Posts tagged ‘Bill O’Brien’

Saquon Barkley is Awestruck, Humble, and Not a Big Fan of Hurdling People

Photo via Mark Selders

Photo via Mark Selders

On May 5, released its list of the 100 best players in college football. Saquon Barkley had no idea he was on this list, let alone that he was so high.

The author of the post said that Barkley was the No. 54 player in all of college football. He believes that only four running backs are better than Penn State’s dynamic sophomore, and all of them are likely headed to the NFL after the 2016 season. While a lot of these lists come out during the offseason, this one had Barkley higher than most.

Upon learning about this, Barkley’s reaction was twofold. At first, he expressed amazement that he was ranked so high.

It’s sometimes easy to forget this because Barkley was so good in his one year in the blue and white, but he’s still a teenager. While he carries himself with the confidence of a veteran, Barkley is still a young athlete who spent part of his freshman year in awe of how cool life is for a college football player.

An example: Penn State played Ohio State in Columbus last year. Barkley went up against some of the best players in America, like former Buckeyes quarterback/wide receiver Braxton Miller, whom Barkley used in video games when he was younger. He even went up against his favorite player in college football in ex-Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, who called Barkley “the Truth” after the game. (Barkley outrushed Elliott, 194 yards to 153.)

“It was kind of a surreal moment,” Barkley said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I’m going against future NFL players, these guys are legit.’ But they’re saying that I’m good, too. I can be on that level one day. It was just a surreal moment, something I’ll never forget.”

Even Barkley’s decision to attend Penn State was based partly on the fact that this place blew him away. Barkley is a native of The Bronx and grew up a fan of Rutgers, the school that he committed to when he was a sophomore.

But then Barkley visited Penn State in the fall of 2013. Then-coach Bill O’Brien – who made Barkley feel “starstruck” due to his ties to the NFL – hosted the high school junior for the Nittany Lions’ four overtime victory over Michigan, which left a lasting impact.

After James Franklin was hired, Penn State amped up its pursuit, and on February 19, 2014, Barkley flipped his commitment. In addition to his desire to play football in Happy Valley, he cited the caliber of education at Penn State – something that Franklin discussed extensively with Barkley’s family – as a big reason why he flipped.

Barkley spent the next few months tearing up high school football in Pennsylvania before arriving in State College and establishing himself as a star in the making. He managed to stay out of the spotlight and let his play define him, which leads us to the second part of Barkley’s reaction to’s list.

While Barkley did mention that he wants to eventually earn the title of the best running back in America, he’s really good at tuning out all the noise and ignoring the attention that has come his way over the last year or so.

Photo via Mark Selders

Photo via Mark Selders

For example, you know how he has a propensity to hurdle opponents who try to go low on him, which leads to some incredible highlights? As it turns out, he doesn’t like doing that, and wanted to stop hurdling defenders once he got to college.

“Everyone thinks it’s cool,” Barkley said. “But, like, me and especially my mom, my mom doesn’t like it at all. You just put yourself at risk.”

Even the attention that came Barkley’s way after he gave a gold medal that he won to another athlete during a high school track meet somewhat rubbed him the wrong way. He viewed it as a simple act of kindness – “No one was supposed to know,” Barkley said – and he isn’t a huge a fan of the media attention or the people who were skeptical about his motives for giving away the medal.

But still, there is a ton of preseason hype heading into 2016, and Barkley is primed to back it all up. This offseason was the first time that he spent an entire spring/summer in a college strength and conditioning program. He’s in new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s running back-friendly system – in Moorhead’s four years at Fordham, the team’s featured back averaged about 1,717 yards and 16 touchdowns.

But most importantly, Barkley has an inherent drive to improve. His goals in 2016 revolve around becoming a better player, leader, and teammate.

One of those goals is to “run the ball better.” Because even though he’s the best running back in the Big Ten, there’s always room to improve.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

June 29, 2016 at 9:51 am Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Sept. 20, 2013

From news to features, your daily dose of everything Penn State.

More, please: Penn State plans to ask for a 5.1 percent boost in state funding, per Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Trustees. Even if the “ambitious” request is approved, tuition will increase by an average 2.85 percent. Additionally, Athletic Director Dave Joyner said the athletic department may borrow $30 million to offset the dip in Beaver Stadium attendance. For more on Thursday’s meeting, check out Senior Editor Lori Shontz’s post here.

Hoop dreams: There’s four teams left in the WNBA playoffs, and two include former Lady Lions: Guard Alex Bentley, who’s already broken the WNBA record for consecutive three-pointers with the Atlanta Dream, and Tanisha Wright ’06, who helped the Seattle Storm win a title in 2010. Check out the full semifinals schedule for where and when to watch.

President’s pick: Penn State nutrition professor Penny Kris-Etherton has accepted an invitation to join the Science Board of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, a new government initiative to promote good nutrition and exercise. An expert on cardiovascular health, Kris-Etherton will begin her three-year term on Jan. 1, 2014.

Good and evil: Prep for tomorrow’s football game vs. Kent State by catching up with Evil Bill O’Brien. Onward State’s Bill DiFilippo interviewed the anonymous auteur behind B’oB’s (fake) Twitter counterpart, @evilbillobrien—who, apparently, knows a thing or two about dinosaurs.


