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December 16, 2008NC State coach Tom O'Brien gave a state of the program style press conference Tuesday, discussing a wide range of topics.
Two Wolfpack players have indicated they will file the paperwork to receive their draft grade, defensive end Willie Young and running back Jamelle Eugene, both redshirt juniors.
Also, junior safety Clem Johnson, whom O'Brien called the team's best safety, will try to return to practice this week after missing the season finale against Miami with a sprained ankle.
Click on the link to listen to O'Brien's press conference. A transcript will be provided shortly.
About Rutgers, what presents the most challenge for you?
"I think right now Teel is playing really well at quarterback. They've got great receivers, obviously Kenny Britt is a big play guy. They make a lot of big plays in their passing game. Certainly the streak they are on is indicative of how good their offense has been lately.
"I've known Greg since my time in the Big East, and he's certainly, he's a defensive minded coach. Those guys are always pretty sound on defense. The brief look I've see of them on tape, they hustle, they run to the football, they are in good position most of the time.
"They are as hot as any team in the country right now, and it'll be a great challenge for our football team."
Is New Jersey an area you are more actively pursuing in recruiting?
"We will go up to New Jersey. We have some ties there from our days at Boston College, and people know us. A lot of times kids like to come south to go play for football, so it might be a spot we'll spend a little more time in."
How tough is it for a quarterback playing well at the end of the season to have a layoff and do they get rusty?
"They certainly do, and that's something you have to be concerned with. Offensively, the timing of the passing game because obviously once you're in the season and you're in the groove and you're working week in and week out, those things take care of themselves.
"Certainly the biggest concern in bowl games No. 1 would be the passing game on offense, certainly special teams play overall for the same reason and playing on defense."
Players talk about Wilson's poise, is that something he has gained or something he's had since he arrived?
"I think that's part of his makeup. He came here with those traits. Obviously some of the trials and tribulations we went through this year helped bring them out and made them a little more pronounced, but those are certainly things he brought with him to campus."
Is it too early to tell what Clem Johnson's status is going to be for the bowl game?
"No, I think he's supposed to get back on the practice field this week so we'll find out. He's going to make an effort to practice this week."
If you have him, how valuable will that be against a real good passing team?
"Certainly, that would be valuable for us because we think he is our best safety. We're going to need our best players to slow this passing game down some.
"It'd be fortunate to him to because if anybody has had a hard year, he's personified everything that's been about this football team. I'd love for him to come back and play and contribute."
What are some of the things that you have worked on between the Miami game and now and when do you start concentrating on Rutgers?
"We spent basically a couple days the last couple of weekends because classes are on and we're in the middle of exams. Exams end somewhere this afternoon or this evening. We'll go out a little bit today, and then we'll certainly work hard from here. This is an important stretch of practice time now from here to the open practice we're going to have Saturday afternoon. That'll basically be the last of our practices that won't focus just on Rutgers.
"Starting the next day we'll spend a couple of days before we leave here specifically on Rutgers because I found it's important that you have to work on them. You can't get ready at the bowl site, you just can't get it done, so we'll spend a couple of days.
"We'll finish with that practice on Saturday that will be open for the public. Hopefully all those people that want to come watch practice will come watch and then never ask me again, no I'm just kidding."
What kind of things will you work on this week specifically that don't involve Rutgers?
"Just fundamentals, I mean we go back to the base fundamentals, whether it be throwing and catching the ball, tacking, steps, pass protection, it's similar to what we do in preseason and to what we do in spring practice. Work on base offense, base defense, base blitzes, base blitz pickups. Rutgers' got a pretty good blitz package. We won't work on that, but we'll work against our defense's blitz mode and things like that.
"All those things you working on to become fundamentally sound and a better football team will certainly will help once you start thinking about playing against Rutgers."
Do you think winning or losing a bowl game indicates how strong your team is and how strong a conference is?
"I think it has to do with how good your football team is, and each bowl game is different because of the matchups you have. Certainly having 10 teams be able to go to a bowl in our conference, the first it's happened, speaks to what is the strength of our conference.
"Obviously in September we were much maligned for not being because of one weekend in August or September everybody shot down the ACC, but as the you look at the end, Virginia played the toughest schedule in the country, Duke played the second toughest, we played the third toughest, and a lot of it is all of beating each other. I think Wake Forest was fifth or sixth or fourth.
"That couple with we didn't duck anybody out of conference when we played anybody and went out and played a tough schedule. Now the proof is in the pudding, still comes down to we got 10 games, and we're going to have to win more than we lose in the bowl games to help what may be perceived our image of the ACC."
