UNIVERSITY PARK- Penn State coach Bill O'Brien knows he has some NFL caliber players on his roster, and he wants to give them every opportunity to be seen by the next level.
O'Brien allows NFL scouts to watch Penn State's practices. Every other Wednesday scouts from numerous NFL teams line the sideline during the team's practice. This Wednesday's practice featured scouts from the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, among others.
"I think we owe it to our players here that we give them an opportunity to be seen by the next level," O'Brien said of allowing scouts to come watch practice.
The coach said representatives from every NFL organization have made to trip to State College this year to scout potential prospects.
Scouts set up an appointment to come to Penn State by contacting Nittany Lion assistant coach Elijah Robinson.
O'Brien said the NFL relationships he's made while with the New England Patriots have allowed him to set up times for some scouts to come to practice on another day if they cannot make a Wednesday practice.
Allowing scouts into practice is part of the new era of Penn State football. Joe Paterno was notorious for his closed practice sessions, and he did not allow scouts in to see practice.
O'Brien wants to have a more open policy so he can do whatever possible to give his current players a chance to play in the NFL.
"It is very important because you have a chance to go to practice and see them interact with their teammates, maybe do some different things during practice that they haven't done in a game," the coach said on the importance of scouts seeing players in practice mode.
Penn State has a few players on its roster that could be drafted in this year's NFL Draft, like linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti.
Hodges said seeing the scouts lining the practice field dressed in their own team's apparel does not affect the way he practices or put added pressure on him to perform.
"You never really know if they're watching you or not," he said. "If you're out there, you're out there to practice. I'm not out there to impress any scouts."
Defensive tackle Jordan Hill admitted that it is sometimes hard to resist the temptation of looking over at the scouts and wondering what they are writing down on their notepads. Hill said while he is cognizant that scouts are there, he has to put it aside and focus.
Much like when college coaches attend a high school game or practice to look at a potential recruit, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter said he sees the practice tempo and intensity pick up when the scouts attend.
McWhorter said allowing scouts into practice helps increase the players' visibility and helps make up for the exposure the players lose by not being able to play in a bowl game.
"We are trying to sell that our program is one with a pro-style offense, pro-style defense, and we will certainly prepare you for the next level if you are good enough to play there," McWhorter said.
Quarterback Matt McGloin said he barely even notices the scouts at practice.
"Whether there's NFL scouts or not, that doesn't really determine how hard you practice," McGloin said. "I'm going to practice as hard as I can each and every day regardless of who's watching."
Having scouts visible at practice also allows O'Brien to use it as part of his sales pitch to potential recruits. He said he is able to tell high school players that in addition to playing on national television, they will be seen in practice by NFL scouts.
O'Brien said it was important for the scouts in New England to be able to come to college practices and observe players interacting with their teammates and coaches.
Penn State is one of many programs that allow scouts in, but O'Brien believes it can still work to his advantage in recruiting.
"I do think it helps when kids know that if you come to Penn State, if you play well and you produce on the field," the coach said. "You're going to be seen at practice and at games and you're going to have a chance."