Irish eyes could be smiling on Lions’ UCF series

UNIVERSITY PARK – It’s looking more and more likely that Penn State will play Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland in 2014.

“We’re close. I’m telling you we’re close. I hope it happens soon. But I think we’re close,” O’Brien said of the planning for that overseas game.

The Orlando Sentinel reported Friday that Central Florida officials just returned from Ireland, where they were checking things out and working on details. The newspaper cited sources saying the game likely will be played at Croke Park in Dublin, a stadium built in 1913 (renovated in 2004) that seats 82,300.

News and notes

O’Brien addressed a number of topics Friday before teeing off in the Coaches vs. Cancer golf event:

n The coach was asked if he has any thoughts about the Paterno family lawsuit against the NCAA and quickly responded, “No. Nope.”

n It was one year ago at the Coaches vs. Cancer event when O’Brien named Matt McGloin the starting quarterback for 2012, but the Nittany Lions are in a different situation this year as incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg isn’t even expected on campus until later this month.

“I don’t think it’s too different,” O’Brien said of the circumstances. “We have one quarterback here on campus right now with Tyler Ferguson, and that’s the guy who definitely has the lead going into training camp because he’s been here. He’s been here for 15 practices and a lot of meetings, so it’s not that much different.”

n When Hackenberg does arrive, the first thing he will do is what all incoming freshmen must do. “The big thing is they get acclimated to the class schedule first,” O’Brien said. “They’ll take a couple classes, they’ll have study hall, knowing their way around campus, which he already knows a lot of that. Then they’ll begin to work out with [strength coach Craig Fitzgerald].”

n O’Brien said the Lions did not lose any players to academics in the recently completed school year, but he did say some players have some work to do this summer.

n Most of the team is on campus this summer.

“I kind of leave it up to them unless they absolutely need it for academic reasons,” O’Brien said. “I believe the majority of the team is here. It’s voluntary, the workouts and things, but I’d say the majority of the team is here, going to class, working out.”

n The offseason workout program will be a little different this season since the coaches and trainers know the players’ individual strengths and weaknesses better.

“We’ve probably asked them to focus on individual skills that I think will make us a better team,” O’Brien said.

“And then scheme-wise, we won’t be the same team we were last year. We have a brand new quarterback, things like that are different, defensively we’ll be different. I think you always have to change. You’ve got to stay on the edge of things. You can’t just stay the same.”

n More than 300 high school players are expected to attend today’s Advanced Skills camp at PSU, and O’Brien addressed how significant camps like that will be to the program for recruiting.

“Camps are big for a lot of reasons,” he said. “We have about 300 kids are showing up to [today’s] camp, and to me, it’s not only a chance for us to meet these guys, evaluate these guys, but it’s also a chance for these guys to see our campus and see what this place is all about.”

n O’Brien would love to see a hockey game played at Beaver Stadium.

“I would be all for that,” he said. “I’ve told [AD] Dave Joyner that. To play a hockey game in Beaver Stadium in January or late December I think it would be great for this area.

“It would be interesting to see how many people we got at a game like that. You think we’d get 100,000? That would be pretty good. I think that’d be cool. I love hockey. My wife’s a bigger hockey fan than me. I’m looking forward to the Bruins-Penguins series. I’m a Bruins fan, sorry about that to the Penguins fans out there. Going to try to get down to a game down in Pittsburgh.”

n Someone bid $5,100 for the opportunity to play with O’Brien and men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers during Friday’s golf outing. O’Brien said he’s about a 25 handicap and noted he played golf several times last weekend on Cape Cod. He added that his father, who just turned 80, bested him on the course.