O'Brien: Manning Playing Faster

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Tom O'Brien met with the media following Tuesday's practice. O'Brien discussed a number of topics including linebacker Terrell Manning and his special teams unit.

Can you talk about Billy Bennett and what he would have brought to the kickoff team? Now that he's not here, what are your plans?
Well, it's going to have to be on Josh Czajkowski's shoulders. He spent all summer trying to get more elevation and more hang time and more distance, which he's been able to do. If he can get five to 10 yards further on his kick then that should be sufficient enough plus hopefully we're deeper, more athletic on the kickoff team and we can get down there and cover the kicks.

How has Jeff Ruiz looked punting the ball?
He's been doing fine. He's got more hang time and little bit more distance and same thing, hopefully we can cover a little bit better and net punting will go up.

How much did those hidden yards hurt you guys last year?
Well, that was certainly a factor. We put ourselves in difficult situations but we aided it by the way we played sometimes too.

Can you talk about Terrell Manning and how he's progressed?
He certainly has. Playing last year, he was like a lot of those first-time players. He use the whole offseason and spring practice to get better. The more you play, the more experienced you are, the faster you play. And he's certainly playing faster than he was at this time last year.

What type of prospect was Manning in high school?
I don't know what his ranking was in the state, but we thought he was a great prospect. Certainly he was set back by his knee injury in the playoff game. It cost him a redshirt year but in the long run it's been better for him because he's a little more physical. He's got a little more weight on him now than he would have if he would have come right in out of high school.

Has there been any separation between Manning and Dwayne Maddox to this point?
I don't know that yet. We still have until Monday to make that decision. We're using this week to shuffle the deck a little bit again and we'll see how it works out through Saturday's practice.

How is the offensive line doing with pass protection?
They've been seeing a lot of different things so hopefully they will get settled down. Until Mattes comes back, I don't know what we're going to do up front right now. We're still in flux.

Is that also a challenge for the younger guys in the backfield?
Oh yeah. That's the biggest thing they have to learn is pass protection. And whoever learns it fastest will be the first one in the game if the younger kids are going to play.

How has Michael Lemon come on so far in practice?
He's much more comfortable. He's like a sophomore even though he's in his last year of eligibility. He came in last year late to camp because of some academic situations and he really didn't get to know guys until we got through the year a little bit. He's much more comfortable. He knows everybody and everybody knows him so his relationship is much more of a family situation now than it was a year ago.

How has Dean Haynes looked recently?
Dean is doing a good job. He works hard. He's a great kid. Every play he goes is 100 percent, he doesn't know any other speed so he's got a chance to get better each and every play and that is good for us.

How has Audi Augustin looked opposite Michael Lemon?
He's got more experience because he's been around more than anybody else but it's the same thing with those four guys, Rieskamp and Akinniyi fighting to try and get their way onto the field.

Have you been able to judge the switch to morning practices yet? Have guys been more attentive?
8:30 a.m. is when you normally do a two-a-day morning practice so the thing is we're still working through this. We've got guys who have 11:45 a.m. classes so we're trying to get them in there, showered and getting them a bite to eat and making sure they get to class on time. That's the hurdle we face with this. Other schools who do this don't really start school until 1 p.m. or later.

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