Did you watch much football over the bye week?
Yeah, I watched a little I recruited Friday night and Saturday one of my sons had a game, went to his game and then after that was over, watched the ball.
Anything jump out at you as you kind of watch some of the other teams around the country what's going on right now?
Crazy finish in the Auburn, LSU game was one of the games I watched. It's a crazy time in college football really, some of the things that are happening. Saw the end of the Pitt, North Carolina game and that was a wild finish, end of the Duke, Notre Dame game so there's a lot of good college football to watch.
Do you get the feeling nowadays that no lead is safe, no lead is big enough the way things are going?
Depends on who you're playing I think. Some teams are built to score fast. I feel like we are now, offensively where we can be explosive in the passing game. Some teams aren't you know, if you get them down it's hard for them to catch up. In today's spread world there's a lot of teams built to score fast.
Play totals have gone up every year over the last five years and again this year they've gone up just slightly, do you think more plays, more reps on offensives wear down defenses at the end of games?
It can particularly if you're going three and out with your offense. That's one of the things that Wake has done better in the past. They've had a good defense for three years they really have but they've gotten tired cause they struggled offensively and this year they're keeping the ball away, they're getting first downs.
They're not turning the ball over so they've helped their defense by playing better on offense and being able to run the football. I think it's critical that both sides kind of serve each other in the long run because either side that's out there for a long period of time is going to face fatigue.
I mentioned this to you on the way up here, I hate by weeks, open weeks, by weeks whatever you want to call them, I didn't like them as a player because it was just kind of waiting around, if it was at the end of the year it was okay because I was getting healthier. This early in the season, was it tough to keep them focused last week?
It was not tough to keep focused. It was a great week. I thought our players did a great job. We gave them some time to recover which I think even though it's the third week of the season which you wish it was a little later, they've still been playing for a while if you count all the camp. The fall camp is a month of football. They've been grinding for six to seven weeks. Mentally to have a little bit of a break I think it's a good thing for them. We were able to look at some things that we can definitely do better and spend some time working on the fundamentals.
You get to an open day, maybe you feel like you had a long list of things you want to fix, is that list a little bit shorter with this team this year?
There's not as much work to go over. Obviously it's not as big as it would be after game seven which is where you normally would have it somewhere in the middle of your season. I think just because defensively there's a lot of older players, you're being pretty nit picky at times on some guys. All of them have things that they want to do better. All of them, to their credit I think that's the one thing that our team's grown up a lot.
You can be critical and they understand it's not personal it's to make them better. They're really taking the coaching the right way. They're helping each other. I heard Ryan say it, these guys coach each other. They really do. I think that's the one thing tonight before I left, there were seven guys up there on defense watching film, just hanging out with their coaches and talking and that's a really good sign.
When you get to conference play and you've said it many times Dave you have to compete up front at the line of scrimmage, you've got to do well if you're going to win football games, with that in mind, how do you feel about this offensive line coming together through three weeks especially now you get set to elevate the competition a little bit at the line of scrimmage?
I think that they've improved as a starting five over the three games. I think playing on the o line there's a lot of chemistry that goes into that position. The more you play next to the guy that you're with, the better you play with him in the combination schemes that the zone that we like to run, you can feel that guy and you know when he's going to come off. You can kind of work with each other on twist games and blitzes. The more you're next to a player you better you play together.
You're seeing that, you are and I think Ryan does a good job talking to those guys and getting them into the right things and operating quickly for them. The o line and the d line are going to be the success of your football team. You can say whatever you want about all the other positions, they're all important but dominating the line of scrimmage makes the game different and if you can do that it helps.
In retrospect now you're three games into the season, just how huge was it to get Joe Scelfo in here to play that center position?
It's a lot bigger than people know. I think when you have an experienced player at center it just calms everything down. We were looking at a new quarterback in our system, to have an inexperienced quarterback and then have an inexperienced center was pretty scary proposition. It might be one of the best free agent pick ups that we've had. Joe and he's a great kid, I love being around him and his family is awesome. He's been a great addition to our family in more ways than one.
One way that you can see the offense line start to not only dominate but be able to control the line of scrimmage is your touch down percentage inside the red zone, since you've been here it's been ranked in the top ten. Right now it's ranked 11th in the country at 84.2%, 16 of the 19 trips are touchdowns. What do you attribute that to?
