The initial question focused on NC State athlete Jimmy Sutton and his move over to the defensive side of the ball after first working out as a wide receiver. Sutton approached Williams during two-a-days and asked if he could move over to defensive backfield and after discussing it with Coach Amato and Coach Holliday, he made the move. He's been over there most of the year on the scout team, but now that Lamont Reid's injured NC State's going to move him up in the rotation. However, it's likely he'll only play in an emergency because he's currently red-shirting and the staff would like to preserve that.
Next Coach Williams was questioned about defensive coverages and NC State's philosophy. He pointed out that they want to "press" and be physical in coverage but need to do a better job of mixing up and hiding the coverages they call. A better blend makes the defense more effective and keeps the offense guessing on what the defense intends to do. But, for the most part, NC State attempts to play physical bump coverage and press off the line of scrimmage.
When asked specifically about Lamont Reid, Williams stated that he's a good player but also a good person and it's a blow for the team. However, the absence of Reid will give an opportunity for other players to step up and make plays. Specifically, AJ Davis, Dovonte Edwards, and Jimmy Sutton are players who could see their roles increase with the loss of Reid. The length of Lamont's absence isn't known, but is the case where it will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.
A fan asked next when is the right time for a defensive back to look back and find the ball, because NC State's players never seem to do so. Williams discussed how there are three positions to play as a corner and when in "chase" they don't find the ball by looking back because their job is to catch up with the wide receiver. He preaches timing and ball-skills to his defensive backs. Timing's important because you need an internal clock to know when it's time to find the football. Williams mentioned how when he was a wide receivers coach no one ever asked him when should the receiver look back and that's because the wide outs have the timing down. In the end, when the ball is in the air, the defender becomes another wide receiver and that's what NC State teaches… there are now two wide receivers involved in the play. At this point, good ball-skills become critical for defensive backs.
Williams did talk about the "funky" punt protection that Clemson uses and how only four or five teams in the country still have it. They line up three guys about three yards in front of the punter to try and protect his leg and keep the punt from being blocked. NC State's worked hard this week to prepare for that protection because it is so unique.
Haynes was next with a question for Coach Williams, asking how it was to have Champ Bailey while at the University of Georgia and what made him so special. Williams pointed out that what separates defensive backs is having above-average "ball skills," and that's what Champ had. All they had to do was tell Champ to catch the ball at its highest point, and he would do it. He mentioned that Jerricho Cotchery for the Wolfpack has great ball skills because when the balls in the air he often times goes up with the defensive back and comes down with it. NC State's been working on ball skills with their defensive backs and one specific drill they use is having third-string defensive back Chris Moore throw the ball high in the air and as far as he can, allowing defensive backs to go up and catch it. Coach Williams said when the drill began it took Greg Golden five tries before successfully catching his first ball [going against no receivers]. Williams again stressed how important these ball skills are for defensive backs.
Williams was then asked about the wide receivers that Clemson has and the first note was how tall, physical, and skilled the Clemson wide outs are. They don't have great speed, with the exception of Airese Currie, but they are all physical and can catch the deep ball. He said NC State intends to mix up their coverages on Thursday and believes they will get the job done. In reference to the speedster Currie, Williams recruited him while at Georgia and stated that he's VERY fast. However, "Air" didn't play against Virginia, and his status for Thursday's game is up in the air.
Another fan wanted to know about the loss of Marcus Hudson and asked Coach Williams about Marcus as a player and what he brought to the team. Williams felt that Hudson was NC State's most physical corner and is great at bumping off the line of scrimmage. Reid was very good last year but hasn't been as good this season for whatever reasons\. "Hud" is so physical and at 6'2 or so was strong enough that often times he didn't even allow the wide receiver off the line of scrimmage on some plays last season.
When asked about the numerous slant routes that have been used against NC State thus far, Williams called it a physical pattern that teams have actually been using when the Wolfpack are in their base run package. When State has a linebacker up at the line and two linebackers in the middle, the opposing offenses will run a slant pass away from the "up" linebacker. That's hard to defend in the run package that NC State employs. What they could do is move the corners inside to stop an 8 or 10 yard slant, but then they are out of position to guard the fade over the top. Basically, it boils down to "robbing Peter to pay Paul," according to Williams who ended his point by saying teams are using the quick slant instead of running the ball in those situations.
Another topic brought up was DB Dovonte Edwards and the progress he's made on the defensive side after moving over from wide receiver. Williams started off by talking about the good ball skills that "DV" possesses and his ability to catch the ball on offense should translate well to the other side. They moved him over because he had a great attitude and saw it as a good move. Another reason was because of all the receivers that NC State's brought into the program. With TA wanting to run the ball and guys like Richard Washington and the others wanting to catch it, moving Dovonte looks like a good decision. He's really done a good job and will be starting on Thursday.
When asked about the young guys in the defensive backfield, Williams mentioned Philip Holloman from the Tidewater area as one who's caught his eye. Holloman stands around 6'0 and at a strong 195 pounds can play safety or cornerback according to Williams.
Haynes next questioned Coach Williams about Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who ironically Williams also recruited while at Georgia. They were looking at Whitehurst and D.J. Shockley with the Bulldogs landing Shockley in the end. Whitehurst is a good player and great kid... Clemson's done a good job of protecting him this season.
Williams also talked about the pass-rush of the Wolfpack and felt it was coming along and continuing to improve. Also, the linebacker blitzes are starting to work better, and using those with the pass-rush could be effective against Clemson. NC State's going to try some different blitz packages this week and Coach Williams was hopeful that it would get more pressure on Whitehurst and the Tiger offense.
Coach Williams ended this week's "Coaches Corner" by saying that NC State will try to sign a high school cornerback each year because they are so hard to find. The talent in the defensive backfield is good, but they've just had some great passes thrown against them by some very good quarterbacks so far this season.
Check back with StateFans next week for coverage of the "Coaches Corner," held every Tuesday at Playmakers!