NC State released its organizational chart on Monday, a two-deep that included five true freshmen. O'Brien said of his freshmen class, "If you hit 50 percent in the class you are doing pretty good, I think we might hit 100 percent with this freshman class," O'Brien said of his freshman class. "This is a really good freshman class, a lot of them found their way onto the two-deep because they earned it."
HAYNES OPENS EYES
Perhaps the biggest surprise on the two-deep was at tailback, where redshirt freshman Dean Haynes was listed as starter. Haynes had spent all spring and the start of fall camp working out at corner, but the staff chose to move him two weeks ago.
"After the third scrimmage, I don't think any of us were satisfied with the production we were getting out of our tailback spot," said O'Brien.
Last year Haynes "opened a lot of eyes" on the scout team offense while playing offense, and O'Brien said he almost made the move in the spring but wanted to get the situation in the secondary more stable before switching Haynes over to tailback. He also complimented Haynes on his ability to quickly pick up the pass protection scheme on offense.
"He took the challenge and certainly earned the position," O'Brien said.
GREENE SHOWCASES HIS SKILLS
The reserve tailback Mustafa Greene, a true freshman who impressed the coaching staff with his running ability but still needs to work on his pass blocking skills.
O'Brien said that Greene "made more big runs in scrimmage situations than anybody," and pointed out that he was extremely talented with the ball in his hands.
Look for Greene to receive a lot of work over the next couple of games.
The two players expected to garner the most touches at tailback were Curtis Underwood and James Washington, but O'Brien said those two players would fit in "behind those guys," referring to Haynes and Greene.
O'Brien said that one of his veteran receivers said it best when he told the coach that "[the freshmen] look like the guys we play against."
O'Brien also stated that they were going to make mistakes early but that playing the three true freshmen was "good for the program in the long run."
He added that he expects those players to push for starting jobs as the year goes on, and the players in front of them have experience, which gives him more confidence in the secondary than he had of the unit at this time last fall.
Junior college transfer Mikel Overgaard is starting at right tackle, and O'Brien complimented the junior's footwork and athleticism, stating he has the makeup of linemen the staff produced at Boston College. He pointed out that they went out and recruited Overgaard after R.J. Mattes went down with a torn ACL last fall.
"He can move his feet," said O'Brien of Overgaard. "He can stay in front of other guys, he can get out and run. He's athletic, the kind of guys we've had success with in the past."
O'Brien did have some good news regarding Mattes, saying the redshirt junior would put on shoulder pads on Tuesday and do some individual work. His hope is to have Mattes back fully participating in practice in a week or two. "[Mattes] is as tough as anybody up front," said O'Brien. "He'll be a leader once we get him back on the field."
Left tackle Robert Crisp, the highly-rated recruit in the 2010 class, is listed on the two-deep behind senior Jake Vermiglio. O'Brien plans to mirror what the staff did with Cameron Wentz last year, playing Crisp as a back-up his first year in hopes of having him ready to start by next season at left tackle.
O'Brien raved of Crisp, saying he has all the physical traits you look for in a left tackle and for NC State the plan is that starting in 2011, "hopefully you've got yourself an NFL left tackle for three years."
* Mike Glennon is on what O'Brien called the "Matt Ryan schedule," where he will start as a redshirt junior next season. He admitted that Glennon is frustrated at times with his playing time, but that the staff has been up-front with him and he'll have to find some time to play Glennon this year since "he has to be ready to go in at a moment's notice."
* T.J. Graham impressed coaches during the spring practice with his improvement at wideout, as O'Brien said the junior was "making catches and making cuts that we hadn't seen from him." He also said that Graham has worked hard during the fall camp and has shown more maturity and confidence.
* O'Brien called the battle for the starting spots on the defensive line the toughest battle of the camp because all eight of those players were the closest. "Any one of those eight guys could be in the game at any time and be a functional part of our defense," O'Brien said. He added that he wants to have somebody fresh in the fourth quarter, and that they'll be a rotation set up to get all eight in the game.
* Junior Jeff Rieskamp was expected to be a major contributor on last year's team but a sports hernia injury kept him out all season. O'Brien called him a 'relentless player' who should be able to help the Pack get pressure on the quarterback. Rieskamp beat out Michael Lemon for a starting spot at defensive end.