Penn State Vs. Illinois: Bill O'Brien Sidesteps Questions On Illini Poaching Of Nittany Lion Players

Rich Barnes-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Bill O'Brien declined to discuss how he feels about the fact that Illinois' Tim Beckman tried to convince players to leave Penn State's program over the summer.

Penn State's head coach Bill O'Brien opted to avoid the topic of how Illinois' coaching staff openly recruited players from his program over the summer when directly asked in his Monday press conference.

When sanctions came down allowing Penn State players to transfer freely in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, some coaches opted to try to actively entice Nittany Lions players to come to their school right away. While most of the Big Ten backed off, Tim Beckman and his staff chose to pursue Penn State players, landing freshman offensive tackle Ryan Nowicki for his efforts. When asked about his feelings on Beckman's moves, O'Brien dodged the question:

Q. As vocal as some of your leaders were about the whole Illinois recruiting thing here, is it realistic to expect for that not to be a motivating factor as they prepare for this game?

COACH O'BRIEN: I certainly understand the question. I do. But at the same time, the biggest thing is that this is our first Big 10 game. Our players are very focused on the Big 10 schedule. I believe that our players are really focused this week on building on what they did well in the Temple game and improving in areas where we really need to improve as it relates to the Temple game. They're not concerned with anything other than playing a tough road game in Champaign against a good Illinois team. The motivation is it's our first Big 10 game on the road. I just found out we've been in the Big 10 twenty years, and I think 12 times we've played on the road. I would like for someday that to even out and maybe get a home game here at Beaver Stadium to open the Big 10 road season. It's going to be a great environment in Illinois, and that's what the players are focused on.

Q. I know it's belaboring it a little bit, three questions, but a lot of teams recruited your players; Illinois appeared to be the only Big 10 school that recruited your players. Does that bother you at all?

COACH O'BRIEN: It takes a lot to bother me, so I would tell you that, again, our players, myself, our staff, we're very focused on the task at hand, which is practice today, first and second down practice, punt team, punt return team PAT field goal, PAT field goal block. Tomorrow third down, more special teams. Thursday, red area. Friday, walk‑through. Get on a plane, go to Illinois, and hopefully we're prepared to play a great Illinois team. That's what our focus is.

Discussing PAT blocking drills is just about as non-confrontational as one can be. Beckman said he doesn't regret his decision when discussing his new lineman, who has yet to play at Illinois.

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