O'Brien Talks Rutgers

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

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    Tom O'Brien

    Thoughts on Rutgers:
    I think right now [Mike] Teel is playing really well at quarterback. They've got great receivers... obviously Kenny Britt is a big play guy. They make a lot of big plays in their passing game. Certainly the streak they are on is indicative of how good their offense has been lately.

    I've known Greg [Schiano] since my time in the Big East, and he's certainly... he's a defensive-minded coach. Those guys are always pretty sound on defense. Just the brief look I've see of them on tape, they hustle, they run to the football, and they are in good position most of the time.

    They are as hot as any team in the country right now, and it'll be a great challenge for our football team.

    Thoughts on recruiting the state of New Jersey:
    We will go up to New Jersey. We have some ties there from our days at Boston College, and people know us. A lot of times kids like to come south to go play football, so it might be a spot that we'll spend a little more time in.

    Russell Wilson and Mike Teel are two of the hottest quarterbacks in the country at the end of the regular season. With this break between the bowl games, can a quarterback get rusty?
    They certainly do, and that's something you have to be concerned with. Offensively, the timing in the passing game because obviously once you're in the season, you're in the groove, and you're working week-in and week-out, those things take care of themselves.

    Certainly the biggest concern in bowl games No. 1 would be the passing game on offense, certainly special teams play overall, for the same reason, and tackling on defense.

    Thoughts on Wilson's poise and composure:
    I think that's part of his makeup... he came here with those traits. Obviously some of the trials and tribulations we went through this year helped bring them out and made them a little more pronounced, but those are certainly things that he brought with him to campus.

    Update on Clem Johnson:
    I think he's supposed to get back on the practice field this week so we'll find out. He's going to make an effort to practice this week.

    How valuable is Clem Johnson?
    Certainly that would be valuable for us because we think he is our best safety. We're going to need our best players to slow this passing game down some.

    It would be fortunate for him too... if anybody has had a hard-luck year, he personifies everything that's been about this football team. I'd love for him to come back and be able to play and contribute.

    Thoughts on practice schedule and preparing on Rutgers:
    We spent basically a couple of days the last couple of weekends because classes are on and we're in the middle of exams. Exams end somewhere this afternoon to this evening. We'll go out a little bit today, and then we'll certainly work hard from here.

    This is an important stretch of practice time now from here through the open practice we're going to have Saturday afternoon. That will be basically the last of our practices that won't focus on Rutgers.

    Starting the next day we'll spend a couple of days before we leave here specifically on Rutgers because I found it's important that you have to work on them. You can't get ready at the bowl site, you just can't get it done, so we'll spend a couple of days.

    We'll finish with that practice on Saturday that will be open for the public. Hopefully all those people that want to come watch practice will come watch and then never ask me again... no I'm just kidding [laughing].

    What kind of things will you work on specifically?
    Just fundamentals, I mean we go back to the base fundamentals, whether it be throwing and catching the ball, tackling, steps, pass protection... it's similar to what we do in preseason and to what we do in spring practice. Work on base offense, base defense, base blitzes, base blitz pickup. Rutgers has a pretty good blitz package... we won't work on that, but we'll work against our defense in blitz mode and things like that.

    All those things you working on to become fundamentally sound and a better football team that certainly will help once you start thinking about playing against Rutgers.

    Thoughts on if bowl wins are a good indication of conference strength and team strength:
    I think it has to do with how good your football team is, and each bowl game is different because of the matchups you have. Certainly having ten teams be able to go to a bowl in our conference... the first it has happened, speaks to what is the strength of our conference.

    Obviously in September we were much maligned for not being because of one weekend in August or September, everybody shot down the ACC. But if you look at the end, Virginia played the toughest schedule in the country, Duke played the second-toughest, we played the third-toughest... a lot of it is all of us beating each other. I think Wake Forest was fifth or sixth or fourth.

    We didn't duck anybody out of conference when we played anybody and went out and played a tough schedule. Now the proof in the pudding... still comes down to we've got ten games, and we're going to have to win more than we lose in the bowl games to help what may be perceived our image of the ACC.

