By William Bowman
The Daily Item
STATE COLLEGE -- As Penn State begins a new era of football, two focal points will be first-time head coach Bill O'Brien and Matt McGloin, a former walk-on from West Scranton who enters the season as the starting quarterback.
How well O'Brien does in his first head coaching stint and how much progress McGloin makes are both tied directly to one man: New Penn State quarterback coach Charlie Fisher.
Fisher, an Allenwood native who graduated from Warrior Run, is entering his 31st season as a coach, his first at Penn State, a place he watched games as a kid.
"I sat in wooden bleachers, right over there," Fisher said Thursday at media day, pointing to the tunnel where Penn State enters the field on game day in front of 100,000 fans. "That tells you how long ago it was."
Fisher, who has had plenty of stops on his coaching career, was the passing coordinator at Miami (Ohio) a year ago. He has also coached at Temple, North Carolina State and Vanderbilt recently, where he worked with both Jay Cutler (now the quarterback of the Chicago Bears) and Earl Bennett, who became the SEC's all-time leading receiver.
Fisher always wondered if he would ever come to Penn State though. Less than an hour's drive from his hometown, Fisher always had thoughts of it, but the opportunity never presented itself.
"Somewhere in the back of your brain, there was always hope that I could coach here someday," he said. "That's what you work for. I'm the luckiest guy in the world to get this opportunity. To grow up right down the road in Central Pennsylvania and to come here and come home and coach at my home state university, this is the living the dream for someone like me."
When the opportunity to finally coach at Penn State presented itself, things happened so fast Fisher didn't even really have time to wrap his head around the situation.
O'Brien came to Penn State from the New England Patriots, where he was the offensive coordinator and got to work with Tom Brady on a daily basis. He spent the better part of a month putting his staff together, then he contacted Fisher and things took off.
"It happened in a hurry," Fisher said. "He was looking for a quarterback coach and there were a lot of guys he could choose from. Honestly, it was contact one day, interview the next day, job the next day. I drive back to Oxford, Ohio, and turned right around and drove back up here. It happened so fast. But it was a real blessing to be able to tell my family, everybody back in Allenwood and Watsontown and Milton, that I was going to be here."
When he got the job in mid-February, Fisher said he spent some long hours in the office learning as much as he could about the players on the roster and what O'Brien's plans where. O'Brien will be the offensive coordinator and call plays, but will rely heavily on Fisher to get the quarterbacks -- the key position on any offense, but especially in this offense -- prepared to play.
"I wanted to get in here as quickly as possible and learn the terminology and everything coach wanted to do," said Fisher. "There were some long days at first, 6:30 in the morning until 9 or 10 at night, but we made a lot of progress. I look at it as a chance to work with the best (O'Brien), who worked with the best (Brady)."
Fisher said all of the quarterbacks have made strides since the new staff arrived. While the coaches were able to install things during spring practice in April, the majority of the coaching staff cannot be in contact with players over the summer. For that reason, a lot falls on the shoulders of the players to take extra strides to be ready for fall camp, which started this week.
One player who really took over, Fisher said, was McGloin.
"From the first day we got here until this last couple of days, he's light years better," said Fisher. "You can just see a confidence level. He's relaxed, he's seeing things. Matt's a smart kid. He understands football and has a good natural savvy for the game."