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September 14, 2009NC State head football coach Tom O'Brien met with the media Monday afternoon for his weekly press conference. He addressed his personnel following two games, the latest a 65-7 romp of Murray State at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Among the highlights from the PC:
-Redshirt freshman linebacker William Beasley will likely not play this year, but no reason was given.
-O'Brien did not dismiss the possibility that junior defensive tackle Markus Kuhn may redshirt.
-O'Brien noted that the lineups are far from settled, especially in the secondary which had wholesale changes in the depth chart following the South Carolina game.
Click on the link to listen to today's press conference. A transcript will be provided shortly.
First thing is Eddie Gardner is going to do the coin toss on Saturday. Eddie has been with State since 1982 and the equipment manager since 86, and retiring here at the end of the month. I think I'm the seventh head coach he's worked for. I'm just happy that Eddie stayed with us for a couple of years.
Similar to Carolyn Stuart who said she'd stay a year which she did. Eddie said he'd give us two years which he did. We're thankful, and he will do the coin toss on Saturday night.
Do you have any fond memories of Eddie?
Not in two years, I can't tell stories like somebody else, except there's probably stuff down in that equipment room that's been there since 1986.
So he is going to flip the coin?
He's the flipper.
It has nothing to do with his last name being Gardner and this being Gardner-Webb?
No it hasn't nothing to do with that, it has to do with how many years of service he's had which is 20-some years of service.
Do you feel like when you are playing a lower division team that you get a good gauge on your team is improving?
I think certainly you can in fundamentals, and that's where we've made our emphasis all last week, and we'll continue to try to be a much better fundamental football team. You can tell if a guy's in a good blocking position or a good tackling position, if he's back-peddling properly or doing things you have to do, and that's all what football is about. It's getting better each and every week and getting better at fundamentals. That's why we talk all the time, it doesn't matter what it says on the jersey or the helmet, you have to respect the game and play the game.
How did you feel about them fundamentally on Saturday?
We had to get better pass protection, get better at throwing, catching, get better at a lot of things, and I think we did from the technical standpoint. We were in good positions, we were running routes the right way, the quarterback was throwing the ball on time. All those things come into play. That's what you try to do each and every week.
Did you have a receiver drop a pass on Saturday?
I think we had one, I think we had one, I can't remember who it was, but when I looked at the grade sheets and we talked about it, somebody did.
Did the defense swarm to the ball a little bit better?
Well that's one thing we concentrated on last week in practice, our pursuit and our tackling. We wanted to make sure we got everybody we had. We had too many loafs the first game. That's coaching, and that's effort on their part. We coached them last week to run to the ball and they did a little better. We coached them a little better and they ran a little better.
Did you make a move at the boundary corner last week?
As I've said before a lot of these positions, North Carolina State owns the position, the player doesn't own the starting job. We're still trying to find who the best people are. Who knows how it's going to end up this week, not only the secondary but other places. We're still in the process right now of trying to find the best guys and the best rotations for us.
What did you see Saturday from Rashard Smith?
What we saw about Rashard Smith from the start that's he's a pretty darn good football player. He's not overwhelmed by anything. I think he did a nice job in the boundary. He's certainly the only guy to see the reverse. He got himself in position. He didn't make the tackle, but by being there, it still ended up being a 17-yard gain I think, but it might have been a 100-yard gain if he didn't do what he was supposed to do, slowed the play down and gave Earl Wolff time to come back, react and make the play. He's not overwhelmed by it all, and we'll see how he does again this week.
This is the start of your defense of the mythical state championship, how tangible is that, what does it mean to your team?
I think certainly you want to be good in your home state, and it's been a point of emphasis. It was called to our attention last year and we decided to go ahead and try to do that thing. This is the first time we have to go onto the field and defend it. We'll certainly try to do our best on Saturday.
How about James Washington and Brandon Barnes?
James Washington did a real nice job once again. He had the advantage of coming in January and going through spring practice, and that certainly helped him understand more specifically pass protection and things like that. He's made the most of his opportunity, which is what you wanted to see out of him.
I think Barnes ran the ball hard once he got in there. Certainly we hope we get Eugene healthy.
Camden Wentz, Rashard Smith, Asa Watson, James Washington, Brandan Bishop, those are the true freshmen that have played?
I think that's right.
Do you have plans to play any more?
We might, as I've said we're still trying to get the best guys on the field. Certainly some of those freshmen have skills and ability that we think can help us, and some of those upperclass, if they're not performing, they're not going to be playing.
Do you think Vermiglio could come back this week?
I don't know. We're going to see if he can come back to practice.
What does it say about Russell Wilson that he has gone this long without an interception?
I don't think he's made any effort not to throw interceptions. I think he's thrown the ball. Certainly his understanding of the pass offense has helped him more this year. But I think it's a process of making good decisions and throwing to open guys.
What's Markus Kuhn's status?
Right now he's not on the two-deep.
Any plans to redshirt him?
We could possibly do that.
What about William Beasley?
He probably will not play this year.
What it's like to handle your team after a week where almost everything went well after a week where almost nothing went well?
