By Cory Giger
UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State's new offense in 2012 was far different and more dynamic than in recent years, but coach Bill O'Brien said it was merely the "foundation" for what he ultimately wants to do.
"We have to add more because our opponents have seen it for a year," O'Brien said of expanding the playbook. "We're a different team. Whoever the quarterback is will be a different guy. We've got tight ends that have played a full year now and know what to do. Receivers. A different offensive line. Different guys playing running back. So we've added and we've adapted it to the type of team we have."
Whether that means more yards and points this season will depend heavily on who wins the starting quarterback job - Steven Bench, Tyler Ferguson or incoming recruit Christian Hackenberg - and how quickly he progresses.
Entering Wednesday's practice, the 10th of the spring, O'Brien said the reps between Bench and Ferguson have been split equally. He even had the precise statistic.
"Both guys have exactly 168 reps if you're looking at the 7-on-7s," the coach said.
Neither has a leg up in the race at this point.
"I can't say that one guy has really stood out above the other guy," O'Brien said.
Tight end Kyle Carter is nursing a wrist injury that cut his productive 2012 season short, and he said he's recovering well from surgery.
"I will definitely be back by the beginning of the season," Carter said Wednesday before adding that he actually could play a game now if needed.
Carter is being held out of contact drills but is taking part in other practice activities. O'Brien said the tight end won the team's rehab award during the offseason training program.
As good as Carter was last season, O'Brien said he would be "a much improved player next year."
Penn State has tremendous depth at the tight end position. Carter caught 36 passes last year, and the Lions also have impressive sophomore Jesse James (15 catches), senior Matt Lehman (24 catches) and Adam Breneman, the No. 1 tight end recruit in the country.
Taking it easy
One thing O'Brien knows he can't do with his reduced roster is push the players too hard during the spring and risk injuries. That means limited tackling in practice.
"We don't tackle during the week," the coach said. "It's April 11, and Aug. 31 is when we need to be ready to tackle and have our best players ready to go. ... There's nothing more important this year, next year, the year after than the health of this football team. So we're going to try to do that and teach these guys how to practice on their feet."