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O'Brien probably isn't going anywhere, but keeping assistant coaches will be key for PSU (Charles London Q&A)
October 18, 2012 - Cory Giger
Penn State's coaches didn't know entirely what they were getting into when they took their jobs because few could have predicted the severity of the NCAA sanctions.
As soon as the sanctions came down, many wondered how long the coaches would stick around. Bill O'Brien is making $2.3 million a year and has a nine-year contract, so he has plenty of incentive to stay for a long time.
But what about the assistants? They've done their part in helping O'Brien keep the football program going in a positive direction, but they don't make near as much money and could opt to leave for greener pastures rather than deal with the heavy restrictions.
If there's a lot of turnover on the staff -- which PSU has rarely had to deal with -- it could have a significant impact on all aspects of the program. Running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Charles London addressed that and other topics during a Q&A with reporters Thursday.
Q: How important will it be to keep this staff together, and how difficult might that be given that the coaches didn't know the sanctions would be in place when you took the job?
A: It's definitely important to try to keep our staff together. We've developed something here. There's a lot of good cohesion amongst our staff, and we really work well together and we feed well off of each other. So I think it would be important to try to keep our staff together regardless of what may come our way. But I think that will be a key thing in helping get Penn State football back on the right track.
Q: What are your career goals, and do you want to remain a running backs coach?
A: As anybody that's in this profession, or any profession, you want to try to get to the top of your profession. So one day would I like to be a head coach? Certainly. I've got a great mentor here in Coach O'Brien, who's been very influential in my career, going back to when I was a GA for him in 2005. But I'd like to rise through the ranks like the rest of the guys. ... I'd like to get to that point in my career where I can do some different things and kind of broaden my horizons. But right now I'm very content and happy coaching the running backs.
Q: Has Bill Belton fully recovered from his ankle injury, and where is he in terms of his development?
A: Bill is fully recovered from the injury. The off week or the bye week really helped him a little bit to heal up. He's still developing as a player. He hasn't played the position for that long a period of time, but he still does a lot of things really well, and he's going to be a big part of our game plan come Saturday.
Q: Why doesn't Curtis Dukes play more, and how is he doing picking up the offense?
A: Curtis is getting better. He goes out there, and he works hard every day. We've always got to keep in mind that he did miss spring practice ... so when we started practicing in August, it was kind of a catch-up period for him. The other guys had been through 15 practices and had a chance to get a feel for the offense, and he didn't. Curtis does some good things when he's out there.
Q: What has Zach Zwinak done to emerge as a bigger threat?
A: Unfortunately we had some injuries early on with Billy and Derek [Day] ... and Zach got an opportunity, and he kind of took it and ran with it. Zach's done a great job of understanding what type of runner he is. ... Now our challenge is to just keep it up. Now teams are kind of keying on him. They see him back in the backfield, they expect him to be back there, so can he continue to have that same success?
Q: How much of a luxury is it to be able to redshirt Akeel Lynch?
A: It's huge for us that we're able to redshirt him this year so we can have him for four years down the road. He's got a lot potential. We expect him to be a good player here at Penn State, and it's great that we've had some other backs step up so we don't have to use him this year.
Q: How much did the plans change at running back after Silas Redd transferred?
A: It really wasn't a big shift in the game plan. Silas did a lot of things well, but we have some talented guys here, and they each have their own special skill sets. We just knew that we had to play the attributes of each guy that we had and play up their skill set to the best of our ability.
NOTE: See additional blog item with London addressing recruiting issues.
Some notable items from Bill O'Brien's weekly radio show Thursday night:
* LT Donovan Smith has been playing with a broken right hand, O'Brien confirmed, and will be able to play Saturday at Iowa.
* There will be between 80-100 recruits at Beaver Stadium for next week's game against Ohio State.
* One lady, who claimed to be a preschool teacher, asked O'Brien the awkward question of whether he wears boxers or briefs. The coach didn't provide an answer.