O'Brien: "We Have A Great Atmosphere"

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Tom O'Brien met with the media Thursday as his team prepares to face South Alabama in the Wolfpack's home opener.

Tom O'Brien

Defenses switch players... are the days of the superstar offensive lineman over because of the way the game has evolved?
No, there are plenty of good offensive linemen in this country. It's a position that is harder to play because there are so many techniques involved.

It's more difficult to play because of the changing defenses... blitzes, things going on. You go from four-down to three-down to everybody standing up... defenses have changed so much the last couple of years to try and keep up with the changes on offense and the burden has been put on the offensive line more than any other position.

Any thought to rotating offensive linemen the way you rotate defensive linemen?
No, I think the main thing with offense is consistency. You have to trust the guy next to you. There are so many combination blocks and combination pickups that you have to do in pass protection that it's important you have a feel for the guy next to you.

The more you switch, the more you change that dynamic of them having to pick up what they have to do.

Have you seen anything this week to make you think you cleaned up some of the consistency problems in protection, decision-making, and route-running?
We hope so. We worked hard on it this week to get it done. The proof is going to be on Saturday night to see if we made any progress in the three areas.

What is your philosophy on putting together a non-conference schedule?
The first thing you want to do is try and make sure you have enough home games. You don't want to get into a situation where... it's still better if you can be 7-5... I think one year we had eight home games. If you can do that, but I think those days are getting more difficult to do.

I think 10 of the 12 of us are playing 10 BCS conference schools counting the eight we have in conference. there are a couple only playing nine I believe. Ten is a good number of BCS [games] because that gives you two schools out of conference that are challenge games. Then it goes back to you probably having to play a non-BCS school and then everybody buys a I-AA school to try and make sure that six or seven game schedule works.

Do you have a preference in the order?
I like the way we worked it out this year where you play all your non-conference games in September kind of like how the Big Ten has always done.

Then you get into your conference play, plus for the sixth year I have to go on the road for my first conference game. That always changes things too.

What about going to the 9-game conference schedule.
It's a difficult... we were an odd-game when I was at Boston College in the Big East and it creates scheduling hardships... trying to make sure you can keep the home rotation and you can keep six. You don't want to get caught some years having possibly five home games.

How does South Alabama compare to the two defenses you've already faced?
They are similar to both in that they are four-down in run-down situations and when they get in third down situations they go to three-down.

I think that's pretty consistent now in college football. People have gone to that, multiple looks when you get to a passing down.

Offensively they have changed. They are more the one-back, quarterback-read, dive run scheme. They did some of that [last year] but they changed coordinators. They were much more power running against us last year then they have shown the first two games this year.

Can you talk about the improvements you saw from your front seven last week?
We played more of the front seven last week. The defensive tackles almost played 15-20 more snaps and we stayed in only one substitution, five defensive backs, four-down, and two linebackers because of the threat of the run... not so much concerned with the speed and passing ability like with Tennessee.

I think that has helped us a lot with those kids in there. For sophomores, those two guys are playing at a level... hopefully they continue to get better.

Thoughts on finally being able to play at home:
It's always nice to be at home. We have a great home-field advantage with great fans that show up. I think it's really important for our program.

It's important for our recruiting, especially all the other sports who have visits and bring all their prospects to games. I think it creates an atmosphere. We have a great atmosphere in our stadium for home games and that is a plus for us.

It's a plus for communication. We had trouble communicating in the Tennessee game because it was a Tennessee home game in the dome. You don't have those problems when you play at home.

All those things come into play, plus you don't have to get in a plane and go anywhere. Which should be No. 1 on the list.

Did you make cryptic comments the other day about Notre Dame?
No, I just said it's great for the conference and it's good for us.

Notre Dame is a brand-name university. I don't know exactly how they fit in football, but certainly if someday they become fully ingrained it's certainly going to be a heck of a conference.

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