O'Brien: 'It Will Be A Great Challenge'

N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien discussed this week's game against Pittsburgh today in his weekly teleconference. O'Brien talked about the Panthers, the return of Donald Bowens and DeAndre Morgan, and much more.

Opening Statement:
We're looking forward to Pittsburgh's visit here on Saturday, a team that some picked to win the Big East. They are a very experienced team... big, powerful football team that likes to run the football and stop the rush. It will be a great challenge for our team here on Saturday.

How do you think your team is going to respond to the challenge, especially with some of the issues you've had to deal with on the offensive line?
That's a major concern for us, the offensive line. We could be starting our fourth different offensive line in the fourth game of the year.

We've got a lot of work to do up front. Their front four is very formidable, a lot of lettermen. They've got three-year letterman at nose tackle. The end's are two-year lettermen... they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback.

I believe they lead their conference with 15 sacks so far in three games and one of those games was Navy who doesn't throw the ball a heckuva lot.

They've done a great job. They are top three in stopping the rush in their conference, and they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. We've got a lot of work to do to keep Russell free.

Can this Pitt game be a springboard for the rest of the season or will it have no effect once conference play starts?
It certainly will have an effect. It's a key football game for our football team. It's our last out-of-conference game before we go in-conference, and it will be a great test to see who and what we are after a couple of I-AA teams we played the last two weeks.

Dion Lewis is a smaller guy, Pitt's running back. What are the challenges for a defense playing a small tailback? You have one in Eugene.
The problem is you have to find him. The play with a bunch of 6'5, 6'6, 6'4 offensive linemen... big, powerful guys who like to knock you back.

He's done a great job of picking seams... he sort of squirts through before you can find where he is. He has the ability to run away from people.

They had a great back last year in McCoy and found another one in Lewis. 5'8, 195 pounds... he's got some power too. He's not just quick and fast.

What attracted you guys to Earl Wolff and how has he progressed to get into your starting lineup?
When he came to camp he did a great job. We had his tape from high school and knew he was a physical player. We just had to make an assessment on his abilities to run and break on the ball... do all the things you ask a safety to do.

He's earned his way into the starting lineup. That's been a position ever since DaJuan Morgan has left a couple of years ago that has been in flux for us. He's the guy, with his skills, that has been able to perform the tasks we need done by the boundary safety.

You haven't really been tested since the opener against South Carolina. Is this team ready for Pittsburgh?
We hope so. We're going to have to be. It's a big, physical football team and play smashmouth football. They come at you with a 5'8 tailback and a 6'2, 260-pound fullback in front of him blocking. We're going to have to be ready.

Our major concerns is, I've said before the offensive line, coming in... injuries, we went into last week's game without a starting left tackle and left guard. The secondary is still a concern. We had some movement around in the secondary trying to figure out the four guys. We played without a safety last week and lost a corner in the first quarter.

The two big areas that you want to be more consistent in and can get you beat the fastest, the offensive line and secondary, we're still a little bit unsettled.

Can you talk about the importance of having Donald Bowens and DeAndre Morgan back this week?
Well Donald Bowens had a much longer road to get back and he's worked very hard to get back on the football field. He was noticably rusty on Saturday, but we wanted to get him in the game, throw him the ball and get him tackled, and do those things that we needed to see out of him. I think he'll continue to get better each and every week.

DeAndre, the same situation, when we lost Rashard Smith we were very fortunate that he was able to get a week of practice in and get back on the field. He gives us an experience factor that we really don't have in the secondary. He played well throughout that game, and we're going to have to count on him going forward now.

Speaking of Bowens, how difficult is it coming back as a wide receiver to re-establish timing after coming back from an injury?
Well it is, but as a lot of freshmen are able to come in and play early at the wide receiver position because it's more a skill position than a technique position.

He has that in his memory base, what he's supposed to do, it's just a question of making sure that his body gets there. As I said earlier, after his first practice on Tuesday he had trouble getting out of the bed in the morning on Wednesday because he was sore all over.

Just getting the kinks back out, and certainly last week helped a lot. I think he'll be better going forward here.

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