O'Brien: Different Attitude in Raleigh

N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien discussed his football team during his weekly teleconference.

Opening Statement:
We're working hard this week trying to prepare for a tough game down in Death Valley. We're going to have to go down and play an excellent Clemson football team, and our team is looking forward to that challenge.

Just a quick question about the game against Florida State. Just curious as to that last time out when you were obviously going for that field goal, what prompted you to change your mind and go for the game winning touchdown instead?
Sometimes from the sideline you're not sure where the ball is and can't see how close it was, and after Dana Bible was yelling at me "We're six inches away, we're six inches away." I decided to go for it. He had a call that he felt very confident in, and so we went with it.

Nate Irving came up with that huge fumble to save the win there. How is he doing and has he been limited at all this week in practice?
He's fine.

What makes Russell such a great leader?
I think he has a tremendous amount of confidence in his own ability, and I think that's what it starts with, and I think that confidence oozes to the football team, and not only confidence but certainly his ability to make plays. He's a leader by example, and he's a leader by his words. So I think the leadership starts with respect, and to be a leader you have to have all the characters, characteristics that people want to follow as far as integrity, as far as honesty, as far as commitment to the goal and to carry it through. And I think he has all those qualities.

Was there ever any doubt in your mind that he would be back this year?
Maybe 2 percent. I think through the whole thing he was very adamant in the fact that he wanted to come back. But you never really knew until it really happened. But I would say that I was almost totally confident. But there was always the question here or there that it wasn't 100 percent.

Sort of following up on that, you had an interesting quote in the paper this morning, where you contrasted the character of the team this year to some of the previous teams you've had. What's different this year about this group? Why is it that that you made a pretty strong statement about?
Well, I didn't paint the whole football team as a character issue, but there were enough guys that were more: "It was all about me." It wasn't about team. And nothing was going to change in their mind. That was who they were, and 31 guys, 32 guys aren't here because they didn't want to conform to the team concept of what we were trying to get accomplished here.

We had great kids when we got here such as the Evans twins, I can go down the list of great kids, but there weren't enough of them. And they couldn't overcome some of the "me" and the ego problems that we had when we got here.

If you have an ego, you have no chance to be a teammate. You have to forego a lot of those "I" and "me" situations if you're going to be a true teammate. And certainly, we've made great strides in that area with these kids playing for each other instead of playing for themselves.

Did you sense that this particular group and the kids you had that you were putting on the field was going to be different, that you were going to turn this corner?
Well, as I said, I didn't read the article, but I remember talking to him, that there was a different feel. I think the term -- and Dana used it when he first came to Boston College and we were struggling in those early years with change of staff, and it was the want-to factor. They want to do the right things. They want to be good. They want to do whatever it takes to win within the rules and regulations of the game and the campus and everything else. There was that want-to feeling from the majority of guys. It can't be just three, four, five guys. You can't have 25 guys committed to want-to and 75 not.

Now, when those numbers changed over time, which have had to change by attrition, whatever, and you get that number high enough, then you can absorb all those guys that maybe aren't the want-to guys. The guys that really want to do it and be leaders, they will lead the rest of the pack.

It looks like Dwayne Allen, the tight end down at Clemson, has kind of emerged as their top receiver this year. What do you think about the way he plays and how does he compare with your guy who's the all-ACC guy George Bryan?
Well, I think they're both great tight ends, and certainly we know Dwayne because he's down the road from us, tried to recruit him, and wished he was here playing with us. Then we'd have two great tight ends. I think they're both really good receivers. They run good routes and they have great hands, and it goes back to the quarterback will throw the ball to the guys that catch it, and they've both made tough catches. They've both made plays in the passing game. So I think they're two of the quality tight ends in our conference.

What's the one aspect of your team that maybe you were concerned about going into the season that's emerged as a pretty consistent plus for you?
I think the running backs. I think the growth of Mustafa Greene, Dean Haynes, those two kids never having been in a college football game, to get what we've gotten out of the running game. We would have been ecstatic to rush for -- coming into the year if we could have gotten 150 yards a game rushing the ball, right now we're about 143. So I think they have a lot to do with it.

I was wondering if you could talk about what a find Andy Leffler has been for you guys. He's up over 41 yards a punt, he's downed 10 of his 18 kicks inside the 20.
Well, certainly he has been, and you have to give Jerry Petercuskie a lot of credit in going out and finding him over the summer when we lost who we thought was going to be our punter in Chris Ward.

The biggest thing coming in what we saw in preseason camp was consistency. One out of every three would be a shank, and we just had to work on that consistency. He's worked diligently to be a much more consistent punter. He's always had good elevation on his punts, good hang time, and decent enough distance. So I think the consistency factor has been what's really been the eye opener for us, and once he's had the opportunity to perform, he's made the most of it, and it's been a great boost to our football team.

Audie Cole is a guy you recruited when you guys were at BC, right?
Yes.

How has his development sort of compared with what you had expected when you recruited him and how much does it mean to you that he followed you guys down there?
Well, he's typical of the guys we used to recruit at BC in that he was a multiple position player in high school, he was a guy that had great character, had great leadership qualities in high school and could be a multiple position player for you so that he wouldn't have to be pigeonholed into this spot. We moved him around and we moved him inside, we moved him outside, thought about playing him at safety when he came here. And I think it's due to him and his work ethic and how he's worked so hard to become the football player he has, and he's been a great surprise and has been doing a great job for us.


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