MEDIA DAY: Tom O'Brien Audio + Quotes

RALEIGH, N.C. -– NC State held its annual Media Day today at the Murphy Center and head coach Tom O'Brien fielded questions from reporters. Here is a sampler of what he had to say.

Tom O'Brien Audio

Thoughts on Friday's scrimmage:
Last night we did a lot of situational work that we found through my experiences that it is probably a good indicator of where a lot of people are on this football team.

When you scrimmage sometimes you just run plays, sometimes you just run game situations, but these were end-of-game situations from four minutes in where you are behind or ahead and you have to make plays. That's what we worked on last night.

I think it wasn't as good as I thought it would be. I didn't see what I was hoping I would at this point. We have an opportunity to do it again on Tuesday. The type of scrimmage, the second scrimmage and third scrimmage will be combined and then hopefully we'll make improvements to that.

Was it execution or intensity?
I think a lot of it had to do with intensity. I think some of it, this was their first experience doing this sort of situation. I don't know if they did it in the past... they looked like this wasn't something they were familiar with.

It's the type of scrimmage that you have to have. In order to be proficient by the time you play your first game, you have to be able to move with ease, substitute with ease, understand situations, know when you're suppose to stay inbounds, know when you're suppose to get out of bounds, know when you're suppose to keep them inbounds, know when you're suppose to get them out of bounds, and those situations we covered last night.

Thoughts on the talent at the skill positions in the program:
I think having to play NC State and being around the league, I think the skill position talents, whether you are talking in the secondary, wide receiver, or the running back position is comparable to many people in this conference.

We have kids that can run and they are athletic. What we have to do is get them to play the way we want them to play and within the framework we want them to play... be disciplined enough to do it.

What are your biggest concerns?
I think our biggest concern is I don't think as a coaching staff we are comfortable naming starters at a lot of spots right now. We haven't seen people take control of their position... be the type of players that we want them to be. That's a concern right now, obviously.

You can't feel comfortable if you ask your offensive and defensive coordinator if they can give you a starting lineup, and there are a lot of positions they are not sure about. That means you've got a lot of work to do.

Numbers-wise, how many do you think are set as starters?
I would say that probably half the offense, half the defense, and maybe even less than that in the kicking game situation.

As I said before, we came in with certain standards with the way we want to play this football game and this football team to react and we haven't gotten that. There are sparks, but once they get into some competition they lose their focus. That is a concern.

I think all teams go through that, but we don't have any history with guys to know if they are going to come out of it.

Any of those battles where you have either/or as good options?
There are some good options out there. You want to be at this point in preseason practice... when you think some guys would step to the front, seize the position, say this is mine and I'm going to take it. We just haven't seen that out of this football team.

Some people may take those comments as you talking about the quarterback position. Is that the case?
No. I'm talking about this football team. The quarterback is one of 22 starting jobs. It's the one you guys want to talk about all the time, but it is one of 22.

Is the offensive line solidified?
No, I think we still have to work through situations there too.

How does this compare to previous preseasons you've had as a coach in terms of uncertainty at this point?
I think it's similar to anytime you go into a program and you're trying to teach your philosophies, your techniques, your fundamentals, your way that you want to play football, and try to get guys in those positions.

I think last night was the first time you got into some situations where you were mentally [challenged] as much as physically [challenged] and could see some things. I think it will help us in the long run as coaches, and hopefully this football team will take it to heart and learn a lot from it and be much better as we go forward.

Did they play hard?
They played hard last night, but not as hard as they did in the other scrimmages.

In general does this team play hard?
They did until last night.

Do they play smart?

Is that the biggest problem?
That is a concern.

Do you attribute any of that to fatigue?
Fatigue makes cowards of us all right? The heat certainly had something to do with it. The good news is they are there. A lot of guys would have quit, walked off, and given up the ghost a long time ago.

These kids have hung in there, they are working at it, and I have no fault with that. Last night... we had an abnormal amount of loafs on the football field, which you can't have.

That could be attributed... that's mental toughness. They are getting tired, and they are shutting down. Mental toughness, the part of being tired is your mind is got to tell your body to do it. Your body will shut down. Your mind can't.

You talk about loafing, do you think there may be some confusion where guys may think they have positions locked up?
I don't think there will be after the meetings tonight.

What has the heat been like for the coaching staff?
I think it's been quite a change for us, but we have to be mentally tough too. You have to go out there in two-a-days where it's 95 degrees at six o'clock. You have to be mentally tough to get out there and get through it and push them through it.

I think you get acclimated to it the more you're around it.

Was there a point early in your coaching career where you thought you may need to be more of a yeller?
No, I was that as an assistant coach. If you ask any of the guys I coached as an offensive lineman, you'll get a whole different report.

I think that's the way assistants are. Hopefully as a head coach you have to be under control. It's not that I don't yell. I think these kids will tell you I yell sometimes.

Actually they said they couldn't remember many times.
They are being kind. They are promoting the image.

