Busy week obviously getting ready for NC State, a team that's extremely well-balanced. It's one of the reasons that, before the season started, I thought they would have an excellent year and I still think they will.
Well-coached, a good offense...obviously a great player, Russell Wilson, with some great players around him. Defensively a tremendous front, very difficult to deal with and they are excellent in the kicking game, particularly in the area of returns.
We have our hands full. We've had a good work week to this point, but it's going to take more and a great deal of improvement for us to have a chance in Raleigh.
Do you think you should be able to attack the Wolfpack through the air?
North Carolina State doesn't give up many rushing yards. We're built better to throw the ball than we are to run it. That's where our strength lies overall as a team.
We always go into a game with a goal rushing and trying to maintain balance, have some success there because it can certainly enhance your passing game. Again, always looking for balance, but I think everybody pretty much knows we're going to put the ball in the air a good bit also.
Do you expect both passing games to be on display this week?
I know they are going to throw it and put it way down the field because that's what they did to us a year ago, but they are a physical team. Their offensive front is good and with Tom's history, if he can run it he's going to run the football. First thing we're going in to is try and defend the run.
If we can stop the run, just maybe we'll have a chance to slow them down or they miss a throw or two... an incompletion here or there to stop drives.
If they can run the ball on you and throw it as well as they do you are in trouble.
Can you talk about the tight end position in college football? There's only one player in the ACC or SEC that ranks in the top ten in receptions. Is that a position that's kind of becoming de-emphasized with all of the spread offenses out there?
I think it's because people spread the field they are able to play with hybrid guys, big wide receivers who can serve as tight ends when you need them in the running game.
It's a tough position to recruit great players. We have some guys that are very effective. We use the tight end a lot, usually one right now, not two. For years and years we put two tight ends in the game, one of them would be playing in the backfield for some level.
It's unique. When you see them in the NFL and you get a great one they really use them, but it's hard to get that big guy who plays like a tackle, that's 6'5, 6'6 weighs 260 and runs like a deer, runs like a wide receiver. That's what we're all looking for, but they are just few and far between.
I do think the spread offenses have had something to do with the diminishing numbers that certain guys have at tight end.
Do those guys with those physical characteristics prefer to play defensive end most of the time?
Well there's more money in it, absolutely. Those guys, those beasts, they make a whole lot more money beating that left tackle on a pass rush. That has a lot to do with it.
With smaller corners what do you try to do to stop their bigger wide receivers?
You've got to try and keep them from getting off the line of scrimmage or you double cover them. Our guys need some help, but at times you've got to pressure and put them one-on-one. If you put them one-on-one you better do two things, not let them get very far downfield, and No. 2 is your front, when you do go after him, make him throw it a little earlier than he wants to.
What's happened to us is a combination of both has occurred. Guys have made us miss or got away from us and hold the ball, the farther down the field our guys are at risk with those size limitations they might have.
On the upcoming game at N.C. State on Saturday:
We've got our work cut out for us. Looking at North Carolina State, they're certainly improved from a year ago on both sides of the ball. Russell Wilson is one of the premier players in our conference, if not the country. As far as a playmaker, he may be as good as there is. They have speed and size at receiver, size up front on offense. Defensively, they've got the most productive front in the league right now. They lead the ACC in sacks for a reason.
On playing at N.C. State's home field, Carter-Finley Stadium:
It should be a great atmosphere playing at their place, but a huge challenge for us as we try to continue on this path to being competitive and getting better. It's a big, big ballgame for us.
On how he understands Tobacco Road's football rivalries:
I've been such a football fan from when I was a little fella, I've been very aware of all of these programs on Tobacco Road. The natural rivalries that exist in basketball are where the fire gets fanned (for football) now-a-days. You feel disappointment from the Duke and North Carolina State people because we don't play every year with the division of the conference. It's kind of a rival that people miss. It makes this one a little bit bigger when the two years roll around when we play each other. I hear it a lot in town, and I've been here a while so I see a lot of Wolfpack faithful. It's pretty cool, and people are so unbelievably lucky to live here, that without an affiliation, they can just pick a ballgame and go to it.
On where Duke has improved through the first five games:
We've gotten better all the way across the board. Certainly, our offensive line has fought hard and continued to get better through injury, through inexperience, whatever the circumstance is. Our receiving corps, and our playmaking ability in general, has improved on offense whether it's tight ends, running backs or receivers, and I think Thad (Lewis') play has certainly improved. On the defensive side, we've tackled really well at times. We've won the battle at the line of scrimmage often, which is something we weren't doing well enough early. Probably one of the biggest areas is our consistency in the kicking game. That may be the key element this week. North Carolina State's such a great return team – both kickoff and punts – that we're going to have to be our very best in the kicking game to win. That's an area where we've improved, but we're getting ready to be tested Saturday.