Why open up the practice to the public?
"Well because I think it's an opportunity, as I've said everybody wants to come watch us practice, I hear you so I'm going to open one up. The bowl time is a good time to do it. We'll go through a normal practice. Anybody that wants to come watch, hopefully a lot of kids will come. We'll let them come run on the field with the team after the practice and whatever, and they'll touch Fury or do whatever they want. It's a nice thing to do for the Wolfpack community that wants to come watch us practice."
When did you start noticing how good Nate Irving was?
"Not really until the open week a year ago. As I've said, there's nothing exceptional about him through spring practice, the first half of the year, but certainly about the time we had to make some changes, we wanted to give him opportunities. Some guys play better than they practice.
"Certainly he performed very well that last six games stretch of the year last year. Through spring practice I think it gave him confidence. You have to play to get better. I think he felt he belonged on the football field and could be a force. Certainly he's another guy we could've used all 12 games this year but thankful we had him when we did."
Did you ever meet his high school coach?
"I haven't been down there, no, and now we're off the road more it will be tougher to do."
What do you attribute your bowl record to?
I don't know what other coaches do because we don't go hitting other coaches during bowl season. All I know is I got waxed my first year against Colorado and did a bad job. Certainly changed some things from there, got into a rhythm of how we think we should do this. I think it's as important as anything else is the team buying in.
"As I said the first year we went at Boston College, Colorado went to win the game, we went to just go to a bowl game. You have to go with the intent you're going to go there to win a football game and you have to prepare that way, and we did that from that point on at Boston College.
"I guess they still haven't lost since we lost to Boston College."
Did structurally or organizationally you change anything?
"I changed the way we practiced and how we did and how we prepared and the mindset of how we did things, certainly."
One of the players mention two-a-day during bowl season, can you tell me a little bit about that?
"We'll have a two-a-day Wednesday and Friday. We just go back to that type of practice schedule and do it. It helps us I believe to get ready to play the game. That was one of the things we changed at Boston College."
What does having Anthony Hill in the offense do than when he is not there?
"Certainly a player of his caliber and playing, he's gotten better and better as the season's gone on. Having a player his caliber, and then when we lost Matt Kushner, that's a pretty big blow to us, but gave George Bryan the opportunity to get in the game and play, and he certainly has helped a lot.
"Our offense has been a lot of two tight end, and it has always been that way. It gives us opportunities to do those things, plus those two kids, if you notice they are not always in the tight end slot. They're kind of different positions all over the field because of their ability to get down the field and catch the ball. So it's helped us not only in the running game but also the passing game."
What about off the field?
"I think that certainly he has as much to do with it as anybody. I remember the team meeting we had in the open week before we got to the Duke game. We kept getting better and better, and I think talked about what our shortcomings were and what we had to do, and when I said, 'Does anybody have any questions?', Anthony said, 'Can we have a players' only team meaning.' I said, 'Certainly.'
"I think from that point you have to look at his leadership skills and his maturity level that he would take the occasion to do that, and certainly with great benefit for the whole team."
Those are kind of magic words for a coach to hear?
"I walked out of that meeting thinking well we got a chance now."
What's been the key to the development of the offensive line?
"I think health and they've played together for the most part. We lost Williams for a couple of games there in mid stretch, but Vermiglio had played a lot both at guard and at tackle as part of the rotation that was set up, so on paper somebody was hurt.
"I think obviously the growth and maturity of Larsen. Certainly it starts at the center position, he's really been a pleasant surprise from the start of the season at South Carolina till now. McCuller has been steady at right tackle. Green's been steady at right guard, and Bedics has been in there every game. Those four guys have been there all the time.
"You get better by playing. Offensive lines get better by staying together and knowing each other. There are so many double blocks, pass off blocks, things like that that has to happen that they've grown certainly as a group."
How much has a role has Meares Green had putting it all together?
"He kind of helped Larsen at the start until Teddy figured it out all the time which way supposed to go, but Teddy's smart enough to figure it out. I think it's calming that Meares was there to help him if he made the wrong call to say, 'No, we got to go this way.'"
Meares is a real smart player, did the West Nile thing, do kids look up to him?
"I don't know if they've looked up to him. They're probably in awe that he does that. I think that he certainly has the respect of his teammate and he should for what he's accomplished."
How many of your underclassmen have told you they might put their names into the draft advisory board?
Can you tell me who they are?
