STATE COLLEGE – All in all, Dave Joyner was happy that his football coach was receiving such attention from the NFL.
Happier still that Bill O'Brien opted to stay at Penn State, of course. But Joyner, the school's acting athletic director, had no qualms about O'Brien's interviews with NFL teams last week.
It's always a risk with any great coach, said Joyner, who was on the search committee that landed O'Brien. If people weren't talking about Bill O'Brien, then we made a lousy hire. The fact that people are talking about how great he is and what he would do at other places, to me, that's a real compliment to the process we went through and what we did.
Not that he's looking to go through that process again any time soon.
Look, Bill O'Brien is committed to Penn State, Joyner said. I personally believe he wants to be here a long time. Life is like it is … but I'm very confident Bill is committed to Penn State and he wants to be here for a long time.
Joyner's own long-term future in the athletic department is up in the air. Last fall he was appointed acting athletic director in place of Tim Curley, who has been on administrative leave since November 2011 after being charged with perjury and failure to report in the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Curley, who suffers from lung cancer, is still awaiting trial. Penn State has announced that his contract – understandably – will not be renewed when it expires this summer.
Joyner reiterated that he will serve in his capacity for as long as required and he would be interested in the full-time job down the line.
The former Penn State football and wrestling All-American said he was aware of internet-based speculation that he and O'Brien did not get along well.
That's completely untrue, Joyner said. Bill and I have a great relationship. We have always had a great relationship. It's the same now as it was on Day 1 when we got started.
As part of the terms of the consent decree that Penn State signed when agreeing to its sanctions, the school agreed not to seek legal action against the NCAA.
So out of necessity, the university has remained fairly tight-lipped about Gov. Tom Corbett's federal antitrust lawsuit that seeks to have the sanctions thrown out.
That extends to the athletic department as well.
I'll give you my opinion on many, many things, O'Brien said. But that's not something I'm going to give you my opinion on. I don't have an opinion on that.
Joyner similarly declined comment on the matter.
Penn State's first roster casualty of the offseason was an expected one.
O'Brien said Monday that tailback Curtis Dukes won't be here for next season.
The team's second-leading rusher in 2011, Dukes was barely on the team's radar in 2012, finishing with just 26 carries for 98 yards.
Midway through the season, he told his hometown paper that he was disappointed with his decreased role on the team and wanted more playing time. He has one season of eligibility remaining and would be able to play in 2013 for a new school, provided he enrolls before the preseason.
Zach Zwinak emerged as the team's feature back in the second half of the season, and it will be his job to lose this offseason.
Bill Belton opened last season as the starter, but fell out of favor, getting just one carry in November.
O'Brien said Belton has been working hard to regain a bigger role for 2013 and will remain at tailback.
You can tell that he went home over Christmas and he really worked, O'Brien said. You can tell, and that's a good sign. He's a great kid, and I really have a unique relationship with Billy. I really have a lot of respect for Billy, and we're going to do a better job (of using him), starting with me, number one.
Looking forward to putting those plans into place here in spring practice. But Billy is ready to go, I think, as far as working at it this offseason.
O'Brien said top tight end Kyle Carter is still rehabbing from a wrist injury he suffered in November at Nebraska.
I don't know right now as we sit here if he would be ready for spring practice, O'Brien said. I think that decision is a ways away from being made, but I think he's making a lot of progress.
Linebacker Nyeem Wartman, a Valley View grad, sat out the last 10 games of the season after injuring his knee at Virginia in Week 2.
Wartman could be eligible to apply for a medical redshirt in order to retain all four years of his eligibility. But O'Brien wouldn't elaborate on Wartman's status on Monday.
I'm not going to get into that, he said. That's a fair question, but that's between me and Dr. Joyner and (head trainer) Tim Bream, and that's it.