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April 5, 2012

Experienced seniors setting tone



NC State will hold its first spring football scrimmage Saturday, with the first team players on offense and defense going against each, and the various level of reserves on the organizational depth chart matching up.

NCSU coach Tom O'Brien said his team bounced back Thursday after an uneven practice last Tuesday. The scripted scrimmage will give him a chance to see how some of the inexperienced players perform.

"I thought we took a step back on Tuesday, but made some progress today," O'Brien said. "That is the key thing. Hopefully, they've learned something and it [the scrimmage] will be a better test to see where we are, once we evaluate the tape on Saturday."

O'Brien said the first-string players, followed by second, third and possibly fourth will run a set number of plays in the scrimmage because in the spring "it is the way to go."

"It won't be situational, but we are trying to get guys 25, 30 plays, and see what we have learned," O'Brien said. "The only situational will be where we put the ball on the field.

"We now have threes [third string], so that is a good thing. We'll have threes vs. threes for the first time. We'll have some of those scholarship kids, and we are fortunate enough to have walk-ons that can fill in and get them the work that we haven't been able to do in the past."

NC State returns star rising graduate senior quarterback Mike Glennon and an experienced offensive line. O'Brien expects that combination to lead the offense.

"Last year, he [Glennon] knew the offense, but it was his first time executing it," O'Brien said. "Now he has executed it and he knows it. Now, it's all about being fundamentally better and helping the young kids.

"We've got some guys up front in the offensive line too. There is a little more experience on offense than ever coming back. It is good to have seniors in the offensive line, and they seem to run the thing more than anyone else in getting it going."

Glennon went 283-of-453 passing for 3,054 yards, 31 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year, but still has some areas he can improve upon.

"Fundamentals, like his feet and lower body," O'Brien said. "He is getting his feet set and the ball is coming out much quicker as the season went on. It came out very quick in the [Belk] Bowl game. He is more decisive in his reads."

The defense has one of the most experienced secondaries in the country, if not the most experienced, with three senior returning starters, star junior cornerback David Amerson and junior nickelback Dontae Johnson.

"Those kids in the secondary, there is an awful lot of experience right now, and it's showing out there," O'Brien said. "They are playing with confidence. Brandan [Bishop] is picking off balls and doing the things that he is supposed to be doing.

"Earl Wolff, I watched him in one whole drill. He has a tendency to peek in the backfield, and he's not doing that. He is reading his keys better."

NC State will get a better handle after the scrimmage on how some of the inexperience areas need to be addressed — linebacker and wide receiver.

"We've changed some things up on them this week," said O'Brien about the Pack's linebackers. "That was by choice. Once you start the season, things are going to change each and every week. I think they are making progress, but we'll know after Saturday if we have made any at all."

O'Brien pointed out that Glennon will help the receivers adjust into their new roles.

"The first kids running the four groups — Rashard Smith and [Bryan] Underwood, Tobais [Palmer] and Quintin Payton — they've played, but we are getting a good look at the two freshmen [Maurice Morgan and Hakeem Flowers]. I think he is a leader out there."


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