under Mack Brown. O"Brien said he was able to recruit his good friend to come back and coach with him.

A southerner his entire life, McWorther said he and his wife are enjoying the northern hospitality they have been treated to since moving to Pennsylvania.

The coach, who will turn 63 in June, said he hasn't thought about how many seasons he has left in him, but he is enjoying the moment and being a part of the new era of Penn State football.

"We're just taking it a day, a season a game at a time right now and that's kind of the way I've always done things," he said. "In this profession, you never know what the next day holds."

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Penn state's bye week comes exactly at the season's midpoint with six games played and six to go.

O'Brien said before Wednesday's practice that the team practiced Monday and Tuesday before having the rest of the week off.

Since there is no opponent to prepare for this week, the Lions three practices have been more about self-scouting their own tendencies and weaknesses.

It has also given the players a chance to get out of practice earlier and get caught up on their school work, O'Brien said.

The team has been going at full throttle since the beginning of August when training camp began, and O'Brien said it is important for his players to go home this weekend and spend time with their families.

"It is a good thing to get home as long as they take care of their school work here at the end of the week the coach said."

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While the players get the weekend off, the coaching staff will be out on recruiting trips trying to sell their message. O'Brien said he will be out Friday night doing some recruiting, but he did not specify where.

The coach said winning four games in a row and having such positive energy around the program will help when the coaches hit the road to try and sell Penn State.

"Kids can see that there is a good product on the field right now, and guys are playing hard," O'Brien said. "I think it is an interesting team to watch because the kids compete and play extremely hard."

O'Brien said his current players also help in recruiting by the way they represent themselves when they are being interviewed. The coach said that is an important thing for parents of perspective recruits to see.

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Some have wondered why the Nittany Lions have not played in the nickel formation this season.

Secondary coach John Butler's response to that is he only had six defensive backs to work with when he accepted the job at Penn State.

"We'll play nickel when we have nickel personnel,' Butler said.

The Lions have only six defensive backs on scholarship this season. Butler said in an ideal world he would like to have 11 or 12 defensive backs, but said he knows because of the NCAA sanctions 9 or 10 would be a more reasonable number to shoot for.

Butler said the coaching staff will have to solve lack of depth in the defensive backfield by going out and recruiting heavily in that area.

True freshmen Da'Quan Davis and Jordan Lucas have already been thrust into action this season. The coaching staff decided it was necessary to burn their redshirt seasons, and play them in games. Butler said the two were desperately needed, and there were no other options.

In a perfect scenario, Butler said it would be a redshirt year for both players.

"We are very, very, very, very, very, very, very far from a perfect scenario," the coach said.

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