Bill O’Brien’s secret is out.
In fact, his recruiting strategy to overcome the lack of available scholarships over the next four seasons was perhaps revealed Tuesday.
It’s simple, too — embrace the second-team players.
O’Brien said in his weekly press conference Tuesday he celebrates the effort of his non-scholarship players by referring to them as “run-ons” instead of walk-ons.
Considering Penn State will be working with a reduced amount of scholarships each of the next four years, O’Brien anticipates walk-ons to make a sizable impact.
“That’s something that we know is gonna be important in the next few years, is that walk-on program,” O’Brien said.
The coach said these players are always sprinting onto the field to make the most of their opportunities, earning them their “run-on” nickname.
He hopes his recognition of walk-ons will help attract high-caliber players to at least initially accept non-scholarship offers in the future.
“And hopefully, especially in the state of Pennsylvania, high school players…can really look at that and say, ‘You know, here’s a place that I’ve grown up loving and always wanted to play at, and here’s my opportunity to go play and potentially earn a scholarship in my time there’,” O’Brien said.
The new terminology of the Penn State coaching staff doesn’t stop there.
O’Brien said, instead of referring to the backup players in practice as the scout team, he chooses to call them, “the dirty show”.
With a pivotal game against Virginia this weekend, O’Brien said this squad provides energy to practice for the first-team players.
“Then we have periods where we need a look, like we need a Virginia look this week, so we have the dirty show come in and do some of that,” the coach said.
Similarly, O’Brien, who mentioned he brought this idea from his time with the New England Patriots, said he made this switch to keep every player engaged during practice.
“It’s definitely part of the philosophy that we have here at Penn State of keeping everybody involved,” O’Brien said.
Senior fullback Michael Zordich said the team has bought into these alterations to the Penn State football vocabulary because they bring a game-like atmosphere to practice every day.
“Nobody really likes to be called foreign team or the scout team or a walk-on, because it seems like they just came, like nobody wanted them here or something, which is far from the truth,” Zordich said. “They work just as hard. They play just as important a role as anybody on the field on Saturday because they’re getting you ready all week.”
O’Brien said he’d like to see the punting game improve and that Alex Butterworth, who averaged 35.8 yards per punt on Saturday, is not the only option at the position….O’Brien added he has to do a better job with the balance of the offensive play calls after the team passed 48 times and ran just 22 times Saturday.