Camp O'Brien: Wolfpack Gets The Message

Meet The Pack Day is usually a celebration of the arrival of football and a season, but after a subpar scrimmage on Friday night, coach Tom O'Brien wasn't in a celebratory mood during Saturday's festivities. He delivered a strongly worded message to his troops on Friday evening, and today, he said that his players' response showed that he got his point across.

The team came back strong during today's practice, heading into tomorrow night's final scrimmage of fall camp.

"We need a good go tomorrow night, and that's what we've been working for the last two days," said O'Brien. "They've been good the last two days, so we'll see how it goes."

The squad is slated to play one half of regular football with "free-wheeling situations," then do some situational work following a halftime break, according to O'Brien. For some players, the scrimmage could decide whether they are starters or backups, or whether they redshirt or not.

When asked whether the scrimmage will have the feel of a final exam, O'Brien didn't hesitate.

"For some guys, it will be," O'Brien said. "So we'll see how it works out."

After the scrimmage, State will begin ramping down the practice schedule to prepare for the season opener vs. Central Florida on September 1.

"We've got to start scaling way back and have them get their legs back," said O'Brien." I'm sure they're all nicked up and sore, so we've got to get them back so they can play fast in the opener."

For the Pack players, the first game of the campaign can't get here soon enough.

"We're amped up; we're real excited, man," said redshirt senior Marcus Stone. "We've been hitting the same-color jersey for the last … I don't even know how many days, because everything blurs into one day. But we're real excited and definitely looking forward to our first game."

In his transition to tight end, Stone has leaned heavily on friend Anthony Hill, another senior. When Hill went down for the year with a knee injury, Stone was understandably upset – and remains so to this day.

"That's a sore subject; I hate really talking about it, because me and him were real close and I hate it for him, coming into our senior year, him having to sit out," Stone said. "I was really looking forward to playing with him and he's a great guy. But he's been real positive and he's looking forward to rehabbing it and getting ready for the next season."

Instead of fading into the background until he's well enough to wear the Red and White again, however, Hill has remained involved and continued to help Stone make the transition from quarterback to tight end.

"For his attitude, he's a stand-up guy; you've got to look up to a guy like that, who just got hurt," Stone said. "And he could have just [thrown] it in the tank and forgotten about it, but the kind of person he is, he came back and he's watching film with me. And he pulls me out of the lounge and says, ‘C'mon, let's go watch this practice or this scrimmage and see how you did.' That's just a great person and an awesome friend."

When O'Brien and his staff began installing plays into the new-look NC State offense, they did so by giving the players a brief history lesson on each play. By putting the play into context, it helped speed up the learning process for the Wolfpack.

"Well, the more they can understand why we're doing it and why they're doing what they're supposed to do, I think it helps them learn," said O'Brien. "And it gives a little bit of history to it, why we use it, where we use it and how it's supposed to be used. So they understand, it helps them, especially a lot of the quarterbacks, the ball is supposed to go here, by this and whatever. I think it's a good teaching tool so that they don't think we just do stuff willy-nilly."

While offensive coordinator Dana Bible has relied heavily on Boston College tape, defensive coordinator Mike Archer has leaned on film from his most recent tenure, at Kentucky. No matter where the tape comes from, if it can help the staff as a teaching tool, the coaches will use it.

"We'll show a play and we'll say, ‘This is how we ran it and this is what we expect to get done out of this play,'" O'Brien said. "And since Boston College is the only teaching tapes we had, because it's what we did, we taught all the Boston College stuff for the offense. Now, defensively, Mike has used some of his Kentucky stuff and if he needs to use some of the Pittsburgh Steelers stuff or whatever … you use films that teach to show them how to do them. And you bring them out here and let them go through it, then you correct them off their film and go back and say, ‘This is how it's supposed to be done.'"

An Ohio native, O'Brien adopted the idea from one of college football's most legendary coaches and a famous Buckeye.

"I mean, the greatest teacher of all time used to be Woody Hayes," said O'Brien. "The first day of practice, he used to put in the belly out of the robust T like it was the greatest play ever invented. And every year at Ohio State, that's how he started camp. So a lot of that is taken from those great coaches of yesterday."

Even though he's lining up at tight end now, Stone knows something about fighting for time at the signal-caller position. He had spirited battles with Jay Davis for starting honors for the Pack, and now he has one of the best seats in the house for the current competition for No. 1 quarterback duties at State. He's on the receiving end of passes from Daniel Evans, Harrison Beck, Justin Burke and Russell Wilson, and while no one has bent his ear on how he handled a similar situation, he is confident that each of the Wolfpack quarterbacks can get the job done.

"Nobody's really come to me asking about the competition," said Stone. "In my eyes, they've all been looking good and making real good decisions, and it all comes down to whenever Coach O'Brien and his staff decide to make that decision. And I back them 100 percent, and whatever quarterback is in there, I feel comfortable with."

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