O'Brien continues to develop his first Nittany Lions offense
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien came to Penn State with a strong offensive pedigree. His teams with the New England Patriots were consistently among the most prolific in the NFL.
But toward the end of the second week of preseason practice, he still is molding his first Penn State offense.
"I think we're still working on the identity of what the offense will be," O'Brien said Thursday in a conference call. "Hopefully, we'll have a better grasp of that over the next week."
A few things are certain.
Matt McGloin, named the starter earlier this summer, has done nothing to change his role at quarterback. Bill Belton, named the No. 1 running back, has also shined. The other day at practice, O'Brien said, he ran for an 80-yard touchdown in a scrimmage. At wide receiver, O'Brien said Allen Robinson had stood out.
He also said four or five tight ends could play, but he cautioned people not to expect too much of them just because New England tight ends performed so well.
"We're not asking our tight ends at Penn State to be Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, we're just asking them to block well and understand route technique and understand their assignments," O'Brien said.
How it all fits together is the question.
Penn State's offense ranked 11th in the Big Ten in scoring last year, but they have lost two top offensive performers in Silas Redd and Justin Brown.
O'Brien spoke of the need for a running game in circumstances where the offense had to gain yards. He also said the offense has focused on specific situations, such as third-downs, red-zone offense and two-minute drills.
"It's been pretty decent, hasn't been all pretty, but I think we've made progress," he said.
Few position battles remain. O'Brien said Robinson would likely start at wide receiver, and said he would play six or seven receivers. Shawney Kersey was listed behind Brown in the spring.
O'Brien said Sam Ficken had performed well as the placekicker, but Matt Marcincin and Alex Butterworth were still competing for punter.
With Mike Wallace out for the season because of injury, the secondary has lost more of the little depth it had. O'Brien said Malcolm Willis, Adrian Amos and Stephon Morris have been the steadiest performers, along with younger players such as freshmen Da'Quan Davis and Jordan Lucas.
He also said Jacob Fagnano was still nursing a hamstring injury and needed to solidify his role.
O'Brien spoke highly of two freshmen, besides Lucas and Davis, who have performed well in practice so far: running back Akeel Lynch and tight end Brent Wilkerson.
O'Brien said he and his staff would begin closely examining the freshmen for who they might redshirt and who they would consider using this year.
"There's definitely some freshmen that have really stood out to us that more than likely over the next week we'll have discussions about them going into the Ohio game, how much these guys are going to play," he said.
"... If you're going to play a freshman, you need to really play them so they don't come out at the end of the year with a freshman only playing 10 plays and he burned his redshirt year."
Senior wide receiver Devon Smith has transferred to Marshall.
First Published August 17, 2012 12:00 am