O'Brien has a plan for Nittany Lions
By RICK GANO
CHICAGO (AP) Penn State coach Bill O'Brien has a plan for dealing with the limitations of sanctions imposed on the Nittany Lions.
With scholarships set to be reduced to 65 - 20 fewer than the usual limit - and no bowl appearances for four years, the Nittany Lions must find a way to recruit or the program could be in trouble for a decade.
"I don't understand how people think you just say, `Well I quit, see you later.' That's a bunch of bull," O'Brien said Friday on the final session of Big Ten Media day.
"You look at the sanctions and you figure out how to deal with them. We have a bunch of bright guys on the coaching staff and that's what we're doing right now."
The Nittany Lions will likely have to use a bigger contingent of walk-ons and they'll have to be judicious in how they use the scholarships they do have when they put together a scaled-back roster.
`Say you have in your secondary five scholarship players. How many defensive backs next year with 85? You'd maybe offer 10 and get four. Maybe the number now will be five to get two," O'Brien said.
And he knows how to work and maneuver with smaller rosters from his days with the Patriots in the NFL, although it's not necessarily an equal comparison.
Getting top-notch players to come to State College will be difficult with no postseason for four years.
O'Brien said he's not a salesman, he's a football coach, but he will push the educational value at the school, the chance to play in front of more than 100,000 in home games and the ability of his staff to prepare players for the NFL.
And there will be plenty of exposure, even if it's not always the positive kind.
"Is there a program out there that is going to more scrutinized than us over the next four years? At least the next year?" O'Brien asked.
"People are going to want to know what is going on at Penn State."
GIVE HIM THE BALL: Wisconsin's Montee Ball, a Heisman Trophy finalist a year ago, needs 17 touchdowns and 18 rushing TDs to tie NCAA career records. And after the way he scored last season for the Badgers, they seem like reachable milestones.
Ball had 39 TDS last year, 33 rushing and six receiving. In his career for the Badgers he has 61 six-pointers, including 55 rushing.
"I think about them now a little bit. As a player I want to break records," Ball said. `All of us players want to break records and see what we're capable of doing. But most importantly, I want to go undefeated, I do want to go undefeated."
The Badgers won the inaugural Big Ten championship game a year ago before losing a high-scoring Rose Bowl to Oregon.
Ball has 3,310 yards rushing in his three seasons but his most remarkable stat could be this: he has not lost a fumble in 617 career touches.
Ball also could be harder than ever to bring down this season. At 5-foot-11, he's added some bulk.
"I really stressed on working on my upper body strength and it's really going to show this year," he said. "Last year I played at 206 and now I'm at 217. I think it's going to help a lot. Everything's the same, just stronger. Hopefully."
DEFENDING DENARD: You never know what's coming when Denard Robinson takes a snap for Michigan - run, pass, handoff, rollout. The senior quarterback has passed for 4,931 yards in three seasons and run for another 3,229 and is third all-time in Michigan's storied history in total offense. In 2010 his 1,702 yards rushing were an NCAA single-season record for a quarterback.
Michigan's coaching change with Brady Hoke implementing a different new system created an adjustment period for Robinson and all the Wolverines. Robinson's passing percentage dipped from nearly 63 percent to 55 percent last season and his rushing yards per carry were down by more than a yard from 6.6 to 5.3.
Once the Wolverines got acclimated, they did OK, winning the Sugar Bowl.
"I was thinking so much that my footwork was everywhere," Robinson said Friday. "Now we're not thinking about the offense. Now we know the offense and we have confidence in ourselves."
And he and the coaching staff, especially offensive coordinator Al Borges and Hoke, are comfortable with one another.
"I think so, coach is always open-minded. He's always `whatcha think about this, whatcha think about that?' That's what kind of guy he is," Robinson said.
Updated July 27, 2012