    Why open up the practice to the public?
    Because I think it's an opportunity, as I said everybody wants to come watch us practice, I hear this so I'm going to open one up. The bowl time is a good time to do it. We'll go through a normal practice. Anybody that wants to come watch, hopefully a lot of kids will come. We'll let them come run on the field with the team after the practice and whatever, and they'll go touch Fury or do whatever they want. It's a nice thing to do for the Wolfpack community who wants to come watch us practice.

    How soon did you begin noticing Nate Irving after you arrived here?
    Not really until the open week a year ago. As I said, there was nothing exceptional about him through spring practice or the first half of the year, but certainly about the time we had to make some changes, we wanted to give him opportunities. Some guys played better than they practice.

    Certainly he performed very well that last six-game stretch of the year last year. Through spring practice I think it gave him confidence. You have to play to get better. I think he felt he belonged on the football field and could be a force. Certainly he's another guy that we could've used all 12 games this year but we're thankful we had him the games we did.

    Have you ever met his high school coach?
    I haven't been down there, no... and now that we're off the road more it will be tougher to do.

    Thoughts on his bowl winning streak:
    I don't know what other coaches do because you don't go visit anybody during bowl season. All I know is I got waxed my first year by Colorado and did a bad job. Certainly changed some things from there and got into a rhythm of how we think we should do this. I think as important as anything else is the team buying in.

    As I said, the first year we went at Boston College [versus] Colorado, they went to win the game, we went to just go to a bowl game. You have to go with the intent that you're going to go there to win a football game and you have to prepare that way, and we did that from that point on at Boston College.

    I guess they still haven't lost since we lost to Colorado.

    Thoughts on having two-a-days during bowl practices:
    We'll have a two-a-day Wednesday and Friday. We just go back to that type of practice schedule and do it. It helps us I believe to get ready to play the game. That was one of the things we changed at Boston College.

    Thoughts on Anthony Hill's impact:
    Certainly a player of his caliber and playing... he's gotten better and better as the season's gone on. Having a player his caliber, and then when we lost Matt Kushner, that was a pretty big blow to us, but it gave George Bryan the opportunity to get in the game and play, and he certainly has helped a lot.

    Our offense has been a lot of two tight ends, and it's always been that way. It gives us opportunities to do those things, plus those two kids, as you notice they are not always in the tight end slot. They're kind of different positions all over the field because of their ability to get down the field and catch the ball. So it's helped us, not only in the running game but also in the passing game.

    Thoughts on Hill's leadership:
    I think that certainly he has as much to do with it as anybody. I remember, the team meeting we had in the open week before we got to the Duke game. We kept getting better and better, and I think talked about what our shortcomings were and what we had to do, and when I said, "Does anybody have any questions?", Anthony said, "Coach, can we have a players only team meeting." I said, "Certainly."

    From that point, you have to look at his leadership skills and his maturity level... that he would take the occasion to do that, and certainly with great benefit for the whole team.

    What's been the biggest key to the development of the offensive line?
    I think their health and they've played together for the most part. We lost [Julian] Williams for a couple of games there in mid stretch, but [Jake] Vermiglio had played a lot, both at guard and at tackle... that was part of the rotation set up in case we had somebody get hurt.

    I think obviously the growth and maturity of [Ted] Larsen. Certainly it all starts at the center position, and he's really been a pleasant surprise from his start at South Carolina until now. [Jerrail] McCuller has been steady at right tackle. [Meares] Green has been steady at right guard, and [John] Bedics has been there every game. Those four guys have been in there all the time, and you can only get better by playing.

    Offensive lines get better by staying together and knowing each other. There are so many double blocks, pass-off blocks, things like that that have to happen... they've grown certainly as a group.

    Thoughts on Meares Green's impact:
    He kind of helped Larsen at the start until Teddy figured it out all the time which way he's supposed to go, but Teddy's smart enough to figure it out. I think it's calming that Meares was there to help him if he made the wrong call.

    Have any of your underclassmen told you that they might put their name into the NFL Draft Advisory Board?
    Two.

    Can you tell me who they are?
    No... they can tell you if they want.