It should be 17, they got stopped on the one which still burns me up. I think you have to be able to run the football. When you get down there, it's tighter windows to throw. That's one thing people don't understand. It's hard to throw the ball in the red zone. Obviously you can throw fades and hopefully you jump over people and get them and things like that but there's not a lot of space to run... concepts down there. You have to be able to run the ball and that's one thing that my four years here I can say that we've been able to do consistently is run the football when we want to and we got to continue that or we won't ever be great in the red zone.
Yeah, it's also nice to have a weapon like Jaylen Samuels... what is it about certain guys that just have a knack for being able to score?
I don't know I mean I wasn't one of those guys. It's just some guys are play makers. They are, you give them the ball and they do special things and that's why they're heavily sought after at every level. We have a couple of those guys on our offense that when you get near the red zone they become that way and they find their way in.
Cole Cook was actually here last week, he wanted to remind everybody he's one of those guys now.
He is, he scored his first touchdown. I know he was excited and credit to him for making that play. We didn't practice that play with him in there once. That was a play for Thad or Jay Sam.
State is also leading the ACC in third down percentage converting 57% right now which is excellent because it keeps your defense over there. You stay on the field especially in some of these hot early season games. How much of that has to do with just putting yourself in manageable down in distance situations?
Well first downs and touchdowns is what the game's all about on offense. There's a lot of statistics out there, you know when you get a first down on a drive how much more it increases your odds of scoring. I think being good on third down, ties directly into your first down operation. If you can get to manageable third downs and everyone knows I like to go for it on fourth downs so sometimes our third downs for our coordinators are a little bit different than other peoples cause we're not afraid to run the ball knowing that we can get half of it then go for it on fourth.
I like it, what those guys do on offense with the different ways to get the ball in space and get it out quick, we don't have to stand back there and Max protect, wait for routes to get open down the field. Let's see guys run and catch.
Those guys at their table... the defensive tackles, what do you want to say about them, they've done a pretty good job.
Yeah I don't think people really appreciate how down and dirty it gets on the d line. These three guys that are here tonight are studs. They work hard. They get pushed hard by their coach. They're totally bought into the process of becoming great players. It's fun being around guys like them that are so unselfish but they give such great effort every day. Just wanted to give a shout out to those guys, we appreciate you a lot.
Yeah what kind of technicians have they become working with coach Nielsen?
Well he demands it from them so if you're going to play here on the d line you're going to be a technician. That's one thing, I think that's where you get coach's trust. He's going to ask you to do something so many different times that it becomes your muscle memory. You don't think about it anymore it's what you do. I think he does a great job of showing them that the guys at the next level those are the kind of things they do play in and play out, that's why they're there. There's a lot of really good football players that play with bad technique that don't make any plays. You've got to play with good technique.
We heard from Ryan Nielsen earlier, what do you do for your assistant coaches as far as getting them maybe coached up in the off season?
We have professional development, just speaking about Ryan he was coached by Ed Orgeron at USC. Ed's one of the best d line coaches in the country. Ed's been mentored by a guy named Pete Jenkins who's probably one of the best defensive line coaches ever in the NFL.
Ryan's been able to spend a lot of one on one time with Pete, we actually brought Pete into NC State for a couple of days this year. He worked for two days with Ryan and our defensive graduate assistant that also works with our defensive line. We do that with all of our coaches. We'll send them places or we'll bring in NFL or other college coaches that they can learn from and develop as a coach professionally.
Yeah, we had your tight ends and full backs in here last week, with guys like Jaylen Samuels, Cole Cook, Thaddeus Moss, Clark Eyers do you feel good about the flexibility that you have right now at those spots?
Yeah and it's getting better. I think the one guy that's improving daily you just see it is Thad Moss. The guy's making plays, he gets better and better and better at every practice. He's somebody that's going to grow in this offense as it goes too.
A lot of times a freshman will come in in a position like this and Mark Thomas could speak to it when he came in as tight end and he was a freshman and he was asked to block some big guys, very talented guys but does Thaddeus bring kind of an unusual physical mentality to the position especially being a young player?
As you know obviously he's gifted for one but he's a tough kid. He loves football. He's very competitive. He's hard on himself. He's got a really high football IQ and he's got a great skill set. He can catch, he can run, he can block and he likes doing those things. Some tight ends you got to beg them to block somebody they just want to catch the ball. That's not him, he'll do whatever we ask him to do.
This weekend you said that you did a little bit recruiting, did you get a chance to see not only college football but some of the pro games that a lot of our guys are playing around the country?
