O'Brien Talks Duke

RALEIGH, N.C. -- At today's press conference, NC State head coach Tom O'Brien discussed the upcoming game against Duke with the media.

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    Tom O'Brien

    Thoughts on depth chart changes:
    Well, certainly when we went to the off week, we self-evaluated again. We've had a couple of these, almost open dates this month, but we don't have as many options as we did a year ago. Last year, we could shuffle the whole deck up and throw some cards out, but [now] there aren't that many options we have.

    You have to take what you have, and you have to make evaluations of performances past, and where they are in practice. What we've done is line up the 11 guys that we think on offense and defense can help us. Certainly, the position between Morgan and George hasn't been resolved so it will be resolved by the end of practice this week.

    How are the redshirting offensive linemen doing in practice?
    We gave them, and that is one of the advantages of the open week, as much as work as we could last week too. We spent a lot of time with them, and certainly, [we] are very impressed with the kids that are here.

    Thoughts on Ray Michel and his improvement at linebacker:
    You go back to a year ago. When we made all the changes, of the four safeties we had, nobody is left now. Of the six linebackers we have, he's the only one playing, from the midseason on last year. So he's the only guy that has been in there the whole time, now obviously Nate [Irving] is around, but he has only made 3.25 games or whatever.

    But by playing every day the way he has, he learned last year, he paid a lot of attention... he got some opportunity to play this year, but he hasn't missed a snap this year. We should actually take him out of the game more because we want to get Sterling Lucas in a little more, and I think it will help him because of all the plays we've been playing him lately.

    Just his mental approach... he shows up, he gives you a solid day's work everyday on the practice field. He comes in extra. He is one of the guys that when it is an open date or they don't have to be here, he'll be over here looking at tape on his own. He's really worked hard to self-improve.

    What do you think of Mike Archer challenging the defense?
    I think you try to motivate them any way you can. One thing we don't do is we don't sugarcoat a lot of things. We try to be truthful and honest with them and this is our honest evaluation. If we are wrong, you have to prove to us that we are wrong. We came in this year to be a better rush defense and we are not that, certainly. That has to improve.

    You look at the way Duke rushed the ball against Wake Forest.... nobody rushes the ball against Wake Forest like that. We better have our chin straps buttoned and our mouth guards in on Saturday playing this football team.

    The situation with Nate Irving and Julian Williams, are they going to try and practice this week?
    They are going to try and practice, and we'll find out where it goes from here. We'll know better on Thursday than I do today.

    Have you ever had any experience with a David Cutcliffe offense? If you have, what are the particular problems that he puts on the defensive team?
    It's similar to a lot of the things that he did at Tennessee... you see a lot of the same things that he did when he was at Tennessee. It's good, solid football. You block and you tackle and you run hard, and you throw the ball efficiently.

    It's a formula that works, and it is time-tested. They bought in. I think the key thing there is that a lot of those kids are guys we saw in 2006 at BC. They were freshmen and sophomores... took their lumps and now it is their opportunity. They had success their first four games of the year, won three of them and could have been 4-0. They bought into the system, and they are playing awful hard.

    Are they still doing the no-huddle, and how much does it affect the defense?
    First of, we aren't allowed to scout, so you really can't see that on tape, but you can see that on TV. They are using it, and they are doing a good job with it.

    How does it affect the defense?
    Everybody... five years ago, when West Virginia or a couple of people went to it, it was revolutionary, but that is common day now, the no-huddle offense.

    Their linebackers seem to be very active. What problems are they going to present for Russell Wilson?
    They are going to present problems to him, in that they are fast and they can tackle you. He's going to have to be alert of where they are.

    "Obviously, Russell is not easy to bring down himself, though. It will be a good thing if Russell gets outside the pocket.

    One thing they have done good though, is they come out of coverage and have limited a lot of quarterback movement around in the pocket. That is one thing those kids have done a good job for Duke.

    Jeraill McCuller was in here earlier talking about there were four games left to get to bowl eligible but obviously they need to win one before they can win four. Have you talked to the guys about bowl eligibility?
    That is the exact thing I said to the team, and he just parodied it to you. [Laughing] Which is a good sign. That is a positive... for me, but I don't know about you.

    Is it difficult to motivate after four-straight losses?
    No. This team has played really hard the last three games, and they have gotten better the last three games. Teams have played really good games against them, good football teams.

    They understand that each week we seem to be getting closer and closer to that goal of winning a football game. As I've said before, there's still a lot of youth on this football team, so they've got a lot of games to play. They can keep getting better each and every game.

    Certainly there are some guys on this team that their careers are coming to an end, and it's very important to them too. Every game is important. Maybe the nice thing is that we play in-state for the next three weeks. Maybe that helps motivational-wise and everything else."

    Do you have any sense of the NC State-Duke rivalry?
    I've just read that it has been close games and all that. I would think that is probably true of all the games between the 'Big Four' around here. You would just think that is the way it would be, and that is the way it should be. Is it a shame that with the schools being so close that they don't play more often?
    I would think it would be nice if the four of us could play... as I said, we played Duke once at BC, but I don't know if they are on BC's schedule again for whenever. State hasn't played them since [the ACC expansion]. That's something that hopefully they can work out, but they haven't found a way to do it.

    More thoughts on defense:
    A week ago it was third down, now we are on to the run defense. We have to take care of the rush first. We've rushed the ball better, but I don't think it shows in the stats the effectiveness that we've rushed the ball the last three weeks. We have to continue to improve that offensively, but certainly we have to do a better job of stopping the run. That will help you get off the field.


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