NFL scouts maintain presence at Penn State practices

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- At many Wednesday practices, Penn State defensive tackle Jordan Hill notices the notebooks. Men with NFL team logos on their clothes jot down their thoughts of the players in front of them.

"You're always thinking you did something wrong," Hill said. "They're always writing something. You put that aside and practice as good as you can."

This scene has become a regular occurrence at Penn State. NFL scouts generally come every other Wednesday to watch practice. Assistant coach Elijah Robinson sets up the visits, or sometimes coach Bill O'Brien will set up a visit with a scout he knows.

O'Brien said every NFL team has stopped by at least once. This week, scouts from the Steelers, Denver Broncos, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens attended.

From his time with the Patriots, O'Brien learned of the importance of showcasing college players at practice. Doing so allows scouts to see players in different situations and sometimes at different positions.

In the past, O'Brien had talked about using NFL scouts at practice as a recruiting tool. He intends to do that but has also had scouts for players on this team.

"We owe it to our players here first, to give them an opportunity to be seen by the next level," he said.

Matt McGloin has said he barely notices the scouts. Hill says it's different for other players. Sometimes he notices a rise in intensity when they're watching, scribbling thoughts in their notepads, but he tries not to let their presence affect him.

"For me you have to focus on what you're doing to get ready for the game on Saturday," he said.

Coach enjoyed Happy Valley

Offensive line coach Mac McWhorter had a house in Georgia with his wife, Becky, and the grandkids visited all the time. He was content.

But he knew O'Brien well, and his friend talked him into being his offensive line coach. This lifelong southerner packed for the north and has not regretted the decision.

"Everybody talks about southern hospitality, and it's certainly not any better than we've experienced here in State College," McWhorter said.

McWhorter said he calls his players on the offensive line "hogs." Becky visits practices from time to time and is known as "mama hog." Every Friday, she brings treats for the players, and McWhorter will not reveal the secret ingredients that he claims help them play at a high level.

"I would really have to kill you if I told you what was in them," he joked.

Off-week practices

Penn State has practiced the first three days this week. O'Brien said they are studying Iowa but have focused much of their time on their own strengths and weaknesses.

Hill said that in particular he noticed a need for the defense not to give up momentum plays, or to halt the opposing team's momentum if it has done well against Penn State's offense.

O'Brien said players who have no major academic work to complete over the weekend would be allowed to leave State College Friday after their classes.

psusports

Mark Dent: mdent@post-gazette.com and Twitter: @mdent05.


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