It's an important week for our football team and our football program. It's kind of a bounce-back psychologically and emotional off of a tough game against Virginia Tech. I think anytime you play someone that is as good a football team as North Carolina State is and the way that they're playing - certainly obviously also with the rivalry - it certainly helps you get over the funk of last week's game. I think if yesterday's practice is any indication, our kids have moved on. They understand the magnitude of this game. It's something that we want to play well. We want to kind of fix the things we didn't do as well as we needed to do last week. We fix those things, it's going to give us the best chance to win.
Obviously you've faced
Russell Wilson in the past. What is it about his
game that sets him apart, makes him difficult to
defend? Are there any differences you've
noticed in his game watching him on film this
year versus prior seasons?
Certainly, one, you have to start with the fact that he's an outstanding athlete. But I think eventually you have to get over the athletic aspect of it because he's been a good athlete the entire time he's been at NC State. I think now you move into what defines a quarterback, and that's performance and execution and obviously the older you get the more experience you gain, the more confidence you gain. He's got a very good arm. To categorize him as just an athlete would be a gross misjustice. He can throw the ball extremely well, he can throw the ball deep about as well as any quarterback that I've seen. He's got a very good arm. Obviously anyone that has had three years of benefit of starting, they play with a lot of confidence.
I know you probably don't
care much about this, but one of the thoughts
I've been hearing this week is that the State
players seem to care much more about this
rivalry on their side than maybe North Carolina
does. Even heard that Tom O'Brien stresses
this game more than you do. Would you agree
or disagree with that?
I have no idea what they stress at their institution. We stress the fact that we want to play extremely well every single week. There are certain games that are going to carry, just by the nature of the who the game is, more magnitude. To sit here and say that North Carolina playing NC State doesn't have more significance, more magnitude than maybe Miami or an out-of-state school would be wrong. I think if you're going to win the ACC, you have to win all ACC games. You can't play well in one game and say that the others don't matter. Just because of the close proximity of the two schools, it's one of the most unique situations in probably all of college football with the exception of UCLA and USC, where they're right there in each other's backyard. That certainly carries a magnitude in and of itself. I think it's very important to our football team and our program.
What is your assessment of
where the program is in year four under you?
I think that we've made strides in some areas. You never really know until you get into a program in years one and two exactly what's the state of the program from a talent level, from depth, experience, all those kinds of things. Obviously, becoming Bowl-eligible three years in a row is a certain barometer. In and of itself, it's not the total barometer of whether you're making progress. But I do think that we've definitely moved in the right direction. I think each year we've moved in the right direction. I think we'll continue to do that in the future.
Is there anything you know now in
year four about building this particular program
that maybe you didn't know heading into it?
Yeah. I mean, clearly I think that every year there's things that are revealing. I think each year that you go out and you recruit, you find out more about your own institution, what appeals to certain kids, what types of families want to be a part of your program, the proximity of athletes to the school from not only within the state, the immediate states that surround North Carolina, whether or not you have opportunities to recruit kids extended outside of a 300- or 400-mile radius, can you recruit nationally, can you not recruit nationally. There is a lot of things we're going to continue to learn. We're going to continue to learn about it in the next couple of years.
Speaking about recruiting, it does
seem like there are a lot of good athletes you
have coming in. Generally speaking, what can
you say about the class that you're
Well, obviously there's not a lot of great deal; NCAA doesn't allow you to talk about specific kids or anything. One of the things, when you inherit a program, sometimes how close you get to the finish line to the finished product depends upon where you start. Some programs, new coaches, new coaching staff, they start off halfway already finished. In 2007, you take the inherited roster that you have and you have to take a look at it and say: "Where are some of the voids? Do we have enough players, not only just talented players, but do we have enough players at specific positions?" I'll go back and talk about things in 2007. When you inherit a team, you don't inherit a punter. There's certain things you have to spend some of your first couple years just trying to make immediate quick fixes as fast as you can with an eye towards the future. Four years later, the (senior) class that we have this year is a combination of my first recruiting class and some of the fifth-year seniors that belong to Coach (John) Bunting. Of these 17 seniors that are going to play this Saturday, 13 of them are going to graduate this December and four more of them are going to graduate this spring. They've obviously been a part of helping build this program. They've helped build the program to the point that we've qualified, as I said earlier, for three bowls in a row. Each year you have a better idea - these kids are graduating, these kids are leaving the program, so the next recruiting class needs to be reflective of what your depth charts, what your needs for your team are, not only in 2011, but 2012 and '13.
I don't know how much negative
recruiting you're running into out there. With
the NCAA investigation still unresolved,
generally speaking what do you and your staff
tell potential recruits about that stuff to keep
their faith in the program?
Well, one, certainly the academic credibility of this institution is still a tremendous school. It has been and it always will provide kids with a great college education and a great experience. I think certainly the NCAA review is almost totally wound down. It's something that's going to be resolved in the very near future. I think certainly the players that we're recruiting not only for 2011, but kids we're recruiting for 2012 and '13, they recognize the commitment by the University of North Carolina with the stadium expansion project, coaching staff. I think it's something that they're excited about the future of the program.
You don't relay any concerns about
missing bowl games?
Only from the competition. Only the competition, the things that a lot of our recruits are very frustrated with is the amount of misinformation, things that people are saying that have absolutely have zero credibility.
Kind of surprising when you look at
the history of State and Carolina - Carolina hasn't won the ACC title
since 1980, NC State since 1979. Does that
surprise you at all that those schools haven't
been in the hunt for championships more over
the last three decades?
Yeah, probably so, to be honest with you. I think that certainly the conference in and of itself got strengthened from a football perspective when Florida State joined the ACC, obviously most recently with Boston College and Virginia Tech and Miami. I think those programs gave a tremendous amount of strength to the program, a tremendous amount of credibility. People forget when Florida State joined the conference; at the time they joined they may have gone through one of the most unprecedented runs in college football. Like Miami, they went to 12 or 13 BCS Bowl games in a row. I think Coach Bowden's teams, I'm going to misquote this, I think they were in the top five in the country for like 10 years in a row. When you have a program that comes into a conference that's that strong, they certainly have an opportunity to affect the outcome of who wins the conference championship. Also the good thing about that, from my own personal experience, we went 1-15 with the Dallas Cowboys. I think a lot of the coaches that were there would tell you that one of the things that helped us build the Cowboy program into a program that won three Super Bowls was the fact that the Washington Redskins were in our division and they had won three Super Bowls, the New York Giants were in our division and won two Super Bowls, and the Philadelphia Eagles were knocking at the door of it. When you have teams in your conference that are very, very talented, it gives you a benchmark as a way to measure the growth of the success of your program. I don't think necessarily that's a bad thing.