STATE COLLEGE -- In many ways, the place they call Happy Valley has experienced a sea change over the last nine months.
Now there's an attempt to move forward. In fact, it was the resounding theme among players and coaches at the Penn State Football Media Day on Thursday.
The chance to do something special has become the driving force.
New coach Bill O'Brien chatted about it in his opening news conference that kicked off the day's events.
"We'll have a chip on our shoulder just like every football team should. But at the end of the day, it's not us against the world," O'Brien said. "It's about Penn State, these kids caring about their education, and the fact that they have a chance to go out there and do something pretty special in a lot of different ways."
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden, the only two coaches brought back by O'Brien from Joe Paterno's staff, talked about it during interviews on the field at Beaver Stadium.
"I wish people would write more about the guys that stayed than most of the guys that left because this is the real story," Johnson said. "This is the story that these guys are gonna tell their grandkids down the road, that they made this kind of decision. I think it makes them admirable."
York County players: Two of the players that decided to stay are from York County -- defensive tackle Kyle Baublitz and linebacker Ben Kline. They touched on how the opportunity to be part of something special played a role in their decisions to stay.
"What did it for me was just talking to my teammates and seeing what we have and the relationships we have and realizing we can do something special," Kline said.
With all that being said, Baublitz and Kline also can't wait to let the past be just that when the season finally gets started Sept. 1 against Ohio.
Baublitz: Both local players will experience some change on the field.
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"I played a little bit of defensive tackle in the Blue-White Game and I loved it," Baublitz said. "I asked coach (Johnson) if I could move to defensive tackle and he said 'Sure.'"
A part of the reason that Baublitz is switching positions is because the 6-foot, 5-inch redshirt sophomore feels more comfortable playing at a higher weight.
"He was trying to stay down at 260 (pounds) and his body was going to 275," Johnson said of Baublitz. "It was one of those kind of deals. I said we'll come back in the fall and if you feel comfortable you can get to 275, then we'll really talk about staying in a permanent position. He got to 280 and really just looked good at 280."
In his first season on the field in 2011, Baublitz saw playing time on defense and special teams in all 13 games. He'll have a more prominent role along the defensive line this season.
"He'll play what we call a three-technique," Johnson said. "I like to rotate five guys in the position. He'll be part of that five-man rotation as we go forward into the season."
Kline: Vanderlinden said Kline, who sat out as a redshirt in his true freshman season last year, will be part of the special teams units this fall.
"That's what I'm hoping for," said Kline, who is a
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Kline sported a beard and long hair Thursday, taking advantage of a change in policy that wasn't tolerated by Paterno, who preferred players clean-shaven. Another change this season is the addition of names to the back of player jerseys, something neither Baublitz nor Kline had much of an opinion on.
"I don't really have a huge opinion on it one way or the other," Kline said. "But a lot of the guys are excited about it and because of that I'm really excited about it, too."
The players are also under a new defensive coordinator, Ted Roof, who had served as Auburn's defensive coordinator and linebackers coach since 2009.
"There are definitely some similarities and some differences (compared to the old defense)," Kline said. "We're excited about what we're going to show in the fall."
More than anything, the pair can't wait for the chance to do something special this fall.
"I'm ready to go out there and have some fun," Baublitz said.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.