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O'Brien builds on NFL ties, experience, at Penn St

Associated Press Modified: October 10, 2012 at 6:47 pm •  Published: October 10, 2012
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Lately, the pro-style offense has been humming with senior Matt McGloin at quarterback. O'Brien's play-calling is bold and entertaining, and shows flashes of the high-octane offense he used to run in New England.

The strength program, too, was overhauled. One wall at the team's revamped weight room is devoted to team leaders in various events in offseason workouts similar to those studied by scouts at the combine, like the side-to-side "football shuttle" or the 40-yard dash.

Every Monday in the offseason is devoted to combine prep. The program includes combine-like contests at the end of each winter conditioning and summer workouts. "By the time they've left here in four years, they've gone through their own combines four times," strength coach Craig Fitzgerald said.

The offseason program under Paterno favored a "high-intensity" training program with an emphasis on endurance. Players hit the exercise machines, hard.

Those machines are gone from the weight room, replaced by free weight stations, Olympic-style lifting and squats. Fitzgerald has called his philosophy "all-inclusive," and features speed, agility, explosiveness and "football-related flexibility."

Again, it's a change in Happy Valley. The workout philosophy itself is fairly common, but the effervescent Fitzgerald boasts that Penn State is cutting-edge.

"We always tell them, 'The No. 1 thing is very few of you guys will actually play in the NFL.' That's the reality of it," O' Brien said Tuesday. "So the No. 1 goal should be to earn your degree and play as good as football as you can for us."

O'Brien said he feels he owes it to his seniors. After all, he wants to show gratitude for sticking with the team after the offseason scrum that resulted when the NCAA allowed any Penn State player to leave following the sanctions. In the end, more than 90 percent the team stayed.

He also hopes that having NFL teams scouting at practice adds a buzz for a potential recruit.

"If you play well and produce on the field," O'Brien said, "you're going to be seen at practice, games, and you're going to have a chance."

Penn State next plays Oct. 20 at Iowa.