O'Brien: Hill, Kushner, Eugene out

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Tom O'Brien discussed injuries, the celebration rule and Clemson during his weekly press conference on Monday.

Do you feel ready to play an ACC game or do you wish you had a little more time?
"Doesn't make any difference. We have to go play it so we're going to start preparing as we are today, game planning and get on the practice field tomorrow and see what we can get done."

You said a point of emphasis on defense in the offseason would be forcing turnovers, are you pleased with what you guys have done so far (two recovered fumbles, six interceptions)?
"As we said coming in, I think we have a much better understanding of the scheme that our defensive coaches are trying to coach. The zone defense has helped us a lot. We're seeing the ball thrown. We're in much better position in our drops and in our cover ages to make plays on the ball. The kids are making plays and we're catching balls this year. Some of them we knocked down last year. That coupled with, for two games, we've gotten good pressure on the quarterback and maybe made him throw the ball a little quicker than he wanted to. Or maybe somebody's on the receiver and he's got to put a little more air under it and it's all contributed to the fact we've intercepted six balls."

It doesn't seem like you blitzed very often but the front four have gotten pressure. How much has that helped you scheme-wise?
"It's very important because if you can do that then that allows you to play coverage which gives you the best of both worlds. But you still have to have the blitz and the man defense which we did on Saturday night and certainly did against South Carolina."

Were you surprised at how Clemson looked against Alabama?
"Well I don't know because I wasn't there in the preseason so I don't know what problems they had or what they did or how they prepared. My son's a GA at Alabama so he was felt pretty good about things going into that game. I mean they were worried but they thought they had a pretty good opportunity against Clemson. I guess I shouldn't have said that, giving away company secrets."

Do you have any concerns about Russell coming back so soon?
"No, because he was cleared to play Saturday. I mean he was cleared earlier in the week and we practiced him a little bit and it was my decision whether to play him or not and I chose not to play him, just thinking that it'd be better for him to sit out another week and before he got back into contacts. It'll [have been] be two weeks by the time we play the game and he'll be back in contact."

Any concerns about a young quarterback coming back from an injury like that that he might be gun-shy?
"Certainly. But the only way we're going to find out is put him in there and play."

What's different about T.J. that's enabled him to be productive and see playing time so early in his career?
"Well when you come in with wide receivers that only had 20 catches the prior year you're looking for guys that can play. We thought, especially after we saw him in camp last year, that he would be something special. He caught the ball real well when we saw him and if you watched what he did with his track times in high school, he definitely had speed to get by people. The thing that has been great is the way he competes. As I said after the South Carolina game, other than a lot of guys who looked around the and saying 'wow look at all these people' he started playing and started competing and certainly felt confident in his abilities and on that stage and it carried over to last Saturday. He made two really nice catches. The second one, if we throw the ball on time, he doesn't have to go down and slide and he's probably got a touchdown because he ran right by the guy."

How many speed guys, in your experience have that kind of ability to make those kind of catches?
"Not a lot. If you want to go back to the recruiting process, that's why we waited till camp to offer him. We knew he was a track guy but we didn't know if he was a football player. He came there the same time Mike Glennon was there and those two hooked up very well throwing the ball. Glennon throws a good ball and [T.J.] caught everything thrown to him and made some nice catches."

What's the plan at tight end this week?
"As the depth chart says George Bryan will start and Eric Weaver the walk-on will back him up. We'll try not to get the third starter at tight end hurt this week so we'll have four starters by next week."

How much does that limit what you can do?
"Well, we were a big tight end offense now we're not a big tight end offense. It's part of the game. You have to move on. Each week you have 11 guys."

You saw some of Nate Irving last year, have you been surprised at how well he's played so far?
"You saw sparks of it last year when he ended up winning the job and started the last 3-4 games last year. But as we changed defense and kind of settled into the boundary he has great anticipation and vision and he's used them. You can tell his experience out there compared to some of the other people because he sees things so much faster and has made plays. Hopefully he will continue. I put him up for [ACC] defensive player [of the week] last week and the week before too but he didn't get it, but he did get it this week - which is nice."

Did you hold Wilson out of any drills last week?
"Once he was cleared we ran him through some drills and he was fine. We kept practicing him and he didn't have any ill effects that next day so it was a full go."

Clemson has done very well in this state in recruiting and getting some of the top players in the state. What is it going to take to keep them from continuing to do that?
"You can never build a fence and keep everybody at home but you want to get your fair share of guys and do a good job. Even when I went to Virginia in '82, Clemson was strong in this state so that didn't happen overnight. They've got a long history of coming in here and we've got to do a much better job. We're certainly trying to do a better job in this state, the best thing we can do is start winning football games."

What are your thoughts on excessive celebration after this week?
"Well it's a point of emphasis this year and certainly it's going to be called. I guess there was an incident in the Washington game in which it may have cost them the football game. It's bad, but you have to do it and the best thing to do is to throw it early and stop it. Andre Brown certainly deserved to get a penalty for what he did. That's certainly not acceptable and that's something you have to guard against. It still comes down, they go watch everybody on Sunday do it and they want to do it Saturday but it's not part of our game."

Reporter describes Washington-BYU incident...
"By rule, I guess that's a celebration. If that's the rule you have to do it. The problem you have is when two hours later somebody does it and it's not called. Any rule that we have I'd rather consistent, call it as is and make sure everybody treats it the same way and then you play by the same rules."

Quick scouting report on Clemson?
"They have tremendous skill on offense. They have a fourth year at quarterback who is probably their most experienced guy who kind of calms that offense. They've got a great pass rusher in Sapp and Scott is back up front and he's up for some awards. Hamlin had three interceptions from last week and their four secondary guys are all back from last year. They're all big powerful fast guys that can run.


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