    So they told you they will or they might?
    I think they are going to go through with the process. As I said before the NFL has frowned on... in the past I guess they got record numbers of kids going in and throwing their names in the hat, so I guess, we as coaches are supposed to slow those things down.

    I'll tell you, it's [Willie] Young and [Jamelle] Eugene are the only two... of which neither at this point has any intention to leave, but they want to know.

    Is Mike Teel similar to anyone State has played this year?
    I really haven't thought of it in that way. We had him at camp at Boston College. He was kid out of Bosco that we knew a lot about. Greg Toal... actually Greg Toal coached him, Brian Toal's dad... we knew about him then, so I've only thought about since we've seen him first hand.

    Thoughts on Teel being a pocket passer:
    It's one thing to defend a guy that's in the pocket, it's certainly another to try and defend Russell Wilson.

    You have a first-team All-ACC quarterback, and you've also got a guy from everybody I've talked to everybody is really high on in Mike Glennon. Do they compete for the job after the season? Is Russell going into next season as the starter and Mike has to beat them out?
    Certainly Russell will go in as the starter because he is the starter, but he has to, and it's no different than any other position as we talked about... he's got to win his position back.

    Certainly Glennon will have the opportunity to be the starter. If he beats him out, he'll be the starter. We're going to play the best guy... doesn't matter who you are, where you are, what position you play.

    Have you ever had a situation in your career where you used two guys at quarterback?
    No... we did a little early at BC just because we weren't sure of who or what we had.

    I believe you've got to put the backup in a little bit... get him to play early in the year because I didn't want to be in the 10th game and the guy never taken a snap and you've got to win two games to be a championship team and he has never been there. You got to get him in the game.

    I'm not a big proponent of the two-quarterback system, but that's something for down the road. That's spring practice... we've got to get ready to play Rutgers.

    What do you like about Mike Glennon?
    That's spring practice... we can talk about that later. Any questions about Rutgers? You can come on Saturday and watch him and you guys can all make your own determinations.

    Thoughts on potentially finishing with a bowl win and winning record:
    I think it helps a lot. I think it shows that the direction of the program, that everything is headed in the right direction. I've said it all year that I'm positive that I know we're headed in the right direction. It validates it and gives proof to the fact that there is going to be a heck of a football team here and we're headed in the right direction.

    Was beating Boise State in Boise pretty special?
    I always said that was one of my top wins ever. It has to do more with the fact that we come into the conference, we're 5-3, tied with Florida State and end up going to a last-place bowl. That team was crushed. They thought they should at least go... and rightfully so.

    Here we go to Boise, we're playing the last game of their coach who hasn't lost a game... lost his first game he played there. It wasn't a bowl game, it was a home game for Boise. It was nothing... I mean everywhere we went it was, ... "Go Broncos!" All you heard... "Go Broncos!"

    To win that game, to go out there and do that... it was a great, great thing for Boston College football, to win that. They had every reason to go out there, lay down and not play and let them go out on a high note, but it didn't happen. We went out and played and played hard and beat a heck of a football team that ended up beating Oklahoma the next year.

    A lot of people may say because Boston College drop in the bowls... don't play as good as an opponent as they should... maybe that helps them win some of the bowl games:
    I don't know if a lot of people are volunteering to go play Boise State at Boise.

    Thoughts on Rutgers and their turnaround compared to NC State:
    I think his situation is different. I think they have six new coaches. Probably part of there, I would think this, I don't want to put words in his mouth, but certainly the transition is tough to do, and you get into the season, and once again Fresno State and North Carolina weren't two of the easiest teams to open up with. They got stung a little bit there, but to their credit, the staff and the team got on the same page and finished strong.

    What can you learn from their early games or is it pretty much moot at this point?
    No, we spend more time working on what they've done here the last month because that's the team we're playing. We're not playing the team they had in September... playing the team that finished in November.

    What's been different about Mike Teel?
    I don't know. I know that he's throwing better and playing well, but I haven't looked at all the tapes and seeing what they've done. He's certainly playing better at this stretch of the season than he did in the first part.


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