"You come off the field on Thursday morning and there's at least 48 hours before the game," O'Brien said when asked about the change. "You feel like you're a much fresher football team from Thursday on. I think it will help us better with our academics and class, everything else. By 11 or noon they'll be done here, they'll go back to campus, can go be students, get all their work done, and be finished with football for the day.
"Just trying to help us be better at that plus be better coaches and be fresher... it gets you out in recruiting if you want to leave Thursday instead of guys running off the field Thursday night trying to make airplanes and doing all those kind of things."
Redshirt junior tailback Curtis Underwood agrees with his head coach.
"I think we'll be fresher," said Underwood. "I think it's the prefect system. Coach knows what he's doing."
Underwood is a player NC State needs to be fresh with the Wolfpack looking to replace tailbacks Jamelle Eugene and Toney Baker. Eugene and Baker accounted for 1,557 total yards and 11 scores last season, and having both healthy enabled the Wolfpack coaching staff to redshirt Underwood in 2009. The year away from game action has Underwood motivated and ready to play in front of Wolfpack fans in Carter-Finley Stadium.
"It's an antsy feeling," he said. "I just want to get out there with my team and hopefully produce some wins with the guys. We all are just working hard, trying got get better."
In 16 career games Underwood has 200 yards of total offense and a touchdown primarily as the Pack's No. 3 back in the rotation. Most believe Underwood and sophomore James Washington are competing for the starting job as sophomore Brandon Barnes is sidelined with a dislocated ankle. Washington totaled 120 yards and three scores as a true freshman, and the lightning-quick 6-foot, 180-pounder appears to be the perfect complement to Underwood, a 5-foot-11, 220-pound downhill runner.
"We're both in there trying to work hard," Underwood stated. "Coach knows who he has in his mind to be the starter. It's up to him to judge at the end of the day. All I know is all the running backs, we bring our lunch pail and hard hat to work everyday. We're just all trying to get better as a unit."
Expected to join Underwood and Washington at tailback are true freshmen Tony Creecy and Mustafa Greene. Creecy spent most of his high school career at wide receiver but is now transitioning to tailback. Greene, one of the top prep rushers in South Carolina last season, will compete for playing time right away.
"I like the way Mustafa hits the hole," said Underwood. "He attacks it hard and gets after it. He lowers his shoulder… he has a nice running style.
"They are going to be future stars at NC State. They are working hard and picking up the offense fast… faster than any other freshmen, faster than I did. Those guys are looking good out here."
Fall camp is now in full swing and the Pack held its first scrimmage on Monday.
"It was a lot of hard hitting," said Underwood. "Competing out there, the offense against the defense. It went good. Everybody is a little rusty still, but that's a part of the grind of camp.
"It was real physical. The defense was flying around, hitting, getting everything moving. The offensive line was creating a new line of scrimmage. There' s a lot of learning still to do. We're getting ready to go again."
NC State's next scrimmage is Friday and the opening game of the season is just weeks away when NC State will host Western Carolina at 6 pm in Carter-Finley Stadium.
"The atmosphere is unbelievable," said Underwood. "I just can't wait."