I didn't get to watch pro football. I was here all Sunday working. Saturday was kind of my day to watch my son like I said and then I just watched as many college games as I could. We try to keep up as much as we can. Sports Center I guess is the best way that I get to see what's going on the pro football world.
So much has been said about Ryan Finley coach, 76% of his throws which is phenomenal but then there's things fans may not notice or see, how good a job has he done in the areas of decision making and making sure NC State is getting into the right place?
Yeah he is a great manager. He knows coach Drink, I think he understands why he does what he does and does a good job managing that part of the offense. He puts us in the right place a lot of times. I've said it many times. He throws a very catchable ball and he gets it out quick and allows his players to make plays. I think that's the best thing a quarterback can do is get the ball to the right people quickly and let them do their thing. He's done that repetitively and he'll continue to get better because he's a critic of himself and he works out it.
What are some of the areas that you feel like we're going to have to improve going into ACC play?
I think you can always get better making plays on the ball. That's the biggest thing for us when the ball goes up in the air, you can't even breathe on people anymore and not get pass interference. You're at a disadvantage. You got to be able to go up with no contact, high point of football and rip it away from a guy. That's the one thing that's coming. In this league there's a lot of big receivers and a lot of balls go up.
That's the one place I feel like aside from the one long run last week, we've played pretty good rushing defense this year. If we can continue to do that, people are averaging under four yards a carry on us. The take away part with our offense being what it is right now, if we can get more takeaways to help them field position wise I think we'll get ever more points on the board.
Speaking of takeaways Wake Forest has a bunch of them this year. In fact the Deacons were plus five in their victory over Indiana last weekend and they're a much improved football team. We're going to hone in on Wake Forest on the other side of this break, you've got Dave Doeren's victory over Duke last week at Indiana. Indiana had 605 yards total offense but Wake still found a way to win the football game. What do you see going on with the Deacons right now coach?
They are finding a way to win. I think you force five turnovers. It'd be really hard to lose that game I don't care how many yards you give up. You just look at their team defensively like I've said all along they're sound, they play hard, they know their system, they're aggressive on offense. They're just controlling the ball and they're running a lot of different gap schemes, powers and counters and getting four yards and getting it to third and two, converting and just methodical.
Their drives, protecting their defense, their kick off guy's been kicking it through the end zone, they got a freshman punter who's been okay, hasn't been great but last year they didn't help their defense with their offense, this year they're playing together and that's the biggest difference in their football team. Obviously for us we've got to execute, we got to control, take care of the football on offense and get takeaways on defense and get them out of their comfort zone. That's the best way to beat a ball controlled team is to get some points and not give them a short field.
Wake's Matt Colburn, sophomore running back, second game in a row he goes over a hundred yards, what do you see in him?
He's patient, he runs hard. He's low to the ground. He's got good leg drive. They've got a lot of different ways to run counters and powers with him where he's got extra pullers and different things where they're out gapping people. We've got a fit things right but we also got to get off blocks and game tackle.
One of the issues they had the last few years they struggled a little bit at the offensive line, you know as well as anybody it's tough, it's not one of those propositions where you flip it like a light switch and you get real good from one year to the next but clearly they've made progress and I posed this question to coach Nielsen when he was up here, how much better are they up front right there?
They're a lot better to run the football the way they are 4.2 yards a carry and to have a tail back go for a hundred yards two weeks in a row, says a lot about their improvement I think. Their quarterback I thought played a really good game last week. Part of that reason was that he had time to throw the football. He wasn't harassed and he was able to make some plays on his feet. He can't do anything on offense without the o line being successful. They've been much more successful than they were last year because of them.
I know you as a coach when you start scouting an opponent, you watch the tape, there's certain guys that immediately jump out at you, how about for them on the defensive line number 53?
He's a really good player. He's experienced. He's long. They move him around and get him into one on ones on third down. You'll see him over the center over the guard, over the tackle so they're doing some things with him to use his strengths. He's played a lot of football. Look at our d line, we've got a bunch of guys that have played two and three years now and they understand what's going on. They've got great muscle memory. They know the scheme and how it works, he's no different.
Matt Dayes had a career high 205 yards at Wake Forest last year you'd figure he'll be a marked man as we enter this football game?
Yeah I would assume goal number one for them, they're holding teams to 88 yards rushing, I know they're going to have him on their wall as a guy that they want to keep under a hundred yards. I would too if I was playing us, I'd want to control that so we have to do a great job giving Matt opportunities and we know they're not going to be easy to come by.