No Excuses From Mattes

RALEIGH, N.C. -- R.J. Mattes knows that his versatility might be his biggest strength, and it is why he has played nearly every position on the offensive line since arriving at NC State.

R.J. Mattes knows that his versatility might be his biggest strength, and it is why he has played nearly every position on the offensive line since arriving at NC State.

"I've played everywhere but center," said Mattes, laughing. "All four of them, both guard spots and both tackle spots, have their own unique challenges.

"At tackle you face more speed rushers, so you almost have to be a dancer out there, really good with your feet. Inside at guard you need to be as physical as possible and maul guys. You also have more help there then at tackle."

Prior to fall camp NC State made the decision to move Mattes from left tackle to left guard. What does he think of the move?

"Right now it's the best fit for the team, having me at guard," he said. "I feel like I'm playing at a high level, and I need to keep it up."

"I think he believes he's a much better guard than tackle, and it's a must better position for him going forward," NC State head coach Tom O'Brien said of Mattes. "It's better for us, because it solidifies the three inside guys. Even though left tackle is a premier position throwing you still want to be strong from the middle out in the offensive line."

Another reason for the move is it solidifies the interior of the offensive line with plenty of experience. Senior center Camden Wentz and senior right guard Zach Allen are, like Mattes, three-year starters, and the duo haven't missed a game since the beginning of the 2010 season.

Wolfpack starting quarterback Mike Glennon is much more comfortable in the pocket making plays, so it is vital that State keeps the pocket clean and limits the interior pressure Glennon faces during the course of the game.

"The guards set the depth of the pocket," said Mattes. "We have a lot of experience inside, but we also have to play well."

NC State's offensive line was solid in the opener against Tennessee. The top two tailbacks averaged 4.8 yards per carry and Glennon, for the most part, had time to make plays in the pocket.

However, they really struggled versus UConn. Playing on the road against an experienced Husky defense, State allowed six sacks while rushing for just 1.3 yards per carry.

The Pack was playing without starting left tackle Rob Crisp, who is out with an undisclosed injury, and sophomore Tyson Chandler had to step in for Crisp with just 29 career snaps under his belt. Chandler's opening assignment? UConn senior Trevardo Williams, a 6'2, 233-pound defensive end with 4.4 speed who totaled 12.5 sacks in 2011 while earning All-BIG EAST honors.

"Not having Rob Crisp really hurt us [against Williams]," said Mattes. "Tyson had to step in, [having] never played before, and [Williams] is a tough matchup for anyone. That was his first college game going against one of the best defensive ends we'll play all year.

"Obviously we expected he was going to struggle a little bit, but he's been working hard in practice and picking it up. We're all very confident in Tyson and what he can do."

However, don't expect Mattes to place all the blame for the offense's struggles on Chandler's inexperience. He indicated there were multiple breakdowns up front and in the backfield which prevented them from clicking against UConn's blitz-happy defense.

"You should know your assignments by now and we're a veteran offensive line so there aren't any excuses," he said. "There are some blitzing assignments we all have to pick up, not just the offensive linemen but also the running backs and quarterback.

"A lot of times there were two guys going at the back which is hard for the back so we were trying to make adjustments, different calls so we don't have two guys going at the backs. We want to have the linemen matched up with the ends, not the tailbacks."

Next up for State is a home matchup against South Alabama. The Jaguars enter Saturday's game 1-1 following a 9-3 victory over Nicholls State where they held the Colonels to just 118 yards of total offense while forcing three turnovers.

"We have some tape on them from our game last year," said Mattes. "They have basically the same guys back. They are small but very fast. They like to slant angle. They have quick defensive ends and their tackles like to stay low so we have to make sure we play with good pad level against them.

"We all know what we have to do. We're out here at practice working hard to correct our mistakes and improve from the last game."


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