There were many changes when Bill O’Brien stepped on the field for the first time in Happy Valley, none more evident to him than the difference between NFL and college players.
“When you coach pro players, they’ve played football for so long, and they have very good instincts. In New England, a lot of those guys have been there for a long time, so you were more into X’s and O’s than you were into teaching them how to throw the ball, and what foot to step with on this block, or how to control this gap.”
His first time on the field with the Nittany Lions made him take a step back and reflect. “You’ve been around the best of the best for five years and so you have to train your eyes that these are college kids. And a lot of it was, early on, that they were thinking instead of playing because everything was new for them.”
After about a week of spring ball, O’Brien’s eyes started to adjust to the college game. “You could see where, oh, this guy can run really well, or, this guy does catch the ball really well or, this guy is more explosive than I thought he was. That was more my eyes being trained on the college athlete as opposed to the pro athlete. That was an adjustment I had to make the first week or so.”
Another one of the big changes was recruiting, which O’Brien hadn’t done since his time as the offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach at Duke back in 2006. He was admittedly “out of shape”.
“Recruiting is out of shape. It’s like riding a bike, but I hadn’t done it in a while. It’s changed a lot, with all the different, the internet sites, Facebook and Twitter. There’s so much information out there. The one thing I’ve found about recruiting is that if you are yourself and you’re honest with the prospect, then you have a great shot with that prospect.”