Penn State's O'Brien works to get it right

August, 28, 2012
8/28/12
10:21
PM ET
video Editor's note: Ivan Maisel has the latest from Penn State as the Nittany Lions prepare for their season opener versus Ohio.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- It took nearly the entire two-hour practice for the Penn State offense to get on head coach Bill O'Brien's good side Tuesday.

Midway through the practice, O'Brien huddled up the entire team and said, "No. 1 is we got to pick this up, especially on offense. We've got to pick this practice up."

He never got to No. 2. He sent them back out on the field.

O'Brien bellowed. He yelled. He demanded. "I'm not talking about wanting to be good! I'm talking about doing something!" he said.

He made the offense repeat a practice period, and only at the end, when fifth-year starter Matt McGloin moved the starters smartly down the field, did O'Brien see what he wanted to see.

Just like that, practice ended.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Fisher
Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com Penn State quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher writes out playcards.
"If you want to be good," he told his team, "you have to shut up and practice, practice like you did at the end right there. You've got to string drives together. String plays together."

Tuesdays are often the ugliest day of a football week. Game plans are installed. Players are trying to transfer what they saw on video and heard in the meeting room onto the football field. On Tuesday morning, quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher printed screen grabs off video of the Ohio defense to prepare his quarterbacks.

"In the pros, you can take these pictures during the game and look at them on the sideline," Fisher said. "In colleges, you can't take a picture. I'm trying to give them a visual."

He also "wrote play cards," coachspeak for the X's-and-O's diagrams that players have studied in three-ring playbooks since the dawn of college football time. Fisher drew the offense in with a blue Sharpie, then handed it to graduate assistant Bartley Webb, who diagrammed the defensive look with a black Sharpie.

"I wish I had a dime for every card I've drawn," said Fisher, a coach for 31 years. "You keep everything. Coaches are like pack rats. We're afraid to throw away anything: playbooks, notes, game plans from 1995."

After practice, after the cold pool and the hot tub, ice pack in place, McGloin said, "All that stuff Coach Fisher does, the pictures he gives us, some tips he writes down after every practice, but just going back to the basics and watching film. That's the main thing. You've got to watch as much film as you possibly can to see what they're doing on third-and-5, what they do the most on first-and-10."

McGloin said the offense will be prepared for Saturday, Tuesday's tumult notwithstanding. Penn State will start seven seniors on defense. McGloin is one of four fifth-year seniors on offense. After them, the experience level drops pretty fast.

"He just wants to see us practicing fast," McGloin said of O'Brien, "doing the right thing, me making the right checks, running the routes right, lining up right. It's the little things that irritate him. If you throw an interception, throw a bad ball, he's not going to get mad. He's going to get mad if you make a wrong read or you don't check to this play or that play. We ended on a good note. Hopefully it will carry over to tomorrow. We're trying to do some new stuff out there."

Once upon a time, linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden said, "We used to call it Bloody Tuesday." Wednesdays are for correcting mistakes -- cleaning up the blood -- and Thursdays are for polishing. If you're still correcting mistakes on Friday, you're going to keep making make them on Saturday.
video

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?