Bill O'Brien has plenty of work to do before he can run out of the tunnel for Penn State's season opener against Ohio University.
Still, he said that every once in a while he lets himself think about what it will feel like to run out of the Beaver Stadium tunnel on game day.
"I think it's going to be a pretty neat experience. Can't wait to see 108,000 fans. It's going to be awesome," he said.
Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien talks to media
Penn State head football coach Bill O'Brien talks to the media during a coaches caravan stop in Pittsburgh. (Video by Matt Freed; 5/14/2012)
"But then, very soon after I make it to the sideline, I've got to be ready to call plays."
As a part of his job before the opener, O'Brien spoke to about 400 Penn State fans and alumni at the William Penn Omni, Downtown, Monday night as the 14th stop of an 18-city Penn State Coaches Caravan around Pennsylvania, Ohio and the mid-Atlantic region.
For a program that has spent the past six months dealing with questions about the ongoing Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal, the queries Monday, dealing mostly about O'Brien's use of tight ends, changes in the weight-training program and when he will name a starting quarterback, must have been refreshing.
O'Brien said that has been typical of the caravan. He said most fans seem focused on moving on and entering a new era of Penn State football.
"Obviously what happened was terrible, but we weren't here," he said. "We're here now. But also we've got to remember what happened. We can't just turn a blind eye and we never will. But we've also got to move forward, so that's what we're trying to do."
During a 25-minute presentation, O'Brien outlined his vision for the future of the Penn State football program. He started by acknowledging the legacy left by the late Joe Paterno, and told the crowd, "I'm not here to be Joe Paterno."
"I have a lot of respect for what he did, but I also believe very much in what we're going to do football-wise and different things that we've changed," he said. "It's not hard to respect the past and move forward; it really isn't."
O'Brien said his vision of the program is dependent on four separate pillars: academics, respect, football and integrity.
After the presentation, O'Brien fielded questions from the audience. One of the first was about his support for renewing the Pitt-Penn State annual rivalry. The two schools are set to play in 2016 and '17, but O'Brien said he would be in favor of continuing the series beyond that.
Men's hockey coach Guy Gadowsky, women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene and men's volleyball coach Mark Pavlik also spoke to the crowd. Gadowsky and Brandwene will launch Penn State's hockey program next fall and used the event to show off some renderings of the under-construction Pagula Ice Arena.psusports
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SWernerPG First Published May 15, 2012 4:00 AM