O'Brien Talks Spring Practice, Red/White Game

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Tom O'Brien met with the media today to discuss spring practice and Saturday's Red/White Game.

Tom O'Brien Scrimmage Audio

Opening Thoughts:
The Spring Game is Saturday at 1:00. We will try to run the game similar to what we did last year and separate into teams. There will be no kickoffs or kick off returns and we'll definitely kick field goals and extra points if we're able to score. We will punt and punt return if we're healthy enough to do that phase of the game.

The teams will be split up on Friday morning after we get the injury report after Thursday's practice to see how we can best separate up. We'll play like we did last year, normal 15-minute quarters and game conditions for the first half and then we'll play a running clock in the second half just because we don't have enough bodies to last a whole game.

It's always good to play a game. Something always happens within the framework of a game that you just really can't simulate on the practice field even though you try. Every year something comes up that I think is real good for the football team one way or another.

Can you talk a little bit of what you've seen from the quarterbacks? I've heard some good things about Russell Wilson.
They are still rotating, we're still taking a good look. As I said coming in, we're going to give Russell an opportunity, maybe a little more than the other two because the other two have been in the system for a year and we want to see what he can do... have a better feel for that. I think he has a pretty good grasp of the offense and what is expected.

We're still in a situation that I don't think that position will be solved until the week of the South Carolina game.

Did he participate completely in all of spring practice with baseball going on?
He's a football player first.

So he will be there Saturday?
He'll be there Saturday. I don't know where the baseball team is, but he'll be out there on Saturday.

Do you have reason to believe you'll see more productivity out of the quarterback spot?
We're working towards that. That's one of the things you want to play a game-situation, when they are out there by themselves and have to make decisions on the run. That's one of the good things you get out of the Spring Game especially for the quarterback position. That's the one thing we have to be better at, not turning the football over.

Have you answered a lot of the other questions coming into spring practice?
I know from the first to second scrimmage we had a lot of missed assignments on defense, but that happens in the first scrimmage.

As we said a year ago after the first six games of the year, one thing we had to improve on defensively was not so many missed assignments and missed tackles. I think we had a third of our plays on defense at that point bad plays. We were lined up wrong, not in the right spot, not doing the right thing, and then we missed a tackle.

If you look at the first scrimmage to second scrimmage, we did much better in that department. We're getting lined up and we're understanding where we are suppose to be. The defense did a much better job of tackling.

Offensively it still comes down to protecting the football. We haven't put the ball on the ground fumbling, and the key is still going to be the play of the quarterback. The three kids are working hard. Daniel [Evans] has missed the spring which is not good for us, we'd like to have him out there. [Mike] Glennon will show up in the fall and we'll get a better shot at the quarterbacks as we go through preseason camp.

How would you compare the second spring to the first?
It's night and day. I think everything in our program is way ahead of where we were a year ago. Last year it took us until the 13th or 14th practice before we got through a full script of practice. That started the first day of practice in the spring.

They have a much better understanding of our coaching staff. We stayed intact for a year, which I think is very key and very important to the long range success of your program. The coaches are still here, we're in the same system, and they have a better understanding of what's expected of them and what they are supposed to do.

We're out of the huddle, we're to the line of scrimmage, we're lined up on defense, and we're starting to play faster on both sides of the ball. Those things become important because they are all cumulative. They all add up.

What type of spring has Willie Young had? He started to look like a dominant player.
He's had a good spring. He's gained some weight, he's up to 240, 245... he's learning to play at that weight, he's never been that weight before. I think that he has gotten better each and every practice. He's working hard, he's into it, and hopefully he can become that type of player for us.

How has the experiment gone with John Bedics and Ted Larsen?
I think that was a good move for the football team. It's awful difficult to learn to play in the offensive line, but they've attacked it. They've spent extra time in the film room, the meeting room, with Don Horton, and tried to work through a lot of the small fundamental things they have to learn, along with all of the assignments.

Things happen fast in there. They happen with a lot of power. They both look like in the long run it's going to be a good move for us.

How do Young and Markus Kuhn compliment each other?
We went a year ago at mid-year we went to the way we had played a little more at BC. We played a defensive end at the tight end side that is a little bigger player and stronger player, and we played the not-as-heavy individual, the pass-rushing guy, to the open end.

Willie likes to have the freedom, and he likes to play in space. When you're playing on the tight end, especially against any type of running offense... and we have to be a better run defense. That's one of the things we have to do. I think we were second-last in the conference in rush defense and last in rush offense and those are two we have to take care of.

