O'Brien Optimistic About the Future

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Tom O'Brien met with the local media to discuss the 2007 season, recruiting, spring practice, and much more.

Tom O'Brien

Thoughts on ACC Championship game:
I'll tune into the the championship game. I hope my former boys win. They've got this far. No sense in stopping now.

Thoughts on Paul Johnson:
He's done a tremendous job at Navy. He's a great coach. Nobody wants to play against that offense, I know that.

What do you need to address in the offseason?
Right now all of our focus is on recruiting. I spent the week trying to get the team organized so that we leave exams in good shape and we come back in January we're ready to go to work towards having a winning football team.

Both the coordinators have been off the road this week evaluating a lot of different things football-wise while most everyone else has been out recruiting. I'll go recruiting the next two weeks myself.

The thing is we need to sign a lot of good football players. It starts with recruiting. That is the main focus right now.

When is spring practice?
I intend to start on March 18th, a Tuesday, and we'll basically go Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. That first Saturday is Easter Saturday so we won't go then... I believe April 19th is the Spring Game.

Do you expect to have Anthony Hill and Toney Baker back in the spring:
Neither one of them will be able to participate in the spring.

Anyone leaving early?
I met with all of the fourth-year seniors that have a fifth year to come back and we talked if they all intend to come back. We will meet as a staff to see if we want to invite them back.

Our system has always been you don't want a fifth-year kid who is not playing hanging around. There are no guarantees. Those are the only ones.

I'm sure we'll have some individuals go to the NFL and see what their draft status is. I think that happens every year, but I don't know that anyone has made a commitment to leave.

Anything surprise you that maybe you didn't expect coming into the year?
I think the number of injuries we had... that was significant. Looking back we had 54.5 missed games due to injuries which the past two years combined they didn't have that many total guys miss games. I can't remember ever... that might have been three years worth, my previous three years, at BC.

It was just one of those years. We were caught in the injury bug early, caught in the transition year... to everybody's credit, somewhere in the middle of October we found a way to win four football games. It was great for this football team and great for this football program to show that is what's capable of. Now we have to use that to build, get to spring practice, and the goal is to play hard and smart and you'll win more games than you lose.

Any player really surprise you?
I think [Jamelle] Eugene without question. The way he played those last six and a half games. The more you worked him the better he got. He loves to play the game and he loves to practice. That is the best practice group on the football team, the running backs, because he sets the pace. He's like the Energizer Bunny, he just goes and goes and goes.

Now it's forced everybody. Andre Brown, when he came back, starting practicing at that speed which means he's going to be a better football player. [Curtis] Underwood learned how, this is the way you're suppose to practice if you're going to be a major college back. It should be a benefit for us when you go into spring practice.

How have you and your staff been received in-state by coaches and recruits?
We've been received tremendously. We've got a lot of early commitments, especially out of players highly thought of in the state of North Carolina.

From what I can tell on the road, our coaches have been greatly received and people are really excited about the future of North Carolina State football.

It takes time, but the difference we have here is we come in with a resume. We've done it before. All they have to do is look at the championship game in Jacksonville. There is a product of what we've built before. They look at us with our facilities... I think it's not a far reach to say you can accomplish a lot here.

Is it safe to say you're optimistic about the future?
Absolutely. I'm optimistic about the future, it's the present I'm sometimes not happy with.

We know we have to recruit. We know we have to get a lot of players in here this year because our numbers are down scholarship-wise. We're not going to have a big senior class. There will probably be 55 scholarships or more committed to the bottom-two classes. That's going to be a young football team.

That's where you can mold and build. Sometimes it's tough to teach old dogs new tricks, but hopefully when you get puppies, sometimes you can train them right.

Are the positions back open entering the spring?
Absolutely. Instead of a depth chart, we'll go back to an organizational chart, and everybody will have the opportunity to make the football team.

Do you want to have the same staff as you do right now?
I hope I do. It's a great staff. I think they did a wonderful job this year. It is something that we haven't individually sat down and talked about. I've talked to both coordinators about where they are and what their plans are because they have been off the road. That is something that will have to be addressed in the future. If I'm lucky enough, they will all be here once signing day is over.

How will these two recruiting classes differ?
I think it will be a class that we recruited. We, because of the timing, had to keep all the commitments State already had to get a class. It is our first real effort in recruiting. Something that you can say this is the first class this staff recruited at NC State. That will be the difference.

What needs are there besides the lines?
As I said, we have to recruit a whole football team. There are holes all over this. If you want to think the ship is going down, it's going down in the offensive line right now. There are only eight healthy scholarship bodies that are going to be here in the spring practice.

Will Russell Wilson be at Spring Practice?
I think he signed a football scholarship so I would expect him to play every spring practice. Now I talked to Elliot Avent today and we're working out how he can be a part of the baseball program. He wants to do it, his grades are wonderful, and if he can help them in any shape or form he will. But if he wants to compete for the starting quarterback job he's going to have to make every practice in the spring.

What are your thoughts on him?
He has tremendous leadership ability. When you look at kids in the freshman class, the first name that always pops up when you talk about leadership would be him which is what you want in a quarterback.

He has skills. He's got a strong arm. He did a nice job doing the scout team but a lot of that is running off cards so now we've got to see if he can call a play, get to the line of scrimmage and execute once the ball is snapped. Those are all things we have to find out about him.

It looks like he has the temperament and ability to be a good quarterback.

He played a lot out of the shotgun in high school, but did you get to work with him much under center this year with him doing the shotgun?
Preseason practice and a little bit those three days in the open week. We practiced a lot of the freshmen the same as the old guys just to get a look at them. Unfortunately we didn't get ourselves to a bowl game or we could used this whole time to do even more evaluations. It is what it is.

He'll have his opportunity in the spring. He'll have to execute our offense or if he's the guy we'll adjust things to fit his skills.

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