Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien will not use players early in the season simply to force them to stay with the Nittany Lions through the end of the campaign.
The Nittany Lions were hit with NCAA sanctions in late July, and one punishment was the ability of players to transfer to other FBS schools and be immediately eligible to play. That window is open until the start of training camp in 2013, with one key limitation.
Once a Nittany Lion plays in a game this season, he must stay through the end of the season or be subject to NCAA transfer penalties. At season's end, he becomes eligible to transfer again. Players who do not see the field are eligible to transfer at any time during the season without enduring NCAA penalties.
If he was concerned solely about keeping his entire roster intact through the end of November, O'Brien could play everyone in the Sept. 1 opener against Ohio at Beaver Stadium. On a conference call with reporters Thursday, he said he will not do that. Instead, he will substitute in a fashion that gives the team the best chance at victory.
Obviously, if it's a close game, we're gonna play our best players, O'Brien said. We're gonna do what we've got to do to try to win the game.
Despite having a roster that has already been depleted to fewer than 70 scholarship athletes due to transfers and other defections, O'Brien still intends to redshirt those true freshmen who don't figure to make a serious impact this season.
If you're gonna play a freshman, you really need to play him so you don't come out at the end of the year with a freshman who only played 10 plays and burned his redshirt, O'Brien said.
Penn State is roughly at the midway point of its 2012 training camp. O'Brien said the staff will start to make decisions on possible redshirts in the next week or so.
There's definitely been some freshmen who have really stood out to us, he said. More than likely over the next week we'll have a discussion about them going into the Ohio game, (about) how much these guys are gonna play.