O'Brien: Pack is Improving

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Tom O'Brien discusses the upcoming game against Clemson with the media.

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    Tom O'Brien Audio

    Is it wide open in the league because of the quarterback play around the league?
    I think without question quarterback is the most important position of anybody's offense. Experience is so important for anybody's football team. Matt Ryan.. I've said from the start that he should be a Heisman Trophy candidate... I think he one of the best quarterbacks in the country. We might see the other one here in another week when the kid from Louisville comes in here. Those, in my mind, are the top two quarterbacks in the country and their play reflects that.

    Thoughts on Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper:
    He's leading in passing efficiency in the conference. He's thrown for over 72%, he's like 50-of-69 or something so he is very efficient. He throws the deep ball well. They have those receivers that can fly down the field. He's got a lot of deep passes. He does a lot in that offense, he's managed it well, and done a great job.

    Clemson had trouble find balance last year between running and passing. Do you think there is still potential there to stop them by stopping the run or have they solved that?
    I think when you look at them with the two great tailbacks they have, that is everybody's inclination to start. Davis is averaging almost seven yards a carry and I think his longest run is under 30 yards so he has been very consistent running the football. They have those big offensive linemen, and they run the ball well.

    I think everybody thus far has dared their quarterback to beat them and what Harper has done is beaten them throwing the ball as well as he has.

    What do you think so far of Harrison [Beck] and his potential?
    I hope it's going to be great. Like everybody else here, he's a work in progress. He's been very good, and he's been very below average I would say at Boston College. He was back to being a good quarterback here Saturday night.

    That's generally the hallmark for a young kid that's playing for his first time, lack of consistency. We have to make him a much more consistent quarterback. He has the physical tools, but you have to do it each and every week on the field.

    How do you explain your problems against the run?
    We just haven't been as good against the run as we would like to be. We're a work in progress... we have to be better and we will work on that each and every week also.

    Did you have an acceptable talent level when you came in or does that require some work too?
    I don't need to comment on that. We are who we are so we're going to work our butts off and try to win as many games as we can. Obviously you have to go out and recruit to get better no matter what program you are in each and every year so that is our focus also.

    C.J. Spiller had -1 yard on nine rushing attempts and Clemson allowed five sacks. What did Furman do to stop them?
    I think Furman... they came in there playing Clemson just like Wofford came in and played us. It is their Super Bowl. They go to Clemson with a chance to showcase their program. Those kids played extremely hard. I don't think they did anything unusual defensively. It wasn't like they invented any new schemes to get all those sacks... they worked hard and they played well.

    Are you going to do anything differently scheme-wise with the losses at defensive tackle?
    No, we're going to continue to coach our scheme and try to get better. [Jamain] Clemmons, it's an ACC game, so he's back on the two-deep and ready to go.

    Do you have a good grasp on this team three weeks in?
    No, I don't think we really know. I think we're seeing improvement though in their preparation, especially the mental aspect of the game, the intensity, and concentration. I think we're getting better in those areas.

    As I said before, everytime I say something good it's one step forward and two steps back so we'll see how we do this week. I think it's very important that we continue to do all the things we have to do. I don't think we're that far away from being a decent football team, but we still have to do it.

    Are you surprised you don't have a better handle at this point?
    No, I don't think that's part of the evolution from the new coach to the new system. As I said before, these kids don't have any history to fall back on.

    The way that we're coaching them in a lot of different schemes. You can't say remember a year ago when something new happened and this is how we played it. That's all part of their process-learning, but the more focus, the more intensity, and the more discipline they have, that will help us reach that point faster.

    Thoughts on James Martin's play:
    He's one of the seniors on this football team... you can see by his play and a lot of the seniors' play that this is an important year for them. They want to get the program back on the winning track and he has done a great job in the middle getting us lined up. He had a great night on Saturday night. He made a couple of really good plays. He saved a touchdown... that eventually made them kick a field goal.

    He's one of the kids that has bought into the program and he is working as hard as he can.

    Tommy Bowden mentioned in the preseason taking Clemson back... making Clemson tougher, a more physical team. Can you see that is where they are?
    I can't see that off the tape right now this year, but that might be something I can better judge after we play them come Saturday.

    Until they go back to the Danny Ford veer I don't know if they will ever come off the ball they way they came off the ball and were physical in those days.

    They have those big guys on defense that can fly around so they are pretty physical on defense.

    Did you see a lot of improvement from the offensive line on Saturday night?
    I think it was more that we were better than that football team, but we executed better, we were taking better steps, our pads were down... all that came into play too.

    We should have been able to rush the ball like that, and that is not a slap on Wofford in any stretch of the imagination.

    What happened with J.C. Neal? Against Boston College he played just special teams, but he played a ton against Wofford.
    I think that is part of the evolution of this football team. We look at practice. As we tell the kids, if you don't practice well you won't play. If you practice well you are going to play.

    He practiced well and did a good job all week. We moved a couple of people around because of the wishbone, specifically guys who could tackle well and pursue to the ball.

    We have the depth chart but it still might be an organizational chart weekly until we figure out on Friday who has practiced enough and might get us into a position to win the football game. Thoughts on the play of true freshman Markus Kuhn and making his first career start this week:
    When you lose two guys at that spot and you are #3 you move up to #1 real fast and that is what happens in college football.

    We knew that he could run and was a physical presence. He still has a long ways to go, but he has a knack for doing a couple of things. He's physical and he runs to the football. He's always hustling... those are tremendous qualities to start with.

    The play John Bedics was injured on, did you send it in to the ACC office?
    No, I can't comment on that. I'd get fined.

    Thoughts on Clemson's defense:
    They really run well. They've got some big bodies up front. Both of their ends are really active, and everybody runs extremely fast on their defense.

    You said you don't think you are that far from being a decent team. How much closer are you now than you were last Monday?
    Well we were much better Saturday night than our first Saturday game. We made strides each week, but it's a weekly event.

    We're in a situation now where we are going to play four top 20 teams, when you count Wofford as a No. 10 in I-AA. BC is ranked, Clemson is top 20, and Louisville is top 20.

    It's a pretty good stretch to compare yourself and figure out where you are. Maybe we will be up to the challenge, maybe we won't, but we're going to try and get better each and every week and see if we can get a win here on Saturday.

    We're still working our way through. We're in a pretty good stretch now. We're going to see how we compare to top 20 teams. Maybe we're not top 20, but by the end of the year we might be a heckuva football team if we can get healthy and continue to get better. That's the goal. Get better each and every week, and then we will count them up at the end.

    Thoughts on the play of Thomas Barnes:
    He wasn't phased at all. He went in and looked like he was on the field forever. He made a lot of nice plays. He got into position, hustled, and did a good job on all their cuts... kept his feet clean and got to the football.

    Texas and UCF.. that game provided further evidence that was a good team here the first week.
    I said before, I've known George O'Leary a long time and if he said that's the best team he has had ever down there that is going to be a good football team. Especially if two years ago they won the conference and went to a bowl game. You know if he's saying it they were a good football team... they will prove it I guess through the course of the season.

    Similar to BC a year ago... we opened up with Central Michigan, we played Clemson second, and BYU the third game. Everybody was saying Central Michigan was no good. Everybody was saying BYU was no good. Well they both won 10 games and won their conference.

    You just don't know until it's over. Until you get into the middle of October.

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