O'Brien: Players Win Position Battles

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Tom O'Brien discusses the season opener against South Carolina with the media.

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    Tom O'Brien

    Could you talk about Toney Baker and R.J. Mattes listed as starters?
    Any position on the depth chart was certainly a position that was won through spring practice and summer camp. That's what we have to go on and the depth chart reflects the efforts of those individuals who have done the best job during those practices and scrimmages.

    Right now it's how we're going to start the season and may not be how we end up, but they have won the right to be in the starting lineup right now and that's where we're going. They'll start the game.

    Do you feel like you have Toney Baker and Jamelle Eugene back at that level... two or three years ago?
    I think they both... I don't know if Toney, we won't know until he gets in a football game. He's certainly a lot better than he was in spring practice, and certainly did a great job in preseason... scrimmage times the opportunity to carry the ball, catch the ball, do his blitz pickups...

    Jamelle has come back off surgery surgery and worked his way back in. I think he'll be as effective as he always have.

    It's a good position to be in, to have two backs of that caliber. They'll share time. I don't know if you can say there's a starter or backup. They are the same.

    After all Toney has been through, what does it mean to you as a coach to see him come back and be at the top of the depth chart?
    I think it speaks a lot to the team. They know the hard work and dedication he did... the tremendous job our training staff did with him.

    He spent a lot of extra time in the training room and strength & conditioning area. No injury, you can't come back from and he's done a great job to get himself back in this position.

    Hopefully anybody on our team that's injured knows that if they do what they are supposed to do they'll be able to get themselves back on the football field.

    DeAndre Morgan is listed behind C.J. Wilson. Is that injury?
    It's the same thing as I just said about the other two guys.

    How comfortable or concerned are you with the secondary?
    I think we're very athletic and that's what you want to be. That's what you want to be. What we're lacking is experience. The only thing you can do is get in the football game and play.

    We're going to find out Thursday night what their experience level is. They are talented, and they are going to play hard. That's all we can ask of them right now.

    In the last few weeks you lost some in secondary, lost Nate... after watching the scrimmages, should the defensive line have higher expectations than the secondary/back seven?
    Certainly because they have experience. They've played in games. You're still an unknown factor on some of these kids because they have never played in a football game. It's their opportunity.

    They've worked hard to get in the position they are in. They've practiced well, they've done it on the practice field and scrimmage situations. Now we'll see it if they'll do it when the lights come on Thursday night.

    Thoughts on competition at punter:
    It's the same answer. There is competition. The guy listed #1 right now won the job through his performance in practice and scrimmage opportunities.

    Jeff was much more consistent and has earned the right to kick the ball on Thursday night.

    Is there a set gameplan to get Mike Glennon in the game?
    We'll figure it out as the week goes on. Generally what I've done in the past is in the second quarter he'll go in.

    Whether it's a set number of series or a feel thing, he'll play meaningful situations somewhere in the second quarter.

    Who is your third tight end right now?
    Asa Watson.

    Thoughts on being able to play Thursday night:
    I think it's a great opportunity for us to play the first game of the year on national TV. It's why you schedule a game like this.

    It has energized the Wolfpack Nation, not that you really have to do that, but it's certainly taken them to a new level. It's the buzz around town right now.. the opportunity to be on television and know everyone will be watching is a treat for the players.

    How different do you feel going into this game as opposed to last year?
    We've got a couple of questions in a couple of different spots, but we certainly don't have questions in key spots like quarterback, offensive line, and up front on defense. Those are things... when we've won football games we've won because we've been good up front and had good quarterback play.

    We're a lot more experienced, in that regard, than we were at this point a year ago.

    So its easier to hide some of the question marks this year?
    I don't know if you can mask them because I think everybody knows who and what you are.

    When you have the guys who touch the ball every snap and never played in a game and had to do it on the road... spent most of the first quarter looking at the crowd... I don't think that will be the case Thursday night.

    Thoughts on USC quarterback Stephen Garcia:
    We had recruited him so we had him, looked at him in high school at BC... his brother went to Harvard. He's very athletic, strong arm.. can pull the ball down and run with it. He can do a lot of different things with the football.

    You've got to contain him and keep him in the pocket, not let him out of the pocket. He's just as likely to pull it down as he is to throw it 60 yards down the field.

    Is DeAndre Morgan hurt?
    He's on the two-deep. There is no injury report. You can ask me Thursday... Tuesday. Tuesday is Thursday. You figure it out. There's no injury report on Sunday, today's Sunday. Did you go to church? [Laughing]

    Thoughts on kicker Josh Czjakowski:
    He's been very consistent since that first scrimmage. He's kick the ball well, done extremely well in practice.

    Overall thoughts on South Carolina:
    On defense they led their conference last year in defense and have [Eric] Norwood back. I don't think they are going to change their defense, their defensive staff is pretty much in tact.

    Offensively they have all new coaches so we're not exactly sure what they are doing. Of course, coach Spurrier is still there so the passing game won't change much. They've talked about different ways of running the ball, trying to run the ball better so we're not sure what that entails.

    They have a freshman, reading some of their scrimmage reports, and he's played in their 'Wildcat' formation or whatever they call it down there. The kid that's their corner, Gilmore, has played some quarterback. That's the new thing in college football so we have to be ready for that on offense.

    Do you want the guys thinking of last year's game or out of their minds?
    No, we'll look at the tape, but there is no such thing as revenge. It was our fault we lost 34-0. The thing we can learn from is we can't make the mistakes we made last year and expect to be in the football game.

    We have to be much better on offense to keep the defense off the field... they wore down in the fourth quarter of last year's game, played pretty good until then. We have to be able to play from the outset and play good football to be able to win.

    Thoughts on C.J. Wilson:
    C.J. has really done a tremendous job in camp. In spring practice when we were down, Morgan was out with a hamstring, that gave some of those younger guys... once again it was a blessing. They got to play a little more and their development sped up.

    He's done extremely well in the scrimmages and put himself in a position to see what he can do Thursday night.

    How comfortable are you with Terrell and Dwayne at weakside linebacker with Nate Irving out?
    I'd certainly rather have Nate, but now that we can't they are going to have to carry the load and step up and make plays.

    It's an opportunity for both of them and they'll get in the game and play. We have to see how Manning does in game situations. How many snaps he gets, I don't know, but he's certainly going to play a good portion of the football game.

    Thoughts on Earl Wolff:
    He's really a physical player, which is what you want at that position. I think the thing is he has much greater knowledge of the defense than he did pre-spring. He did a good job learning the defense and is much better at executing the things we want out of him in our defense.

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