O’Brien part of impressive coaching tree under O’Leary
A capsule look at Bill O’Brien’s weekly news conference.
Opponent: Central Florida (2-0)
Kickoff: Saturday 6 p.m., Beaver Stadium
About the Knights: They’ve scored 38 points in each of first two games against Akron and Florida International, while allowing only seven points; coach George O’Leary is O’Brien’s mentor from Georgia Tech; QB Blake Bortles rated 10th best QB prospect in 2015 NFL draft by CBSSports.com
Last time vs. Penn State: The Lions won at home, 37-13, in 2004
Line: Penn State is a 5-point favorite; over/under is 50
Know your foe: O’Brien said he has a “fantastic relationship” with O’Leary and went into great detail about how he worked some connections to get on the Georgia Tech staff as a graduate assistant in 1995. He said he learned two valuable lessons from O’Leary: organization and for the team to be physically tough and resilient. O’Brien expects a very tough, physical game. “This won’t be a game for the faint of heart, and that’s a Coach O’Leary trademark,” O’Brien said.
Coaching tree: O’Leary assembled quite a coaching staff at Georgia Tech, one that produced a number of head coaches, including: O’Brien, Doug Marrone (Buffalo Bills), Ralph Friedgen (formerly Maryland) and Randy Edsall (currently Maryland). “We just had a lot of good coaches, and I learned a lot from them,” O’Brien said. “I contributed what I contributed to that staff, but I think we all learned from coach O’Leary. I think every one of those guys would say we owe a lot to coach O’Leary.”
Do your job: How does a coach get noticed and move up in the ranks when he’s on such a good staff? “Coach O’Leary and Coach Friedgen always stressed to me to do a great job at the job you have,” O’Brien said. “Don’t worry about the next job. The next job will happen as long as that program you’re working for wins and you’re doing a good job and you’re a good person. So they really stressed patience.”
Speaking of good coaches: PSU’s Larry Johnson has been one of the best defensive line coaches in the country for many years, and he appears to have another star this season in tackle DaQuan Jones. O’Brien spoke highly of Johnson as a person and explained why he’s a good coach. “He’s very technical in how he coaches these guys,” O’Brien said. “He understands pad level. He understands hand placement. He understands the work ethic that the position requires. So when you watch him at practice, those guys really don’t take a drill off. They are going, and if they’re not going the way he wants them to go, they’re going to do up-downs.”
Staying grounded: O’Brien had a funny line when asked how things could get overwhelming for a young quarterback like Christian Hackenberg. “Try being the head coach,” he said with a smile. He then explained how the reality of the situation can’t be overlooked. “Being 18 years old and the starting quarterback at Penn State, that’s a big deal, everybody understands that,” he said. The coach also addressed the amount of attention young players get through recruiting. “Once they get to the campus, in some ways they’re like rock stars, which is ridiculous when you think about it because they haven’t done anything on the football field in college to deserve that,” he said.
New website?: O’Brien knows what Facebook is, but he seems to love jokingly calling it “Spacebook,” as he did once again Tuesday.
— Compiled by Cory Giger