"No, they can tell you if they want."
So they told you they will or they might?
"No, I think they are going to go through with the process. As I've said before the NFL has frowned on in the past I guess they got record numbers of kids going in and throwing their names in the hat, so I guess we as coaches are supposed to slow those things down.
"I'll say who it is, Young and Eugene are the only two., of which neither at this point has any intention to leave, they just want to know."
Teel is a big quarterback with a strong arm, is there anybody that State has played this year at quarterback that's similar?
"I really haven't thought of it that way. We had him at camp at Boston College. He was kid out of Bosco that we knew a lot about. Greg Toal, actually Greg Toal coached Brian Toal's dad, and both of the Toal boys that we had at BC, so we knew about him then, so I've only thought about seeing him first hand."
Does it make a difference that he is a pocket passer?
"I think it certainly does. It's one thing to defend a guy that's in the pocket, it's certainly another to try and defend Russell Wilson."
What happens moving forward with the quarterbacks?
"In what regards?"
You have a first-team All-ACC quarterback and you also have a guy from everybody I've talked to everbody is really high on in Glennon. Do they compete for the job after the season? Is Russell going into next season as the starter and Mike has to beat them out?
"Certainly Russell will go in as the starter because he is the starter, but he has to, and it's no different than any other positions as we talked about everything going into, he's got to win his position back. Certainly Glennon will have the opportunity to be the starter. If he beats him out, he'll be the starter. We're going to play the best guy, doesn't matter who you are, where you are, what position you play."
Have you ever played two quarterbacks?
"No, we did a little early at BC just because we weren't sure who or what we had. I always believe you got to put the backup guy a little bit, get him to play early in the year because I didn't want to be in the 10th game and the guy never taken a snap and you got to win two games to be in the championship and he has never been there. You got to get him in the game somehow.
"I'm not a big proponent of the two quarterback system, but that's something for down the road. That's spring practice, we got to get ready to play Rutgers."
What do you like about Glennon?
"That's spring practice, we can talk about that later. Any questions about Rutgers? You can come on Saturday and watch him and you guys can make your own determination."
How much does finishing with a winning record and winning the bowl game help with recruiting?
"I think it helps a lot. I think it shows that the direction of the program, that everything is headed in the right direction. I've said it all year that I'm positive that I know we're headed in the right direction. It's validation, gives proof to the fact that there is a going to be a heck of a football team here and we're headed in the right direction."
What was the toughest of your bowl wins?
"Oh I don't know. I haven't thought about it. I'll think about it and tell you later."
Was beating Boise State in Boise tough?
"I always said that was one of my top wins ever. It has to do more with the fact we come into the conference, we're 5-3, tied with Florida State and end up going to a last place bowl. That team was crushed. They thought they should at least go somewhere, and rightfully so.
"Here we go to Boise, we're playing the last game of their coach who hasn't lost a game, lost his first game he played there. It wasn't a bowl game, it was a home game for Boise. It was nothing like, I mean everywhere we went it was, I can still hear everybody, 'Go Broncos!' All you heard was, 'Go Broncos!'
"To win that game, to go out there and do that was a great, great thing for Boston College football to win that. They had every reason to go out there, lay down and not play and let them go out on a high note, but it didn't happen. We went out and played and played hard and beat a heck of a football team that ended up beating what, beating Oklahoma the next year."
A lot of people say BC because they drop in the bowls and don't play a tougher game that helps them win more, but the opposite psychological affect can counteract that, can it not?
"I don't know if a lot of people are volunteering to go play Boise State at Boise."
Are you disappointed in ticket sales for the bowl?
"I don't have any idea at all what they are, that's not my area."
Any other correlations to the season you had and Rutgers had besides you both finish strong?
"No, I think his situation is different. I think they have six new coaches. Probably part of there, I would think this I don't want to put words in his mouth, but certainly the transition is tough to tough to do, and you get into the season, and once again Fresno State and North Carolina weren't two of the easiest teams to open up with. They got stung a little bit there, but to their credit the staff and the team got on the same page and finished strong."
What do you learn from there early games or is it moot at this point?
"No, we spend more time working on what they've done here the last month because that's the team we're playing. We're not playing the team they had in September. Playing the team that finished in November.
The same could be said for them right?
"I would think so, but that question's for Greg."
What's been different about their quarterback?
"I don't know. I know that he's playing better and throwing well, but I haven't looked at all their tape and seeing what they've done. He's certainly playing better at this stretch of the season than he did in the first part."
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