STATE COLLEGE - He owes it to his players. It helps his recruiting.
So, is there really any good reason for Bill O'Brien not to let NFL scouts watch his practices?
O'Brien, Penn State's first-year coach, has opened the gates of the Lasch Football Building's practice fields on Wednesdays to scouts from the next level, something that was not done under Joe Paterno.
O'Brien was formerly the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. A few of his Nittany Lions are likely NFL-bound, and he wants to give them the best opportunity to be seen by pro scouts. And it could provide recruits with some incentive to join O'Brien's program, despite the sanctions leveled against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Team spokesman Jeff Nelson said that a scout from all 32 NFL teams has been to practice at least once.
"It was always a big thing for our New England scouts, who were great scouts, to be able to see practice," O'Brien said. "A lot of colleges let scouts in. I'm not the only one that does it, obviously, but I do think it helps when kids know that if you come to Penn State, if you play well and you produce on the field, you're going to be seen at practice and at games and you're going to have a chance."
Though having intense onlookers on the sideline wearing NFL apparel is certainly a change of atmosphere for the Nittany Lions, it isn't changing the way they practice.
"It's definitely cool, a different experience just seeing them around while you're practicing," senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill said. "It's a little different because you're always thinking, if I do something wrong they're right there writing stuff down the whole time, and you're just thinking what they're writing. But you've gotta put that aside."
The two Lions who have the best NFL credentials probably are linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges. Mauti has won a pair of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week awards and a national one, and Hodges is fresh off a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Award of his own.
The scouts' presence hasn't seemed to distract the Lions. They have a 4-2 record (2-0 Big Ten) and four-game winning streak. Many will return to their hometowns during this current bye week; the Lions visit Iowa on Oct. 20, at 8 p.m.
"NFL scouts are there sometimes, and of course there's added pressure, but you just go out there and practice the way you always practice," senior center Matt Stankiewitch said. "Practice hard and practice with intensity and try to get better for the game because the game is what counts the most."
Hill agreed, saying some guys will try to go harder than usual, but the focus remains on the coming game.
The presence of pro scouts is just another small part of the new era at Penn State under O'Brien.
"Whether there's NFL scouts or not, that doesn't really determine how hard you practice," senior quarterback Matt McGloin said. "I'm gonna practice as hard as I can each and every day regardless of who's watching."