Apple picking: When I pulled up to the Starbucks on North Atherton Street this morning and saw an insane line, my first thought went something like this: “Oh man, is Starbucks selling Cronuts now!?” Um, no. The new iPhone went on sale at 8 a.m. at the neighboring Verizon store.  Penn State juniors Jace Blout and Dayne Detweiler made the trek from campus around 6:30 a.m., and when I talked to them at 8:45, they were still stuck outside — Verizon staffers were allowing only small groups in at a time. The two pics above, taken on my three-models-ago iPhone 4, are my best attempt at capturing the crowd. You know, the iPhone could really use a panoramic feature. Somebody get on that.

Mary Murphy, associate editor 

September 20, 2013 at 11:06 am Leave a comment

Moving Forward, in Unity and Defiance

It started quietly, with Bill O’Brien releasing a short statement Monday morning. He followed that Tuesday with a teleconference with local media in which he laid out his approach to dealing with the NCAA-imposed obstacles to on-field success: He will emphasize all that Penn State still has to offer—home games in front of 100,000-plus fans, facilities on par with any in the nation, a coaching staff that understands how to prepare prospects for a chance at the NFL. Already, he is pitching players and recruits—any of whom can leave for another program if they choose—on rising to the challenge. And, yes, he says he’s “committed for the long term.”

O’Brien’s media tour continued Wednesday with appearances on ESPN (this 15-minute interview is well worth watching), all leading up to his trip to Chicago for this week’s Big Ten media days. As he’s done almost without fail in his first seven months on the job, O’Brien continues to say all the right things. On Wednesday morning, he got some backing from his players, as a group of a few dozen, led by seniors and likely captains Michael Zordich and Michael Mauti, met the media to publicly state their unity and commitment to the program.

There’s no telling how many current and future Lions will be able to maintain such a fierce commitment over the next four years. But after another rough stretch of days in an ongoing saga, this is a promising sign.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

July 25, 2012 at 11:23 am 9 comments

A High-Profile Introduction for Bill O’Brien

Bill_OBrienWhat a difference 46 years makes.

After Rip Engle retired as Penn State’s football coach, Joe Paterno was introduced at his successor at a news conference on Saturday morning, Feb. 19, 1966. On the front page of the next issue of The Daily Collegian, this was the top headline: “Model U.N. Whips USSR Bloc.”

Underneath, there were stories about whether changing the rules on female students living in apartments would lead to moral ruin (one student testified that at other schools with similar rules, “they have no trouble with pregnancies”), about the Collegian’s new editor and business manager, and about the concert that kicked off Greek Week 1966: Simon and Garfunkel in Recreation Building.

Paterno was mentioned on page 6. At the bottom. In a story headlined “Paterno Retains Staff.”

To be fair, the Collegian published Tuesday through Saturday in those days, so the news was a couple of days old. But it’s still remarkable to contrast the introduction of Paterno with that of his successor, Bill O’Brien, who was introduced Saturday morning at the Nittany Lion Inn in a ballroom full of media members, donors, university officials, alumni, and what seemed like some fans who wandered in. O’Brien’s news conference was televised and streamed live by the Big Ten Network (if you missed it, you can watch it here), and dozens of media tweeted his every word to an eager Penn State fan base and a national audience.

And, of course, the composition of O’Brien’s staff, while important, wasn’t the big story. It was how and why he was chosen to lead Penn State after the Sandusky scandal.

O’Brien’s Friday evening flight from Boston to State College was tracked online by media, and shortly after the plane landed at University Park Airport, photos started to show up on Twitter. The photos, taken in the dark, weren’t great—Jim Seip of the York Daily Record tweeted that he’d seen better definition in photos of Sasquatch.

Photographers got better shots Saturday before the new coach actually met the media; O’Brien’s 5-year-old son, Michael, (more…)

January 9, 2012 at 8:52 am 1 comment

A Note About an ‘Unknown’ Coach

Let me start by saying that I have no idea whether Bill O’Brien will turn out to be the right coach for Penn State, and I’m certainly one of the people who knew him only as Guy Who Yelled at Tom Brady until recently. But while I was flipping through decades of old issues to gather nuggets for our 100th anniversary issue, I came across these paragraphs in the “Old Main Columns” department in the April 1966 issue:

The announcement of Rip Engle’s voluntary retirement was expressed through the radio and press on Friday morning, February 18. On that evening Rip was scheduled for an appearance at a dinner meeting of the Bucks County Penn State Club. Alumni in attendance were conscious of having been privileged to be with the popular Engle on a very special occasion and at a significant time in the coach’s life. The public was not to know officially of Joe Paterno’s appointment until Monday.

Rip was in a very light-hearted mood and willingly answered most of the questions put to him following his formal talk. However, he hesitated when some alumnus asked him about next season’s team. “I don’t think I should talk about that,” he replied, slowly. “You’ll be having Joe down here one of these days …” Realizing what he had said, Rip quickly continued, “Any more questions?” “Yes,” someone replied from the back of the room. “Who’s Joe?”

Lori Shontz, senior editor


January 7, 2012 at 10:17 am 1 comment

Reports: Bill O’Brien Is Penn State’s Next Football Coach

Weeks of rumors and dozens of names appeared to settle Thursday night on New England Patriots assistant coach Bill O’Brien, who, according to a pair of online reports, has agreed to be the next head coach of the Penn State football program.

As of early Friday morning, nothing had yet been confirmed by the University, but reports say O’Brien’s hiring could be announced as soon as Friday, and the new coach introduced Saturday. What seems certain is that, if he is the guy, O’Brien will have his work cut out to convince fans and disgruntled former players that he’s the right man for the job.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

January 6, 2012 at 12:01 am 1 comment

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