O'Brien: Tackling is a Major Issue

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

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    Tom O'Brien

    "At the safety position, we made the change a week ago, and we thought that we got out of the safeties what we needed to get out of the safeties last week. I think Clem Johnson played better than he has, and he's finally back to healthy and getting a couple of weeks of practicing."

    "Rashard Smith was coming back off the ankle, basically practiced a day and a half last week. We threw him in there because, at one point, whenever he went down, we thought he would be... a good boundary corner for us. Now that he's back healthy, he looked fine running around last night... this is basically the way we are."

    "At the field corner, neither one of those two kids have really seized the opportunity. That is still our best bet out there with Morgan and Wilson, and hopefully one of them is going to step up and take the position."

    "Certainly you have to go back and evaluate everything you did. The thing still comes down to third down. First of all you have to give Lewis a lot of credit. He was phenomenal. He was on the money. I don't think I have ever seen a quarterback throw that many passes in the right spot in a game, ever. Those balls were all catchable. They didn't have to make tough catches. They made good catches, but they were all perfect thrown balls."

    "Third down, we had opportunities to get off the field. You take the first one for example. They know the blitz is coming, we know the blitz is coming, they threw a two-yard ball that gets a 12-yard gain. The corner is right there to make a tackle. Make a tackle, they got to punt... they don't score the first touchdown, and who knows what happen if we go down and score and get ahead. We never brought enough pressure to bear down on him. He did a great job."

    "We've run into two quarterbacks that had pretty good games against us. You look at them, Skinner's started 44 games when we played them. Lewis has started 42. Our kid has started 16... he's a pretty good quarterback. What's he going to be like if he's here starting 42 games? That's what the future does and that's what experienced quarterbacks can do. We got them back-to-back."

    "We didn't make the plays Saturday night on defense to get off the field on third down that would have not allowed every touchdown that they scored. Down in the red zone, they dumped the ball to the tight end. They make a 12-yard gain that, if we're where we're supposed to be and make the tackle, that's a field goal and it's not a touchdown. There's a lot of things we could have done, but you have to give him a lot of credit because he had a great night, as good a night I can remember a quarterback doing against any team I have coached on as a head coach or as an assistant."

    "No, but certainly coming off two losses kind of negates all those other things. We need to go win a football game. They're a pretty good defense. You talk about a defense, that's a defense they've been playing for 10 years now that has taken them to bowl games. They know the defense. They recruit to the defense. There are people that can play the positions that they ask, and that's a little something that we're caught in right now."

    "We're about a year and a half into the defense. We're trying to recruit and get lined up and get the people in the right and understand all the nuances of it. We'll fight through this thing, but we're going to have to go up there and find a way to crack their defense and stop the tailback, he's a heck of a runner."

    "Their tailback is really good. The offensive line is good. They are power scheme, running the football. For the first time we have an inexperienced quarterback, but he's probably licking his chops after the last two games watching us play pass defense. We'll see how they do."

    "As I've said before, it's about time that we stood up and became accountable for ourselves and start tackling people and getting off the field."

    "We've worked awfully hard on them. We tackle Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It's just a question, you have to do it. You can't just do it in a drill. We don't take to the ground in practice, but certainly when you're in the position, you've got to be able to get a guy on the ground. You would think you'd have to do that."

    "Now, whether we don't have the right guys that can do that, we're going to find out. We finally got the secondary line the way we want to. We'll see if we're better, and if they're not then certainly we're going to have to go recruit guys."

    "We've got some guys redshirted. I'd rather not take them up this year. They are eight freshmen, whether redshirt or true freshmen, in the secondary on this roster right now. I think the future is bright, but the future is in Boston next Saturday."

    "I think [George Bryan is] a good match against linebackers, and that's generally what we've gotten him against in that situation. I think Russell has a lot of confidence in him that he's going to catch the football. Quarterbacks like to throw the ball to guys that are going to catch it. He knows he's going to get open. That's a function of we've got some pretty good wide receivers on the outside that allows him to operate against linebackers."

    "I thought Ray Brincefield and his people did a fabulous job."

    "Well because I said we had a system. We understood the defense and the kids understood the defense and understood the nuances it. I mean there are holes in everything, but you have to understand where the holes are. You have to be able, when things happen, to cover up those things. They always play hard and play with great passion."

    "At the end there, by the time I left, we had pro players, and that makes it pretty dang good. A lot of guys were drafted... it was a function of recruiting and working hard to get to that. It was a ten-year progression."

    "It's no different than what Bud Foster has done at Virginia Tech. They play the same defense. The nuance changes every year, but they recruit to what that scheme is. You give them a thing, and they are going to understand how they want to defend and how their people match up."

    "I tell my players it's a business trip. I'm not going up there for social."

    "They said that a year ago that it was the other way around. That's the way football goes. Everything is cyclical now I think. Certainly each year is different. 85 scholarships for the last 20 years has made a big difference in college football. It still comes back to if you've got a senior quarterback and a senior defense, you've got a chance to win a lot of football games."

    "I think that starts with us. I am in the mindset you don't get too high or you don't get too low whether you win or lose. Each week is a challenge. If you go through it and play 12 weeks in a season like the game you're playing is the most important there is, you can stay focused. It's always a problem for the kids... on the outside people either telling them they're too good, and they believe or if you call somebody a dog long enough they start barking. You got to make sure that they understand what's important is focus each and every week and we'll add them up at the end."

    "Certainly we've had good effort. Guys are running to the ball. We just haven't gotten the job done."

    "We kickoff covered better. I think we punted the ball well. Obviously kickoff return got us a big one. We still got to keep working on the punt return game because every time T.J. gets the ball in his hands he's a threat to go. We've got to keep working hard in those areas, but I think we made progress in those areas.

    "The ball that hit [Justin] Byers.... it's a right-footed kicker that the ball went left and he's running away and the ball bounces left and hits him right square in the back. That's one of those where you think this isn't our night. But we were still fighting... we couldn't get back in it at that point."

    "I think [Toney Baker] is getting more and more confidence. I think that's a product that he is having success. He's worked extremely hard to get to where he is. He looks almost now like the back he was in August 2007... running the football, powering through cuts, and running away from people. Hopefully, knock on wood, he's totally back to where he was. I know this, I've put in for a sixth year. I haven't heard back yet so I hope they'll give us a sixth year."

    "The question still comes most of the mistakes we made are self-inflicted. A year ago we had all the injuries and different situations, our quarterback wasn't experienced. The three drives that we started off the game with, you talk about making progress on offense, we went right down the field. One was a 79-yard touchdown, but the other two were well-executed, blocked well, protected well, and everything else."

    "Certainly we've made strides. The problem we've had from the start is not being able to get people on the ground, poor tackling, and that's repetition that we continue to do at practice. They are on the field. They have to get the guy down on the ground."

    "Missing Nate always was a major difficulty. But we knew from the start and we had to try and adjust and make plans to play without him. We can say what we want, but we don't have him so we can't worry about it... but it's certainly a good loss."

    "We actually go to the ground in practice. We don't do it in teamwork, but in our tackling drills we actually tackle on a mat. We have a station tackle on Tuesday in full pads where you actually hit through and go to the ground and run through the guy."

    "On Sunday and Wednesday we're in shoulder pads so we don't go to the ground, but it's all part of running through, hitting through, and getting guys on the ground. Everybody on defense does it."

    "I don't know if I've ever had a game without a penalty. I'm taking it as a positive that we're paying attention and getting things done. Nothing was called on Saturday night so I don't know if that was any good one way or another."


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