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Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Q&A: Weinke discusses QB O'Connor

By Josh Moyer

What's Penn State getting in recent commit and ESPN 150 quarterback Michael O'Connor?

Well, NittanyNation decided to conduct a Q&A with one of the people who knows best what he's capable of: His coach at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy, Chris Weinke, a former Heisman Trophy winner who also went on to play with the Carolina Panthers. Weinke talked about O'Connor's strengths, how quickly he's improved and more.

NittanyNation: I know you haven't seen O'Connor up close during a game yet, but you've seen a lot of him during spring practices and everything. What kind of player has he been for you so far?

Chris Weinke: I knew what I was getting when he came here. He's what I expected and then some. He does things the right way on the field and off the field. He's a 4.0 student, he carries himself professionally when it comes to the football part of it, and he's as solid as a guy I've ever coached in regard to the way he approaches the game. He's a sponge for knowledge.

So what I saw over the spring is he's more confident in our offense, and he continued to get better every day. He's 6-5, 225, and he's a great leader. He's not really a rah-rah guy or a vocal guy, but he leads by example. I think a lot of guys are seeing his approach and following his lead. It's been a joy to work with him.

NN: You're implementing a pro-style offense in IMG Academy's inaugural football season. How do you think that'll help O'Connor heading into PSU?

CW: I played in that same offense in Carolina, and scheme is what they're doing at Penn State. So, in terms of being prepared and making a transition to Penn State, it'll be much smoother for Michael than most kids because he's going to live it every day here.

We're probably more advanced than your typical high school. We take the college approach with the way we watch video, and we film all our practices and break down film. So that familiarity with the verbiage was one of the reasons Michael felt very comfortable with Penn State.

NN: What does O'Connor do best?

CW: Well, he's got great command of our offense -- and that's the most important thing at the quarterback position. He understands the responsibilities of every guy on the offensive side of the ball, and his presence really sticks out in the way he controls the huddle. And moving from that to the physical side, he can make every throw. He throws with great anticipation and he's got great feet for a 6-5 guy.

You can put him under center or in the shotgun, and I think he'll surprise people. He's the total package, in my opinion. He has the "it" factor. He's a great leader. He has all those things, so we're very excited.

Chris Weinke
Former Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke coaches Penn State QB pledge Michael O'Connor at IMG Academy.
NN: How does he compare to you when you were his age?

CW: It's not even close. He's so much more advanced; he's way more advanced than I was. You got to remember I was playing high school ball 23 years ago, so the game has changed, obviously the coaching has changed, and the game has evolved.

So, from a physical standpoint, we're similar drop-back, pro-style quarterbacks. So we're similar in terms of physically but, mentally, he's far more advanced when he makes that jump to college football.

NN: How have you seen O'Connor improve during spring practice?

CW: Although he was good at the beginning, yeah, he was much better at the end because he can process information so fast. I think we went through the last two practices in spring ball and, in terms of grading it, I don't know if he had a ball on the ground in 7-on-7s. I think he made one bad decision in two practices.

He's hungry and he wants to get better -- and that's exactly what I'm looking for. I can't remember an incident where he made a mistake and then made that mistake again.