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September 29, 2011NC State junior safeties Earl Wolff and Brandan Bishop are second and third on the team respectively in tackles, and both have important responsibilities in combating Georgia Tech's option offense.
Wolff has 40 tackles, one caused fumble and one interception this season, while Bishop has added 30 tackles and two interceptions. The duo, who are both three-year starters, played against Georgia Tech next year, so the option won't be a total shock, however, Yellow Jackets junior quarterback Tevin Washington has added a more potent passing element to the offense.
"The safeties have to run to what we call the alley," O'Brien said. "They have to get to the alley and fill the alley. The first thing they have to do this week is to make sure it's not a pass release. Is it a arc block or will they release for the pass? They have to read that and support the front side of the option. On the backside, they have to run to the alley."
Freshman defensive back Josh Stanley, who played at nearby Raleigh Leesville Road High, got the scout team duty of imitating Washington this past week. Stanley and freshman defensive end Dave Mann were named the scout team players of the week for offense and defense respectively.
"Stanley has done a great job for us," O'Brien said. "He can throw the football, and that is the difference from last year [in preparing for Georgia Tech]. We spent more time with a guy running the ball. This year, we spent more time with a guy that throws the ball and can run the ball."
NC State averages 27:28 for time of possession this season, while Georgia Tech's ground-based offense averages 32.40.
"The more it is [time of possession] the better it will be [for NC State]," O'Brien said.
More than suitable replacement: Former NC State wide receiver Owen Spencer was known for his deep ball ability, but current senior T.J. Graham has capably filled the void.
The speedster from Raleigh has found some elusive consistency in both catching the football and in performance. He has gone for at least 117 yards and scored a touchdown in the last three games. The 6-foot, 180-pounder has 19 receptions for 428 yards and four touchdowns through four games, nearly surpassing his 2010 totals of 25 catches for 316 and four scores.
"I think he's the most explosive guy that I've been around," O'Brien said. "He certainly has stepped his game up this year. He is a lot more explosive and is doing a better job of reading his blocks. Receiving the ball, catching the ball, if he gets a step on somebody, big things can happen."
Graham and redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon were part of the same recruiting class and have formed a strong chemistry.
"Mike has a lot of confidence in him right now, and he's looking to throw the ball to him," O'Brien said.
Georgia Tech's playmakers on defense: The strength of the Georgia Tech defense is the linebackers in its 3-4 alignment. Senior outside linebacker Steven Sylvester is a three-year starter, but has been joined by three new starters — inside linebackers Daniel Drummond and Julian Burnett, and outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu.
Attaochu and Burnett, both sophomores, lead the way. Burnett might be undersized at 5-10 and 220 pounds, but leads the team with 36 tackles, and is known for his weight room numbers — 460 on the bench press, 600 on the squat and 350 on the power clean.
The 6-3, 225-pound Attaochu is second on the team with 23 tackles, but leads the Yellow Jackets with four sacks, including three last Saturday against North Carolina.
"One of them is playing a lot and making a lot of plays, No. 45 [Attaochu]," O'Brien said. "You have three big powerful guys on the ground [on the defensive line] that eat up your blocks and let the linebackers run."
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