O'Brien: "We're Going To Be Very Competitive"

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- NC State head coach Tom O'Brien met with the media at the ACC Football Kickoff to discuss the upcoming season.

Tom O'Brien

Opening Statement
"The only roster updates we have our three freshman, Xavier Griffin, Tyler Knox and Desmond Owino. Knox will go to junior college, the other two kids will go to prep school. Other than that everybody is on track and hopefully we'll be ready to go when we report a week from today."

Is this team and program starting to resemble the really strong teams you had at Boston College?
"This is by far the most experienced and deepest team we've had. We went through the first three years losing a third of the football team when we had to change things around. The last two years showed progress, even after the dismal start last year due to all the injuries. We have depth at a lot of positions and experience at those positions, so now it's a question if we can take that step and get to Charlotte."

On expectations for Mike Glennon…
"Well, we expect him to be better. He's got a year under his belt now. I think you saw progress as he went on last year, he played better at the end of the year than the start. From the time at the end of the season to the bowl game there was great improvement too. The Manning camp was really good for him and so was the Elite 11 camp. Those two camps he got something out of them. All that adds up, so his starting point will be much higher than it was a year ago. We have to help make him better, we have to protect him."

You're in the process of rebuilding your linebacking group. Have you have had a team like this where you have had to replace this much?
"We lost a third of the defense after the bowl game, now we're down to half the defense. The solution has to be the guys up front have to be better. There is experience there and there is enough depth that they can get through. Certainly there are some kids that have to step up and make plays, but that is what happens in college football."

On playing Tennessee to open the season…
"Well, it's the third time in six years that we've opened with an SEC team, so it's not like we haven't been there before. The stage is a little different because it's a neutral site and it's a promoted game in the city of Atlanta. It's a great opportunity for our football team and it will be a good measuring stick of where we are and where we can go."

How much do you think Mustafa Greene can add this year?
"Mustafa, as I said at the end of the spring I think, was back doing things with the team, working out. He'll be left to see what he can do. We expect that he would be one of the three backs with Washington and Creecy coming back. If he gets back into his form then he will be a big help for this football team."

Do you have a go-to receiver right now?
"No we don't and it's probably the least experienced group we have coming back. Last year we had T.J. Graham, who had played. Tobais Palmer has only been there a year, Bryan Underwood has only been there a year, Quinton Payton has only been there a year, we moved Rashard Smith over from defense. The two freshman, Hakeem Flowers and Maurice Morgan, have potential, for whatever that's worth. Those kids are going to have to step up and I don't think Mike has a go-to guy right now. That's something we'll have to establish in preseason camp."

Yesterday Mike Glennon said he's rather have his whole offensive line back than his whole receiving group. How can that help him?
"It's because he wants to stay upright, it's difficult to throw the ball on your back. That's still a position of flux for us, we changed a couple of times. By the sprain game we moved R.J. Mattes to left guard and moved Tyson Chandler to tackle. We're going to start out with Rob Crisp at left tackle and move Andrew Wallace and Chandler over. Once again, there is experience there. It's up to the coaches to get those got in the right combinations to help us."

What are you telling David Amerson going into this year after the season he had in 2011?
"Nobody knew that he was going to set the interception record. We thought that we had somebody special out there and I think he showed that last year. He can't think he's going to make 15 interceptions again this year, he might not get three chances this year and he might have a better year. He's worked extremely hard in the offseason and he's gotten in the film room, which is something he didn't do as much last year. He didn't do it to the extent that he is now, where he is really a student on releases and lineups, things that might go on once the ball is snapped."

You spent a lot of time working for a Joe Paterno disciple in George Welsh. As things unfolded there and with today's news, what are your thoughts?
"My thoughts are this. I believe that (Joe Paterno) has already been judged by somebody that I believe will do the judgment for all of us. And maybe I just leave it at that. I'm not going to even try to get into that realm, it's over with one way or another. It's such a tragic situation that no words could ever express."

What about the NCAA's actions there?
"We're in a new era, obviously. One of the things the NCAA did when they came to our meetings was they showed what penalties in the past were and what penalties were going to be in the future, and the penalties in the future were multiple times what the penalties in the past were. One thing about discipline, you don't discipline the bottom, you discipline the people at the top. When you do, everyone will stand up and pay attention. It's the same way with a team or anybody in a leadership position, it doesn't do you any good to punish people at the bottom. Just basic leadership, not that the NCAA knows anything about it."

Thoughts on the sanctions…
"They made Penn State an FCS school. That's what it is, they are a 1AA school right now because they are down to 65 scholarships. I don't think you can cripple a Penn State because of the brand of who and what they were and what they've accomplished. You can cripple an SMU, you can cripple somebody that has never won a national championship. It's going to hurt them, but I don't think it will kill them."

Is the Atlantic Division as tough as you can remember since being in this league?
"There are good teams in it so it gives you a chance to be a true champion coming out of this conference."

On the secondary…
"Mike Reed did a great job when these guys were young, by getting better and winning nine games the following year it bread confidence. They made a pretty good step again last year, but this is the last year for them, I would be very surprised if David Amerson is back after another year and Earl Wolff and the rest of them are gone."

You said you'd be surprised if David was back for another year, he's kind of shot up on those NFL lists. Did you know he was an NFL guy when you got him?
"Yes, I said that. When we saw him in camp we thought he was really talented. He had a lot of ability, but you never know until you get them here and they actually play."

What are the keys to jumping Florida State and Clemson in the division?
"In the last two years we've beaten both of them, the thing we have to do is beat them all in the same year. We have to beat FSU, Clemson, Wake, Maryland and Boston College. In the last two years we've beaten all of them but not in the same year. We have to be able to do that this year. I think we're going to be very competitive and be able to play with anybody in the country."

Have the kids talked to you about wearing those red helmets at home?
"They haven't said anything yet, but I'm sure they will be all over me about it. I think we're wearing them against Tennessee."

Is it a no-brainer that every coach in the country will try to re-recruit Penn State players now? Will you?
"I think if you have available scholarships, you have a need and they have someone who fits that need you'd be crazy not to. Yeah, if we can find agreement both ways. We won't take somebody that can't help us."

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