O'Brien, Lions must adjust to each other

The Sports Xchange

Bill O'Brien grinned as he took his seat behind the microphone for Penn State's first news conference of the spring.

"I feel like a teacher," O'Brien said, pointing at the dark blue backdrop behind him. "I'm going to start putting in routes."

His players could probably relate.

Penn State's first-year coach and his team have a huge adjustment period ahead of them this spring as they prepare to begin the post-Joe Paterno era. O'Brien is faced with the task of evaluating and identifying the top players on his roster; those players will be asked to get at least a basic grasp of the new playbook, which will include a heavy dose of the New England Patriots offense. The Nittany Lions were able to get a lot accomplished under fiery new strength coach Craig Fitzgerald in the weight room this winter but only able to absorb the new schemes via game film.

"You're definitely starting at square one," O'Brien said, "because you're not able to spend a lot of time with them."

Finding the best players -- O'Brien said his goal is to identify the top 60 -- is part of the equation. Finding out where to put them is another. Several Nittany Lions are lining up on different sides of the ball this spring.

"The spring is about experimentation," O'Brien said. "Maybe practicing a guy at one spot for five practices and then maybe moving him to another spot and see how he does in different areas, and trying to get your best players on the field. ... There'll be a lot of those situations."

Penn State, 9-4 last season (1-3 after Paterno was fired), will look to keep pace with Wisconsin and Ohio State in the Big Ten Leaders Division this season, a tougher task after the Badgers beat them out for Maryland transfer quarterback Danny O'Brien this week.

First, the Nittany Lions must learn to keep pace with their new coach.

"It's apparent to me that these guys are studying, they want to learn, they're able to communicate," O'Brien said. "And you can tell it's going to be a fun spring watching these guys develop."

--The Joe Paterno family reportedly balked at having Beaver Stadium renamed for the late coach, partially because it would have meant signing a release that exonerating the school from being sued by the family.

The Paterno family said that Paterno never wanted the football field where he coached for 46 years named after him, according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

"(Renaming the stadium) has always been a fan-driven matter. It was never important to Joe," a source close to the family told the Patriot-News. The family said it would rather have the school library named after the coach, who invested in the facility.

The issue arose in January by Penn State University when it was trying to make the final contract payment to the late coach's estate in exchange for a full release signed by the family. It showed the tension that still exists between the school and his family.

Paterno, who died at 85, just a month after he was fired, had planned to retire in January. The family is still upset that he was not allowed to follow his plan.

The Paterno family reportedly has felt wronged by the university in recent months, even releasing a statement accusing the school's board of regents of making misleading statements to justify the firing of Paterno.

"We take no joy in our differences with the board and university, but we will never waver in our defense of Joe Paterno's record and our advocacy for due process," the family said in a statement April 20.

These events are the in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky's dismissal, which caused Paterno and two other school officials after the former defensive coordinator was charged with molesting 10 boys.

--Penn State has paid out about $5.76 million to the Joe Paterno estate, CNN reported on April 19.

Paterno, who died in January, was fired in November for his perceived inaction regarding allegations of Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse. But the board opted to treat the terms of the contract as if he had retired at the end of the 2011 season.

The school administration posted a release Thursday that outlined the payments due.

It includes a $3 million "career bonus" to be paid upon Paterno's retirement, the use of a Beaver Stadium suite by the family for 25 years and $900,000 from television and radio revenue from the 2011 season. It also includes about $500,000 in other bonuses and payments due from last season, the Harrisburg Patriot-News reported.

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