Q & A With Stephen Tulloch, Part II

In his sophomore season, Wolfpack linebacker Stephen Tulloch tied for third on the squad in tackles with 52. He also added 14 tackles for losses, a sack, a fumble recovery, a pass breakup and five quarterback hurries. By racking up such impressive numbers, no one outside the program could have suspected that the 5-11, 230-pounder out of Killian High School in Miami was fighting through a right shoulder injury that would have sidelined most players.

  • Part I: Stephen Tulloch Interview

    Some teams in your situation last year have succumbed to an offense-vs.-defense attitude when one unit is clearly dominant of the other. What did you guys do to avoid that?
    We always [supported] our offense. We knew, wherever the ball was on the field, we had to defend it. That's our job, to defend wherever. We knew that Philip Rivers was leaving, so our offense might sputter a little bit. But we always believed in our offense. We were always telling Jay and Stone, "We're behind you, no matter what happens. [Even if] you turn the ball over here, our job is stop them from getting into the end zone."

    So we never really got into it with the offense. We knew that it was going to be a setback from the year before because of Philip Rivers leaving, so we were in no disarray about anything.

    What do you expect from Davis and Stone after a year of experience under their belts?
    Oh, I think their confidence level is so high right now with Marc Trestman coming in as the offensive coordinator. Our whole offense's attitude right now is different than I've ever seen since I've been here. The new West Coast offense, everybody's walking around with their playbook, studying their playbook. As a matter of fact, they just took it home [prior to spring break] to study on spring break, and they have a test when they come back on the playbook.

    Everybody's excited about the offense. Jay and Stone are excited about the offense. Those guys are competing real hard right now, and we're just excited about the offense.

    What kind of message did that send to the players that State could land a coach the caliber of Trestman?
    If Coach Amato can go out there and get guys like that, then it shows me that he's dedicated. That's why I came to this school, because I knew he was dedicated. If Coach Amato can go out there and get guys like Mr. Dixon from Florida and bring in guys like Coach Trestman and interview guys from all over the place … Because he knows that the talent is here and we just really need [coaches] who can really get the players to dedicate themselves. When we have that all coming together, we'll be OK.

    How exciting is it to have the conference champs coming to your stadium the very first game of the season?
    That's something that we talk about every day. Every morning we go to winter workouts, we talk about Virginia Tech. Every time we watch film, we're watching Virginia Tech. They have Marcus Vick coming in this year, and he's just like a [Bryan] Randall-type dude, maybe faster. But we're just as prepared as ever.

    What other game would you rather have to start the season than Virginia Tech? [They have] a great program at Virginia Tech, great coaches at Virginia Tech. They're coming to our house and our fans, I know, are excited about it, and they're waiting to see football. We owe it to the fans more than anything, and we're excited as well.

    Is it different than having a non-conference opponent to start the season, to jump in right away against the defending champs?
    Even during the offseason when we play Western Carolina and Richmond teams, we focus on Western Carolina and Richmond throughout the whole offseason. I think it's just more motivation this year, knowing that it's an ACC team. We beat them in their backyard last year by a point and they have a chip on their shoulder because they feel like we beat them last year and they want to come back and redeem themselves. And we beat them in their house, they probably want to beat us in ours as well.

    Do the struggles of last season add a sense of urgency to this offseason?
    Yeah. The coaches stress it every day. Like today would be a conference game; yesterday was the 10th game of the season. As far as mats are concerned, that's how he does it -- day by day is how we play our opponent. So he stresses, "Today is the 11th game of the season, the championship game in Jacksonville. Let's work hard for it." And that's we motivate ourselves. Because we know we're a top team in the ACC and we know that we've just got to get our minds right and get our minds into the game and nobody can beat us. We have too much talent; there's a lot of talent.

    Do you think people will discount the Pack this year because of last year's performance?
    If they do, it'll probably be a benefit to us, because we have a lot to show them. I'd rather be ranked at the bottom of the chain and then work our way up. "OK, NC State, here they go. Who's NC State?" Opening game, Virginia Tech on national television, we have to show all the people across the country that NC State is for real this season.

    It'll definitely be different. When we're ranked and we play a team like Western Carolina or a team like Richmond, people are saying, "Who are they? Why are they playing them so early in the season as their opening game? They're not playing anybody." So by showing the country that we can play Virginia Tech and hang with them on that level and hopefully beat them, it'll show the country that NC State's for real and there's no flaws in our game.

    Coach Amato said that a losing season will never happen again at State. Do you agree?
    It'll never happen; we'll never be 5-6 or below .500. It's not possible. We have too much talent at this school.

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