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O'Brien era at PSU truly begins today

New England Patriots players and coaches remain in shock after Sunday's heart-wrenching loss in Super Bowl XLVI, but Bill O'Brien is moving on to the next task.

It's a big one.

O'Brien has fulfilled his offensive coordinator responsibilities with the Patriots and now can focus full-time on his new job, head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions. He's back in State College on Tuesday, which in many ways is the true beginning of his era as head coach. O'Brien has been juggling two jobs since his hiring at Penn State on Jan. 6. Although he had some involvement in recruiting and other matters at Penn State, he couldn't devote all his time to a job that requires it.

The period between national signing day and the start of spring football often offers coaches the chance to catch their breath. But O'Brien and his new staff will be keeping the pedal down until spring practice kicks off the week of March 26.

The coaches must install new systems on both sides of the ball, including an offensive playbook that quarterback Matthew McGloin described as "big" and "tough to go through" in a recent interview with the Associated Press.

O'Brien still has one assistant coach hire to make, presumably a quarterbacks coach, a crucial addition even though O'Brien likely will call offensive plays this fall.

There are already a few changes around the Penn State football program, as the Associated Press details:

Mustaches and beards are now OK, as are hats inside the building -- another no-no from the Paterno regime.

"I think it's because he doesn't have any hair -- he wears a hat," linebacker Michael Mauti joked about his new coach. The balding O'Brien has jokingly referred to himself as "follicularly challenged."

A new strength coach has installed a new offseason workout system based on free weights, Olympic-style lifting and squats. The old routines were based on exercise machines.

The revamped strength program obviously matters more than the facial hair rule, although no beard or mustache grown by a Penn State player will hold a candle to The Great Hull. Penn State had always based its strength program on high intensity training, or HIT, rather than the Olympic-style lifting that was becoming more popular around college football. This created a lot of debate.

O'Brien has made favorable early impressions with the players, but he'll now get a chance to truly establish himself with his new team in his new home.

There's a lot of work ahead, but O'Brien can finally devote himself fully to the task at hand.