NC State head coach Tom O'Brien introduced his assistant coaches to the media during his signing day press conference. Pack Pride talked with newly-hired defensive coordinator Mike Archer who discussed a variety of topics- from his hiring at NC State to the future defensive alignments he'll employ.
What is your defensive philosophy?
"Most of my coaching career I've been a 3-4 or a 50 defense. Obviously, when I was in Pittsburgh with coach Cowher, we were a 3-4 team. When I was the head coach at LSU we ran a 3-4. When I got let go at LSU I went to Virginia where I met coach O'Brien and we did use the 4-3 the two years I was at Virginia. When I went to Kentucky the first time, we used the 4-3. When I went back to Kentucky this time, we used the 3-4 for two years. We had the personnel, I felt, to do it. Through dismissals, graduation, etc, we didn't have the linebackers that I thought could help us win so we went to the 4-3 which is what I think we'll run here. I think with the personnel we have here right now that's been recruited, will be more of an easier adjustment for the players to play a 4-3. I think you have to make your decision based on the personnel that you have. If you try to put a square peg into a round hole, it doesn't work. So, looking at our players on film, I think we have 4-3 personnel. That's not to say that I'll forget the 3-4. I'll use parts of that in certain situations."
Is there a long term plan in place to bring in the players needed to run a 3-4?
"Right now as you look at recruiting every year, you're looking for kids that can run and make plays. Right now at the college level, I think it's easier to recruit linemen than linebackers. As I look at our linebackers now, a lot of these guys were defensive backs in high school that have grown into linebackers. And it's kind of like what we did in the NFL at Pittsburgh. We drafted defensive ends and projected them into outside ‘backers. Right now I think it's easier to recruit defensive linemen. You can find more of them than outside ‘backers."
How did you end up coming to NC State?
"Actually, we were in communication quite a bit because we thought we were going to play each other in the Music City Bowl. It looked like Kentucky was going to play Boston College and we communicated four or five times over a two week period. Then when Wake Forest won that ACC championship game, it turned it all upside down. He called me and just asked me if I would be interested in the job and I said sure. I had worked with him for two years. I know what kind of person he is. I know how disciplined he is, and I trust him. I think I have not been here in Raleigh since Levar Fisher came out and we came down here to work him out with the Steelers. When I came up here to talk to him, I was amazed at the facilities. I mean, I had not seen these. They were under construction when I came up here when he (Levar) came out. You only get so many opportunities and I think the opportunity to win a national championship is something I've been fortunate enough to experience in Miami and I think you can do it at this university."
What are you seeing from this team on the defensive side of the ball?
"Number one, if all of our defensive linemen are healthy, particularly (DeMario) Pressley, which right now it looks like he'll be okay after the wrist surgery. Guys like Willie Young. The first week I was here, I was around them all week trying to learn who they were, watching them in the weight room, watching them running and I think we're pretty athletic on the back end. I think we've got three or four corners and most teams don't have three or four corners. Most teams are over loaded with safeties. Now, we're a little short on safeties. Linebacker-wise, I think- and I relate to numbers- Lerue Rumph, Jones is number five, we've got some outside ‘backers. We have to find a middle linebacker to replace number 42 (Pat Lowery). I don't even know what number 42's name was, but I know he was a good football player. He was an over achiever and obviously a leader of their defense. So we've got to find a linebacker and in this defense, the middle linebacker has to make plays. So, we were just talking this afternoon as we were looking at last year's tape, we're not making any decisions but we're trying to see how guys play, how they compete and how they perform. There is nothing etched in stone. We've got to make some decisions as to who we line up that first day of spring."
What are you looking for in a middle linebacker?
"Number one, he's got to be a leader because in this defense, he's got to call the defenses. He's got to make the checks. He's going to be very involved as a coach on the field. He's got to be a leader. Number two, he's going to have an opportunity to make plays because everything's going to be funneled into him. So right now, it may be someone who's an outside ‘backer. Time will tell. In Pittsburgh it was guys like Lavon Kirkland and James Farrior. Both of those guys played in the Pro Bowl. We don't expect the middle linebacker here to play in the Pro Bowl but we expect him to make plays, to get us lined up and help us win games."