With so much uncertainty at positions. What are your expectations and goals for the team this year?
They haven't changed. We're going to go in week-to-week and concentrate on winning that game. At the end of the year we'll count them up.

We expect to have a winning year, we expect to go to a bowl game, and if we end up being good enough, maybe this is the year we'll compete for the championship. I don't know if this is going to be the year we can do that, but that is always the ultimate goal... to play in the championship game here.

How important is early success to establish the program?
I think success is important at any junction in your career. As I said before, we're going to go out week-to-week and do the best job we can week-to-week.

In this game, because of injuries and other things, you don't know who is going to show up. You better win every game that you can win. You've got 12 opportunities to do it, 12 weeks to prepare, and we'll take each week as a season.

Recruiting in the state of North Carolina, why is that so important to this program?
Because we are the state university. I grew up in Ohio, and recruiting the state of Ohio was awful important to Ohio State University. I was at the Naval Academy and watched how important it was for Penn State to recruit Pennsylvania kids to be a part of their program.

There is no difference in those two schools and North Carolina State. It's important that we have the state kids come to school here and play for the state university. We won't get them all but we certainly need to get our fair share, and if we do it's going to be something special when we win that first championship.

When you go into homes to talk with parents and kids, what do you tell them about this program and why they should come here?
We are the state university, we have a great education for them, we have a great student body... 30,000-strong. We have tremendous fans here... the most passionate fans in the state of North Carolina. If they want to play football at the highest level, and they want to win and get a meaningful degree, then this is as good a place as any place in the country for them.

You said the most passionate fans in the state of North Carolina?
Absolutely. I've said that before.

Tom, could you talk about Curtis Crouch? I understand you asked him to drop a couple of pounds.
It was more than a couple. I think the lighter he is the better he moves and the better he is athletically on his feet. We ask those guards to get out and do some things on the run. He will have a better opportunity to play and be a part of this football team if he is more athletic and a better player... that starts with his weight.

Is he a bigger offensive guard than normal?
He's a little bit heavier than some of the kids we had at Boston College in the past... we had some guys in his weight range and his size that ended up being NFL players, but they were also better when they played lighter and played quicker and played faster.

Eight months since you took the job... looking over it what are your thoughts?
It's been better than I ever anticipated it being. I think that's the good news for me.

Did you offer Anthony Hill a recommendation?
We talked. One day coach Cowher was here and coach Cowher sat down and talked with him about what he needed to do if this was the situation as it related to the NFL and his career down the road. All those things come into play, especially someone as high profile as he is.

Would he have been a starter coming out of the spring?
Obviously. He's a tremendous talent. As I said before, the way Stone has progressed through this whole thing, those two would have been a dynamic combination to play in our two tight end offense.

With the quarterbacks, did they perform better than the stats provided from previous scrimmages?
I think the stats were basically the same as they've been in the past. There's been no separation there either.

Thoughts on Antoine Holmes and Markus Kuhn?
Those two have been pleasant surprises. We knew with Antoine, we had more tape and more exposure to what his talents were coming out of the junior college, and he's been a very pleasant surprise. He's going to find his way onto the football field.

Markus right now is one of those freshmen probably on the bubble whether we're going to have to play him or not play him. He's done a very nice job. He's relentless, which is a word I use a lot about defensive guys I like.

The thing about Markus is he doesn't have a lot of bad habits. He hasn't been playing American football for a long time. He's got to catch up in the football sense department, but if you tell him to do something, you show him the fundamental, and he works like heck to get it done. He has good habits. He's developing good football habits.

When do you normally make your redshirt decisions?
I think when we finally set the depth chart for the first game. What we've done in the past is I don't have any set number. You would prefer to redshirt kids but in today's college game freshmen are going to have to play.

That's the way it is. If they can help they are going to play. They have to letter. They have to play enough on special teams or field situations where they will be a letterman. He's got to get on the football field and help out in some way or form.

More Friday scrimmage thoughts:
I think some of it has to go with them not understanding the competition level that had to be on the field... there commitment tot his type of scrimmage. There was no sense of urgency. It was just like it was another scrimmage. Well it wasn't another scrimmage...

The good thing... we blocked a punt to get the offense in a situation to score to win the game, and then that defense came in and blocked a field goal to save the win. By the end of the scrimmage they finally got into it.

Were you mad after the scrimmage?
Sometimes when you're bad, you don't need to be mad. They can figure it out too. I think they understood... I get madder at the end of practice with them then I do... well there will be times in games too.

I don't think I had to express myself to a lot of them last night because they understood which is another positive.

How have Toney Baker and Andre Brown looked?
They've looked very good. They are good backs. Nothing has changed from what I thought they would be... in some cases they are even better than I thought they would be. They have tremendous work ethic. They have great work habits. They are not afraid to stick their nose in there... both work extremely hard to get better.

Are you comfortable with them as a tandem?
You want to have fresh legs in the football game... you can't forget Eugene. He's been practicing and playing much better. He had a good night last night himself. Those three kids... competition makes you better. Not one of them wants to not take a snap... they know they are in a battle for playing time.

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