The first-year coach is adopting a new openness at Penn State that was demonstrated by the fact that the media were allowed to watch the last 30 minutes of Monday's practice, which began at 6:15 a.m.
"I got here about 4:45 because I couldn't wait to start practice," O'Brien said. "Our whole staff was here before me, and I think I was the last to arrive."
While more players may still transfer, O'Brien said he is confident that the team he has assembled will stay together. Nine players have left, and two recruits in the 2013 class have also decided not to attend.
"At the end of the day, I feel really good about keeping this team together," O'Brien said.
He didn't criticize those who have departed.
"I know some guys left, and that is OK. That was their individual decision," O'Brien said. "We respect that decision, but we are moving forward with this team."
An estimated 83 players participated in the opening practice, which was carried out at a crisp pace and mirrored NFL workouts. Incoming freshmen were held out because the coach wanted them to get acclimated.
O'Brien said he was pleased by the continued progress of senior Matt McGloin, who has been appointed the starting quarterback. Another player who has impressed the coach is Bill Belton, a sophomore from Winslow Township High who is moving from receiver to running back.
A former Inquirer South Jersey offensive player of the year, Belton broke some impressive runs in the opening practice.
His role is even more important since Silas Redd, who rushed for 1,241 yards and seven touchdowns last season, transferred to Southern California last week.
"Bill Belton is a good football player, and he was going to play this year [regardless]," O'Brien said. "[Losing Redd] definitely affects the depth, but we are not retooling everything because one player left. This is about a whole team and not one player."
O'Brien kept emphasizing the team aspect and how his players have stuck together, and he said it will be an easy group for the fans to support.
"I expect our fans to really root for this football team because this is a good bunch of kids that care about playing football for Penn State, that care about getting a degree from Penn State," he said. "So I expect our fans to turn out and to embrace the new era of Penn State football."
Contact Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, firstname.lastname@example.org or @sjnard on Twitter.