STATE COLLEGE -- Bill O'Brien is still living out of a hotel room nearly three months after arriving in Happy Valley to become Penn State's new head coach.
At least O'Brien is back in his element at work with spring drills finally starting for the Nittany Lions.
The start of practice Monday allowed the first on-field glimpse into the transition to the first new head coach at Penn State in nearly a half-century.
"I feel really good. I'm settled in, other than the fact that I'm still in room ... well, I can't give my room number out," O'Brien told reporters at Beaver Stadium. "I've been living out of a suitcase for a while."
Shuttling around the practice field during a fast-paced first day of drills, the former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots made his presence known.
There was O'Brien gesturing to punt returners Justin Brown and Devon Smith during special teams drills on a windy day. Or surveying positional drills for a secondary which will need four new starters.
Or correcting a receiver for breaking too quickly off a route in the flat. In September, that mistake might lead to an interception.
"You do that and the outside linebacker will undercut you every time," O'Brien said.
O'Brien was hired in January, nearly two months after the late Joe Paterno was ousted by school trustees in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against a retired assistant coach. He has stressed that he will show respect for Paterno's accomplishments and build on the traditions the Hall of Famer established in 46 seasons as head coach. Paterno died of lung cancer in January at age 85.
O'Brien is slowly starting to leave his own mark on the program, between the remodeled weight room to an overhaul of the playbook to re-tool the new offense around what O'Brien ran with the Patriots.
So the spring is indeed a time of new beginnings for the Nittany Lions.
"Yeah, you're definitely starting at square one, because again, you're not really able to spend a lot of time with them," he said when asked getting the offense acclimated to the new schemes this week. "There have been a few big adjustments for me from the NFL to college football."
He gets to work with much larger rosters in college than in the NFL, so O'Brien wants to make sure he gets plenty of reps in for players he's never seen practice before this week. That will especially be important on offense which, as expected, appears to be his primary focus this offseason.
The man now in charge at Penn State wasn't wearing rolled-up khakis, either -- Paterno's trademark look.
Instead, O'Brien donned football's version of corporate attire: a blue hat and sweat pants to go with a gray sweat shirt, all with some semblance of the Penn State name or logo on it, as he surveyed a variety of position drills and workouts.
It's not unusual, of course, for a head coach to roam through the field during practice, though in recent years Paterno at times was relegated to monitoring practice from a golf cart as he recovered from leg and hip injuries.
The new conditioning drills might be the more obvious difference at Penn State, a concentration on short, but seemingly high-intensity exercises that appear to fit with the overhauled training philosophy that includes mimicking explosive football movements. On Monday, that meant players had to high-step or run on their heels, or do lunging crawls, for five-yard spurts.
O'Brien appears to have won over his players and former lettermen, especially those ex-Nittany Lions loyal to Paterno who initially questioned the hiring of a replacement without Penn State ties.
He has also been keeping up a busy schedule of public appearances, displaying a friendly personality with a touch of the sternness of a boot camp sergeant and occasional attempts at self-deprecating humor -- like when he describes himself as having a "follically challenged" head.
But O'Brien is well aware the cheers can quickly disappear if fans are unhappy with the product on the field. Speaking at an awards banquet Sunday for central Pennsylvania high school and college football players, O'Brien stressed the importance of mental toughness in becoming a leader.
"I've spoken in some groups and everybody claps. Well, like I always say, I hope you're clapping in a year," he said, eliciting laughter. "Because I'm going to take risks and sometimes those risks aren't going to work out."
Penn State's annual spring game is April 21, and O'Brien plans to coach on the field -- a break from recent tradition. Paterno usually spent the Blue-White game in the radio booth with the team's announcers, leaving the field coaching to his assistants.
The new job is a "tremendous opportunity for our staff, for our players, for me," O'Brien said in the speech Sunday, "to lead this football program into a new era."