UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien made his rounds around a windy practice field Monday afternoon, taking in his first real chance to watch the Nittany Lions in action.
Monday marked O'Brien's first practice as Penn State's head football coach and the first of 15 spring practices the team will have leading to the annual Blue-White game April 21.
"Definitely excitement is a great word to describe it," O'Brien said before practice. "We've had a really good winter, and it's obvious to us here that we have really good kids here and guys that want to be good and want to be coached and get better every day, and so we're just really excited about getting out there and starting to play football."
Another season means another quarterback competition. O'Brien said senior Matt McGloin, junior Rob Bolden and redshirt sophomore Paul Jones will compete for the starting job and each will get repetitions with the first team in practice. McGloin and Bolden split time last season. Jones was academically ineligible.
"I'll be real clear on that, it's an open competition," O'Brien said. "There is no starter, and there won't be a starter named until possibly the night before the Ohio game [Sept. 1]."
McGloin threw for 1,571 yards and eight touchdowns with five interceptions in 12 games last season. In 10 appearances, Bolden threw for 685 yards with just two touchdowns and seven interceptions and completed just 39 percent of his passes.
Jones, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound quarterback from Sto-Rox High School, has yet to see the field in two years at Penn State. He redshirted his freshman year before sitting out last year because of academics. However, O'Brien said Monday that he thinks Jones has "turned a corner academically."
"We'll keep a library on these guys and when we go to make a decision on who starts the football game, it'll be an educated decision and it'll be a fair decision," O'Brien said.
In somewhat of a surprise, another quarterback was at practice, as former Maryland player Danny O'Brien watched from the sideline. It was the second visit to Happy Valley in the past two weeks for Danny O'Brien, who is in the process of deciding on a transfer destination. Wisconsin and Mississippi also are said to be in the mix.
The former Terrapin wore a blue Penn State jacket, but would not comment on his transfer situation. Bill O'Brien also declined comment on Danny O'Brien (no relation) at the news conference earlier in the day.
As the players went through drills on the practice field, a few could be seen in new positions, namely former wide receivers Bill Belton and Curtis Drake. Belton has been moved to running back, while Drake has been switched to cornerback to bolster a secondary that lost all of its starters to graduation and lacks depth.
"In many ways, just like minicamps in the National Football League, the spring is about experimentation," O'Brien said.
In an effort to give each player a "clean slate," O'Brien said he has not watched film of Penn State's offense from last season. He also said he will call the plays on offense and he plans to run the core offense of the New England Patriots, where he formerly served as offensive coordinator.
"We have to look to improve every single day out on the field," O'Brien said. "And if we can take that mentality throughout the whole spring, then we will have had a good spring."
NOTES -- Penn State police found drugs and drug paraphernalia in the apartment of senior wide receiver Devon Smith and former defensive end Jack Crawford on March 14, according to a search warrant. Police were at the on-campus apartment to investigate a potential break-in. No charges have been filed and Smith participated in practice Monday. ... Linebacker Michael Mauti, who tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in the fourth game of last season, will be held out of contact drills this spring but O'Brien said he expects the senior to be ready to play in the fall. ... Defensive end Pete Massaro is participating in spring practice after recovering from a torn left ACL suffered last spring. ... Council Rock North defensive end Curtis Cothran verbally committed to Penn State, according to multiple media outlets. The Nittany Lions' sixth pledge for the class of 2013, Cothran is not ranked by Scout.com or Rivals.com and also had offers from Boston College, Maryland and Rutgers.