Penn State has seen more than a fair share of concerns when it comes to special teams, but Bill O'Brien is not in a position where rash decisions need to be made with the roster.
The struggles of kicker Sam Ficken have been one of the negative stories of the season for Penn State, and calls to make a change at kicker have come from a number of angles, but those calls generally come without any realistic solutions.
A recent video of a Penn State soccer player kicking some field goals in Penn State's football building generated some buzz and had some thinking he should be given a roster spot on the team quickly. If only it were so easy.
The simple truth is this. If Penn State had a better option to kick field goals or punt the football, don't you think O'Brien would have identified that by now on his own, with help from his staff that even includes a special teams coach?
"It will always be a big priority to identify obviously all the positions of need, and obviously that includes place kicker and punter," O'Brien said during his Tuesday press conference. "But at the end of the day, you just have to do a really good job of identifying..."
For now, O'Brien has identified Ficken as his kicker, for better or worse. Until he has a chance to see what he can do more with his recruiting, O'Brien can just evaluate his best available options right now.
"It's an ever‑evolving strategy, but that's something that we are very well aware of," O'Brien said.
The best thing O'Brien can do right now is keep his composure when things do not go well on the field. His job right now is not to find an immediate replacement for Ficken. It is to win the faith of his team and instill confidence at any opportunity to do so.
"We always talk about the next play," O'Brien said. "I know that's a cliché a lot of coaches talk about, but we just say, look, there's nothing that you can do about that last play...Stop dwelling on the last play. Don't sit and think for a second that the play's, you know, woe is me. It's more about, what am I going to do to do a better job on the next play."
That is the coaching philosophy that O'Brien can sell to potential recruits. He has bigger issues to focus on right now than a play that does not go as planned. The ability of a coach to not lose his team by overreacting to specific play or moment is one that helps a coach find stability at one job.
It seems as though O'Brien has that right now, and that should be commended. The result is Penn State going from 0-2 to string together three straight wins and showing improvement on a week-to-week basis.
"Some of the things in football are just about emphasis, it's hard to actually play it out, until you actually get into a game and things happen," O'Brien explained Tuesday. "But you can talk to them about it—all the time, and so we talk about the next play, play the next play, and don't worry about the last play."
Quotes distributed by Penn State Athletics via email.
Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast, managing editor of Nittany Lions Den and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
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