UNIVERSITY PARK — Just because the NCAA restricts head coaches from returning to the recruiting trail in May, that doesn’t mean Penn State’s Bill O’Brien doesn’t have a busy month ahead.
First item of business? He’ll cross time zones Monday for a Big Ten coaches symposium on new recruiting rules. He’ll return to Happy Valley the same evening where his focus will return to his team that just concluded its run of 15 spring practices with Saturday’s Blue-White Game.
“Over the next seven to 10 days I’m going meet with every player on this football team and talk about where they’re at academically, obviously where they’re at footballwise and anything that they want to talk about,” O’Brien said. “I think that’s something I’ll always do here at Penn State. That’s important.”
Exit interviews have become a useful tool for O’Brien who conducted them at the conclusion of last season. A graduate of Brown University, O’Brien said his one-on-one sessions with players have afforded him ample opportunities to get to know them on different levels including what each player is interested in academically.
Their semester is also drawing to a close. The final day of classes at Penn State is April 26. Finals week follows, leaving most players with little time before their springtime obligations in town wind down.
Most of them are planning to make the most of the next few weeks they choose to stay around before each goes his own way to spend some time back home with family.
“Since it’s after spring we’ll try to save our legs so we might not do too much running, but doing some footwork, running different type of routes, catching JUGS (machine) passes, just doing things to stay involved with the game,” junior receiver Allen Robinson said.
Robinson, who’ll return home to Michigan for a few weeks this summer, said he felt like the most important portion of spring ball was to develop more chemistry. Player-organized workouts over the coming days are intended to further that.
Offensive and defensive linemen plan to work alongside one another.
“I think the most important part of it is when we come together with the defensive line and we do some 1-on-1 drills, it’s nothing crazy,” senior offensive tackle Adam Gress said. “We’re not wearing any equipment at all but it’s just important that we actually get the feel of going against a defensive player as opposed to me giving (fellow offensive tackle) Donovan Smith a pass rush.”
Junior linebacker Mike Hull already has a day set aside for player-organized workouts.
“We’ve got to get better in summer workouts, we’ve got to get our assignments down,” Hull said. “Just having film sessions with some of the guys if they need help on their assignments, holding walkthroughs on Wednesdays when we don’t have hard workouts. The summer consists of just working out hard four days a week and just trying to get better physically and get ready for the season.”
The coaching staff will continue to prepare, too.
While O’Brien will join fellow head coaches of other Penn State teams on the second Coaches Caravan tour over the next two weeks, he’ll have already met with his staff and begun to develop a recruiting plan before the 12-stop road trip begins on April 30 in Reading. Stops in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Lancaster, Harrisburg, Williamsport, Allentown, New York City, Scranton, DuBois and Pittsburgh will follow.
“The staff will be organizing their recruiting trips,” O’Brien said. “Where they’re going to head to go visit high schools and things like that over the month of May. And we’ll meet on football probably in the morning and recruiting in the afternoon and that’s basically the schedule for I’d say the next two weeks.”