Somebody might want to send a crew from one of the home makeover shows into Beaver Stadium today.
One of college football's biggest refurbishings will be showcased when Penn State meets Ohio University at Beaver Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon.
The alterations to the Nittany Lions are numerous.
Some changes are subtle, such as a blue ribbon on the backs of helmets in honor of child abuse victims.
Other changes, such as the overhaul of the coaching staff, are striking.
"There have been countless changes," senior center Matt Stankiewitch said. "I'm really looking forward to getting that first play. You are always nervous for the first play. As soon as you get the first play done, you are playing football. I just want that to happen. I want to get it over with."
If Penn State begins on offense, Stankiewitch will snap the ball to senior quarterback Matt McGloin. Advance notice of the quarterback's identity represents another change for 2012.
Coach Bill O'Brien named McGloin, who endured two years of quarterback derbies with Rob Bolden, the starter on June 1.
The decision gave McGloin three months to juggle a seemingly endless stream of additions and subtractions.
"There's definitely been a lot of changes," McGloin said, "but I'm just excited to get back out there and start playing football again."
"That's all we want to do. We want to play football."
The football they are playing will be different than past versions. So let’s examine what’s new this season.
The head coach
Penn State last opened a season with a new coach on Sept. 17, 1966, when a 39-year-old Joe Paterno led his team to a 15-7 victory over Maryland. Paterno’s lengthy tenure ended with an abrupt firing last November. He died of lung cancer in January.
O’Brien, like Paterno, graduated from Brown University. After that, it’s difficult to detect similarities between the two.
O’Brien, who spent five years working with the high-powered New England Patriots, wears a hat and sweats to practice and doubles as Penn State’s offensive coordinator. He will wear a headset and call offensive plays today in his first game as a head coach at any level.
“I will certainly have butterflies before this game,” he said. “I’d be crazy to tell you otherwise.”
Paterno sported thick glasses as he roamed the sidelines. He let his assistants handle communication with coaches in the press box.
O’Brien also brought along seven new coaches. The newcomers: defensive coordinator Ted Roof, secondary coach John Butler, assistant head coach/wide receivers Stan Hixon, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter, quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher, tight ends coach John Strollo, running backs coach Charles London and director of strength and conditioning Craig Fitzgerald.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden are the only staff holdovers.
O’Brien gutted all aspects of this unit, even skipping the offensive film from 12 of last year’s 13 games. He watched the Alabama game to observe the Nittany Lions’ performance against an elite team.
O’Brien has guarded his formations. But the depth chart includes starters at 13 offensive positions.
Three wide receiver and two tight end spots, a tailback, fullback and quarterback are the skill players.
Empty backfield sets are a distinct possibility.
Asked about the biggest change since O’Brien’s hiring in January, 247-pound tight end Kyle Carter said, “It has to be the offense.”
“I would have probably had to get to 260 to really make a statement on the field,” he said. “With this offense, it puts us in position to make plays and that’s all I can really ask for.”
New coordinator Ted Roof brings some southern philosophies to the Big Ten.
Defensive backs are enjoying the man coverages. Terms such as “Hero,” “Mike,” “Small,” and “Will” have been eliminated from the defensive vernacular.
Former coordinator Tom Bradley’s defenses featured zone schemes. Some players, including vocal cornerback Stephon Morris, said they are better suited for Roof’s defense.
Roof worked as Auburn’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 2009-11.
The Tigers were known for forcing turnovers — and allowing big plays.
The blue ribbons aren’t the only change to the uniforms.
For the first time in school history, players’ names will be on the backs of jerseys.
O’Brien made the decision after consulting with the team. The local embroiderers are busy because O’Brien wanted to honor players who remained committed to the program.
“That’s going to be one of the greatest feelings just to be able to represent my family,” senior linebacker Gerald Hodges said. “I come from a small town (Paulsboro, N.J.) and to represent my family out there on the field in front of some 100,000 people. ... They were with us when we were losing and winning. They are all part of the team.”
Good luck fitting junior safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong’s last name on the back.
The pregame routine
The team will stay at Toftrees the nights before home games and travel from the Lasch Building to Beaver Stadium on buses. A noticeable difference will surface when players exit the buses — players won’t be in uniform.
The team will dress inside the Beaver Stadium locker rooms. The buses are scheduled to arrive at the stadium at 9:15 a.m.
“We will dress in the locker room here, so our pads and our helmets and our taping and all that stuff will take place here,” O’Brien said. “So that’s what we’re doing.
“I’m not trying to say that that’s not a big deal. I’m just trying to say that what is a big deal is how we play when the ball is kicked off.”
More signs this isn’t the same rigid Penn State:
Pete Massaro and John Urschel are sporting beards. Michael Mauti’s hair almost flows to his shoulders. Players are wearing earrings and chains.
A group of second-year players markets themselves as the “Supa Six.”
The team played paintball, attended the movies, participated in a pig roast and gathered for dinner at O’Brien’s house during preseason camp.
Carter said “can jam,” which involves tossing Frisbees into bins, is a popular locker room game.
“Our whole personality as far as coming together has changed,” Morris said.
“We are so much closer as a team. In the past, we didn’t really hang out with each other. You had groups. You had defensive players talking to defensive players and some of the defensive players where talking only to defensive players.
“I pretty much talk to everybody on this team. I didn’t do that in years past, not that I didn't want to, not that I couldn’t, it just didn’t happen.”
The Beaver Stadium music is expected to resemble the new offense. In other words, it will be up-tempo. Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” is one of the songs gone from the stadium’s playlist.
The weekly “Penn State Football Story” has been replaced by “Penn State Football 2012 — The Next Chapter.” The show, which is produced by WPSU, debuts Sunday across the state. Local radio personality Jeff Brown is the narrator.
The weight room
They aren’t giving tours of the Lasch Building weight room today. But multiple linemen list the revamped strength and conditioning program as the biggest change made in January.
O’Brien hired Fitzgerald to oversee the program. Fitzgerald resembles the co-worker who gulps Mountain Dew all night, albeit with a bigger budget.
Fitzgerald ordered the removal of the room’s machines. He replaced the equipment with free weights. A large sandpit was installed near the track and field complex.
“I never lifted free weights or had the equipment that we do,” senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill said. “In high school, you do your bench and your squat and that’s pretty much it. You do curls to get big.
“Going into Coach Fitz’s new program, it was great. I would say that’s the change I was most excited for.”
Players insist the Nittany Lions are a bigger, stronger, faster and more explosive team. It’s time to find out if the strength and conditioning evolution, along with the dozens of other changes, match the winter, spring and summer buzz they generated.
“I think the change couldn’t have gone more smoothly,” junior linebacker Glenn Carson said. “Everyone has bought into the new coaches and the new ideas.”
Follow Guy Cipriano on Twitter@cdtguy.