The Enforcers

Tom O'Brien raised some eyebrows when he announced that long-time offensive line coach Don Horton would be switching to tight ends coach, essentially changing jobs with Jim Bridge.

Horton actually started his career at Boston College coaching tight ends from 1997-2002 before taking over the offensive line in 2003. He developed NFL linemen such as Jeremy Trueblood, Josh Beekman, Gosder Cherilus, Chris Snee, and Ted Larsen since the change, and is regaded as one of the top line coaches in the country

However, O'Brien felt it was time to make some changes offensively. When he announced the hiring of tailbacks coach Everette Sands to replace Jason Swepson in February, he also released the news that Bridge would be the new offensive line coach.

"With Jason's departure and Everette's arrival, we decided it was time to move some folks around and give our offensive staff a different look," said O'Brien. "After eight years with the same offensive staff, this was a good time to do that. We are looking forward to this new structure and putting together some new concepts and coming up with new ideas."

Bridge, like Horton, has coached both the offensive line and tight end positions so it isn't new to him, and he admits the transition has been easy.

"It's been pretty simple," said Bridge. "It's just another day at the office. There is so much that we do as an offensive staff anyways that it's not that big of a change.

"The tight ends are involved in the run game and they were involved in pass protection. Now instead of there being one guy there are five guys."

A fiery coach who is always upbeat, Bridge was extremely vocal at the Wolfpack's opening spring practice. He was motivating and pushing the offensive line and believes that the position calls for him to be an even greater motivator.

"Absolutely you have to," he stated. "Every position coach has to coach the next position different than the previous position.

"More often than not there is one tight end in the game, and there are five in the room. There are five offensive linemen in the game and fifteen in the room. So there is a lot more that goes into coaching the offensive line from a motivational standpoint, a firmness, and a toughness standpoint because there are more guys."

Establishing An Identity
NC State looks to be breaking in a new starting quarterback and must replace its top three receivers so offensively the Pack could look different this fall. O'Brien has hinted that the team's identity could change in 2011 with the Wolfpack looking to run the ball more than in previous seasons with Russell Wilson at the helm.

If that is the case then NC State's offensive line must continue to develop because they struggled at times in 2010 establishing a ground game. However, six linemen with starting experience return, and Bridge feels that being able to run the ball more effectively will be possible if the line plays with a different mentality than in previous seasons.

"There is no doubt that the offensive line needs to be the enforcers of the entire football team," he stated. "We don't call plays, we just block what is called. If it's a run or pass, we don't care. We're going to block it. That's our job.

"We're going to block it with an attitude that we're going to try and hurt somebody every play. I mean that figuratively, but that's the attitude we're going to approach it with. We're going to have a physical, dominant approach."

Having that experience back certainly helps. R.J. Mattes, Zach Allen, and Camden Wentz started virtually the entire season at right tackle, right guard, and center respectively, and Mikel Overgaard, Duran Christophe, and Robert Crisp also started games last year.

What does Bridge like about his returning pieces?

"What there is, there are good workers," Bridge said. "Whenever you have guys that are willing to work, then you have guys willing to get better. I'm really excited about the workers we have.

"There is some game experience though. Just because the coaching is different, the terminology is a little different, but it doesn't change that the game experience should help us."

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