It suits their talents. Again, it's about getting guys in the right spots that they can succeed in.

How is Meares Green doing at center?
Actually, he practiced half the spring at center and we've moved him back out to tackle. We've changed the offensive line every week we've been through this. When we get together tomorrow and talk about this scrimmage I don't know where he'll end up as we shuffle the deck one more time.

He did a nice job at center. I think he can play that position, but we're still trying to find the best rotation of getting five guys up front, the best five guys. I think he's going to be in there, whether it's center, guard or tackle whenever we finish this heading into the fall, hopefully it's going to be settled and we won't have to switch him much more.

Anything causing the switch?
We don't have a starting five, and we're trying to get the best five guys up front in positions where, once again, they can be successful and we can be successful.

With the line being a work-in-progress, the fact that your skill positions are in such good shape, is that something that can overcome the line being a work-in-progress?
Sometimes and sometimes not. No, you have to have an offensive line or you're not going to be successful on offense so that is where it has got to start.

Thoughts on Anthony Hill:
I think he's better today than he was last spring. He's been able to do all the individual drills... no team drill at all, no contact drill at all. He's been in individual drills. He's stepping better.

You can only learn so much by watching, looking at tape. You actually have to get out and do the fundamentals. With him able to do that, he's improved to the point where he'll be better if he were in contact than he would have been last spring at this point.

How big of a help would it be to have him back, with him being a potential All-ACC player?
I think he's still going to be a potential All-ACC player.

It would be great to have everybody on this list back and practicing. That would be the ideal situation, but it is what is.

Update on kicking situation:
We're working hard, especially the field goal kicking. At this point last year, Josh Czajkowski was going to be our field goal kicker. We knew about Hauschka, but we didn't know if we'd be able to get him in school down here.

At the end of spring practice, Josh would have been our kicker. He's done a nice job. He's had to kick under some pretty tough situations the last two Saturday's but he's done a nice job kicking the ball. He's done well and Pierson is back punting the ball for us as he was a year ago.

Hopefully Josh will pick it up... it's going to be tough to replace a guy like Steve, but I think Josh will do a good job.

Punt return situation:
We've had [Jamelle] Eugene and [Donald] Bowens doing that. Those have been the first two.

Thoughts on senior defensive backs J.C. Neal and Jeremy Gray:
J.C. and Jeremy have done a real good job. You look out there and they are surrounded by a bunch of freshmen, and Koyal George is a walkon we moved to field corner and he's doing a great job for us.

They are a settling influence back there. J.C. helps the other two freshmen, [Justin] Byers and [Jimmaul] Simmons, get lined up so they can play a bit faster. Their leadership has been invaluable back there, and they are going to have to be good leaders for us in the fall.

Thoughts on true freshmen:
I think Dominique [Ellis] and Kyle Linney and Dwayne Maddox have all done a good job. In the short-term it's been a little difficult on them but I think in the long-term for us and the football team they will be way ahead come August.

Thoughts on Geron James:
People always talk about his big play ability. He's a big wide receiver. He has height and he has size. He can block. He's knocked a few guys... he goes in and cracks people, and he goes up and catches the football. Hopefully at the end of the semester he'll have his academics in tune and he'll be eligible and with us in the fall.

Thoughts on running back situation:
We're back to one healthy tailback and three walk ons. Jamelle [Eugene] is the Energizer Bunny. He keeps on ticking back there. He just goes and goes and goes. We're very fortunate to have him in the program.

Hopefully Andre's foot will get straightened out, we'll get Toney [Baker] back, and Curtis Underwood has fought an ankle sprain all spring and hasn't been out there all spring.

What is Baker's prognosis?
Everybody is supposed to be cleared and able to practice in August.

That still hasn't changed as far as I know. The only individual is Milinicick, the walk on, who had a knee injury. He's the only one that doesn't project to start with us in the fall.

Has there been any thoughts of moving Baker to fullback?
No, I don't think so. If you know our fullback he never carries the football, so I don't think I'd ever put him there. He catches it a lot, but he doesn't carry it.

Can you compare this year's linebacker situation to last year's?
[Last year] you had guys that were all seniors coming back that had been in the program. Now it's different.

Nate [Irving] played a lot last year and he is a much better player this spring than he was in the fall. Ray Michel got to play a little bit, he's doing a good job in the middle, and the move of Robbie Leonard to the outside has been a good move for us. I think it's a position he's well-suited.

Who's going to back them up? I don't know, it might be like last year, we'll be holding our breath the whole time.

Is Robbie still under 200 pounds?
He might be pushing that 200-level.

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