Bill O’Brien had mostly one thing on his mind.
“I’m not here to talk about scholarships or sanctions or last week’s game,” the Penn State coach said. “I’m here to talk about Michigan and Michigan only, and our team.”
O’Brien summoned his inner-Belichick on Tuesday at his weekly press conference, taking a cue from his former boss with the New England Patriots. For the most part, he kept things short and to the point as the Nittany Lions try to regroup from a stunning loss at Indiana and prepare for the undefeated Wolverines on Saturday.
Was his team shaken a bit by the first loss to Indiana in program history?
“The team’s confidence isn’t shaken.”
Is he considering some personnel moves in light of the loss?
“You’ll see more guys playing this week.”
Has the offensive line shown the improvement in consistency he said he wanted to see?
“Our offensive line has improved every week, and our offensive line will be ready to go on Saturday.”
With several exchanges like those, O’Brien’s press conference — normally between 25-30 minutes on average — clocked in under 20 on Tuesday.
O’Brien loosened up a bit as the Q-and-A session went along and was happy to discuss the Wolverines and the challenge they present Saturday, as well as the progress of a few of his individual players.
But the focus was clear.
With the Lions’ upcoming schedule featuring No. 18 Michigan and No. 4 Ohio State sandwiched around a bye week, one of O’Brien’s main tasks is keeping his players from getting down on themselves.
Last month, O’Brien had preached to his players not to dwell on a tough loss to Central Florida. He doubled down on that in the aftermath of the 44-24 setback against the Hoosiers.
“I’ve moved on to Michigan,” O’Brien said when asked about the Lions’ 55 pass attempts against the Hoosiers. “Indiana is over. It’s in the rearview mirror. That game is over. We’re focused on Michigan.
“We’re putting together a gameplan. It’ll be finalized probably (Wednesday) night, and we feel like it’s a good gameplan. But we’ve got to go out and execute it on Saturday night. We’re very focused and excited about the game.”
• Allen Robinson’s nasty spill on Saturday that had him writhing in pain for a few minutes won’t keep the star receiver down.
Robinson, who was able to return against the Hoosiers, will be ready to play the Wolverines, O’Brien said. The same goes for fellow starting wideout Brandon Felder, who missed the Indiana game with an ankle injury.
“Right now Brandon Felder is full-go for the game,” O’Brien said.
• Health-wise, Penn State’ biggest uncertainty this week is the status of safety Ryan Keiser, who injured his hand against Kent State and did not play against Indiana.
“Ryan Keiser is still questionable for the game,” O’Brien said. “We’re hoping to have him, but we’ll know more probably by the end of the day (Wednesday), We feel good about it, but I would say he’s still questionable.”
Keiser had been seeing more reps in the secondary in both the base defense and in nickel packages. His emergence also makes it easier for Adrian Amos to move up to corner when needed.
Another former walk-on, Jesse Della Valle, saw time in place of Keiser last Saturday.
• Penn State has been banged up all season long at linebacker, but O’Brien expects to have his full compliment against Michigan. Mike Hull (knee), Nyeem Wartman (shoulder) and Ben Kline (shoulder) have all missed some time and converted safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong has been playing sore as well, according to O’Brien.
Hull returned to play against the Hoosiers while Kline sat out after O’Brien said he “popped his shoulder out” two days before the game. Wartman dressed but played sparingly because of his injury.
“Linebackers will be ready to play on Saturday night,” O’Brien said.
• One player who will definitely not be seeing the field is tight end Brent Wilkerson.
The redshirt freshman, who underwent back surgery over the summer, will miss the entire season.
“He’s doing fine, but he won’t be back this year,” O’Brien said.
Penn State had initially hoped Wilkerson might be able to return at some point this year. Instead, he’ll join defensive end Brad Bars (Achilles), tight end Matt Lehman (knee) and receiver DaeSean Hamilton (wrist) as players who won’t be able to suit up in 2013.