Penn State Football: 5 Ways O'Brien Can Right Ship for Lions
Penn State's football program is in a sink-or-swim scenario, and this is Bill O'Brien's first year as a college head coach.
That's going to create one very interesting situation. Watching a first-year coach lead the nation's most-maligned team into battle this season, and beyond, will be a continuous storyline to keep your eyes on.
If the Nittany Lions want to remain relevant, O'Brien is going to have to maintain a few things in Happy Valley. He will also have to make a few adjustments.
Let's check out how O'Brien can right the ship for the Penn State football program.
Recruit, Recruit, Recruit
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This is a never-ending job for any head coach, but O'Brien has to take it more seriously than most. He doesn't have the capabilities of other programs in light of the NCAA's sanctions, and he's going to have to refine Penn State's sales pitches.
O'Brien has to recruit 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He must exhaust the phone lines and burn shoe leather walking from recruiting visit to recruiting visit. It's a do-or-die situation.
The Nittany Lions can't promise the postseason, but they can offer other things. A quality education, NFL dreams and excellent college community are all things to like about Happy Valley. O'Brien must lean on what's left to draw recruits to campus.
Penn State will struggle with this. The future success of its program relies on O'Brien's ability to lure blue-chip talent.
Balance on Offense
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Matt McGloin can't carry an offense, but he doesn't have much help left. Silas Redd is gone, and he was easily Penn State's best offensive weapon.
That leaves McGloin and sophomore running back Bill Belton in the backfield. Belton is a first-year running back and probably more of a change-of-pace ball-carrier. McGloin is the lesser of three evils behind center and will struggle if placed with a lot of responsibility.
O'Brien has to make sure his offense remains balanced. The run game isn't strong enough to move the chains consistently, and McGloin can't do it all himself. They must keep defenses off balance and get creative.
This may be the toughest part until we see what O'Brien is working with for the coming years, but it's also extremely important.
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This is simple so I'll keep it brief. O'Brien, even if the Nittany Lions are losing games, must stay positive. He is their leader, and he is expected to lead them emotionally as well as physically.
We've already seen Penn State's players doing countless interviews speaking about their family-like atmosphere and dedication to the university. O'Brien must confirm those feelings and make sure they don't waver during hard times.
The Nittany Lions are going to lose some games over the next four, or more, years. O'Brien has to make sure his players keep their heads on straight and keep their mission in mind.
Focus on New Legacy
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The Nittany Lions have to find a way to move on. It sounds hard, and maybe even harsh, but O'Brien needs to make sure his players look toward the future.
No one is saying the words forgive or forget. That isn't necessary, and that would be a dangerous thing to do. But Penn State players must separate themselves from Joe Paterno's broken legacy and create their own.
O'Brien and his players are in the same boat. Each side is working with a clean slate, and neither side is expected to succeed on the field.
Penn State's program needs to find a new direction, and O'Brien has to make sure it has definite differences from Paterno's years in Happy Valley.
Keep Saying the Right Things
Just watch O'Brien's interview if you haven't already. He is on point with everything he says, and Penn State fans should trust what he says. He's "bought in."
O'Brien has a way about him that's both "real" and positive. He has an unquestionable energy and a valiant, "glass half full" approach. There's nothing fake about him, and he truly believes what he says.
This, in my opinion, is the No. 1 priority. O'Brien must establish himself as a rallying point for the "new" Penn State football program. As an outside product, he must be the shining light at the end of a very dark tunnel in Happy Valley.
O'Brien's attitude and energy is the best thing about him. Even if the talent on Penn State's sidelines doesn't produce wins right away, Penn State fans know O'Brien's head is in the right place.