I think that's our job as coaches to make sure we keep them, their minds on the business. I think one of the things we've done as coaches, cause our staff has been together, we treat it all the same. We don't get too high, we don't get too low ourselves. We prepare each and every week like it's the same. I think game day, as I've said before, the crowd, the atmosphere around it, let's you know this game is maybe a little bit more bigger in the scope, if there is a Carolina in the name of the team you are playing.
Certainly there is no reason not to show up and not to play well and play the best you can, and that's what we want to try to get each and every week, is to show up and play the best you possibly can and play with fire and emotion. You only play 12 games, it shouldn't be hard to do that.
Gardner-Webb quarterback is a dual-threat?
Yeah, he can pull the ball down and run, and he attacks people. The other night he is trying to run some guys over. He's 225 pounds, 6-3 kid, he's got some size and bulk behind him. He does a nice job of making decisions, and he does a nice job of pulling it down and I said, he didn't run out of bounds he ran into a guy Saturday night.
Overall are they a better football team than Murray State?
I would think so in looking at the tape. The difference is Coach Patton has been there 13 years. It's his system, they're in the system, they understand the system, they've grown up in the system. They've got 24 guys that are four years guys whether they are redshirt juniors or seniors. They've got two All-American linebackers in the middle. They haven't given up 100 yards rushing 9 out of the last 12 games or something. They held Georgia Tech to around 100 yards rushing. They have a system, they've played the system, the system's been there for years, so they're well coached and play hard. Not that Murray wasn't, but you're talking fourth year of his program vs. 13th year.
Do you mention the Georgia Tech game to your guys right off the bat?
Well, right off the bat will be Tuesday because we don't spent a lot of time on them on Sunday. Certainly they'll be aware of that. They're not immune to what's going on college football. They turn on Sportscenter, they see James Madison and Maryland going to overtime. They're aware what happened last week. I've said before, there are no free Saturdays, you got to show up and play. Anybody can beat anybody today.
Willie Young called your defense unstoppable
You guys believe anything Willie says that's your problem, not my problem. He saw Russell walking on water, too. Just consider your source.
We're not unstoppable. We got to get better. We got a lot of things to do. Willie tends to hyperbole a lot.
Do you have a sense to how good you guys are?
How much do you as a coach look at scores?
Certainly I pay attention to ACC scores because we want them to win. Those are things that we are well aware of because we have to answer all those questions from you about the conference if we don't win. You're aware of that.
Certainly I know that Boiling Springs is a beautiful part of North Carolina, and as I've said I think Steve has done a really nice job down there with his football team.
You got four players on your roster that are graduate students. How important is that to you?
That's what they are supposed to come to school for first, and we're getting closer, I think we got about a half a dozen guys that could graduate in December here, so we're working hard to make sure they do what they need to do in the classroom so that they get their degree and then go on to contributes as members to society. You can't play forever.
There's two examples right now. John Dunlap's back in school getting his degree. J.C. Neal came back and he's in school right now try to finish his degree up. I said to both of them you need to go talk to the team and tell them it's a heck of a lot easier to do it while you are in school, and they both agreed.
How much does it mean to you?
When you go sit in someone's living room and you talk to their mother and father, that's my commitment to them, if they send me their child I'm going to send them back with their degree. That's my job. Football is fun, going to school is work.
Justin Byers has fallen off the depth chart a little bit?
No, he's playing, he's first-team substitute playing a lot of special teams right now. Still part of the evolving secondary defense.
How fast is Gary Grant?
I don't know, faster than me.
Is he one of the fastest guys on the team?
I'd have to look it up, we only time in the spring. We don't time in the preseason because there is opportunity to pull a hamstring or something. So we time in the spring.
He ran down T.J. Graham on that punt return.
He can run almost as fast if faster than T.J., he caught him.
Overall, how well has C.J. Wilson played?
He did a real nice job in preseason camp. He won the job on his performance there. We felt that there things we saw in the South Carolina game that we felt we could try to improve our secondary so that's why we made some moves. It wasn't as much as what he didn't do but what we felt we could do to get better.
Can you talk about Ray Michel?
He's done a nice job for a couple years now. It's his third year in the program. He's been in the defense now for the last two years. He has a good understanding of the defense. He can help get us lined up and play. He certainly spends as much if more time in the film room than anybody else. First thing he does after practice he goes get dinner, he watched practice tape by himself. Constantly in here looking at the opponent, trying to get that little bit of edge, and that's what you have to have in your middle linebacker.
What has he improved on the most?
I think recognition, understanding the defense and recognizing what the offense is doing. A lot of defense is recognition and anticipation. By his study all the time off the field he can understand what the offense is trying to do, and he is getting to his spot faster than he was a year ago.
What do you think are the reasons why State has run the ball well except for the South Carolina game?
I think we grew as an offensive line at the end of last year. Certainly, when you have backs like Andre Brown whose a third round draft choice or fourth, whatever he was, Jamelle Eugene, that helps, Toney Baker coming back. We get Eugene healthy and running again, you have good backs and you have a functioning offensive line. It helps also to have a quarterback that can throw the ball and get eight, nine guys out of the box.
We saw nine guys in the box Saturday night. Gave us the opportunity to throw the ball.
Any change in the status of Donald Bowens?
Still trying to get back on the field.