O'Brien: 'They Respond to his Leadership'

N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien discussed this week's game against Wake Forest today in his weekly teleconference. O'Brien talked about Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner, Wolfpack defensive end Michael Lemon, and much more.

Opening Statement:
We were very fortunate to come away with a victory here against Saturday, a very good Pittsburgh team. We've started our preparation to go to Wake Forest... a very experienced team, senior-oriented team led by a great quarterback in Riley Skinner and on defense by his former teammate John Russell.

We look forward to our first road trip and our first ACC game.

You've said you don't pay attention to other people's rankings of recruits. Can you break down why you don't?
Well I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think it's important that everybody runs different schemes on defense, different schemes on defense, and I think the most important thing in recruiting is to recruit people that fit into your philosophy on how you want to do things.

Once again by the initial statements, in the eye of the beholder, you have to look at who is doing the recruiting rankings in one day or another.

How have you seen Riley Skinner progress throughout his career?
He's very mature in the pocket. He has tremendous pocket presence, and he doesn't take sacks. He understands where the pressure comes from and he's able to move around in the pocket to find a hole to throw the ball in. He won't take a sack.

He's as experienced and mature as anybody in our conference right now. You watch the football team and they respond to his leadership. We looked at four games of his this year alone, and about 3:40 or so he takes the ball all the way down the field against Stanford and wins the football game. Last Saturday, four minutes to go in the game and they are down by two touchdowns or whatever and he gets them into overtime. For whatever reason it didn't work out for them in overtime.

I think that's the mark of a great quarterback... to be able, when it's crunchtime, to make the plays, and he's done that consistently throughout his career.

Can you talk about the transition Michael Lemon has made and how he is maturing each week?
He had some academic issues that had to be cleared up coming into school so he was late to camp, but having played at the college level before being here the pace of practice wasn't new to him, the physicality of playing at this level was something he was used to.

I think the biggest thing he had to adjust to was the terminology from the way defenses were called at Georgia and the way we do here, but he changed apples to oranges pretty quickly.

His maturity level, he's had to grow up awful fast for a young man, and he's been a delight to be around. His teammates love him and he fits right into our family on the football team. He's got better each week as he becomes more comfortable into the scheme of our defense.

With a young quarterback like Russell going against a senior at Wake Forest do you have to do any special preparation to try to keep them from trying to do too much?
That's always a problem, it doesn't matter who you're playing... as far as I'm concerned with a quarterback is he operates within the framework of your offense and what you're trying to accomplish that week.

One thing that is a joy about coaching Russell Wilson is I think he totally understands what we're trying to accomplish each and every week as we implement the gameplan, and he does a great job on Saturday of going out and executing as well as any quarterback we've been around.

You always seem to have a really outstanding conclusion when you play the Deacs. I guess you get your team ready to play the whole game right?
That's one of the goals is to make sure we show up and play hard and smart. We haven't been very good, and I've done a pretty bad job at playing smart.

We've played hard, but our goal this week is to play hard, play smart, and play for 60 minutes. If it goes longer then that we have to play harder and longer.

With Skinner and how good Wake's receivers look, how important is it for your young secondary to play beyond their years this week?
They have to because one thing Wake Forest does is they are very innovative in how they do things. They are very good at exploiting weaknesses. Jim, having coached at an academy, I think one of the things you do is do a great job of trying to match your personnel and putting them in the best position to succeed.

We've had some problems with the secondary with inexperience and making some mistakes so we'll be holding our breath on Saturday I'm sure.

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