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August 30, 2011

Q&A: Mike Archer talks season opener

Defensive coordinator Mike Archer met with the media following practice on Tuesday to break down the defense heading into the season opener against Liberty.

The Wolfpack defense, which was set to return eight starters, suffered a huge blow when captain J.R. Sweezy, an All-ACC candidate at defensive tackle, broke his foot in preseason camp. However, Archer said that just gives younger players the opportunity to make an impact. The coach was also complimentary of several other defenders, but said they have to continue to answer the bell on the game field.

A full transcript of Archer's question and answer session can be found below:

Can you talk about how the defense is coming together at the end of camp?

I think the camp overall has been good. The fact that we've got eight starters back has made the installation a lot easier. When you speak to them, they understand the verbage. I think we've played faster and I think we've thrown around more, played at a higher level than we have previously. Now, we have to carry it over to game preparation this week and then do it on the field against an opponent, not against our own offense.

Liberty has a couple of dangerous athletes, specifically at quarterback and wide receiver.

Yeah, they've got two All-Americans in No. 1, [Chris] Summers, at receiver - he's a big 6-5 guy. He's a kid from Florida that was a heavily recruited kid. Then the quarterback, No. 10 [Mike Brown], he's the key. He accounts for two-thirds of their yardage, some of the games, he ends up with the ball in his hands 75-80 percent of the time. He's their leading rusher, he's their leading passer, he doesn't take sacks and he's really a very talented young man. Those two guys are obviously the key to us playing well on defense.

Have you played anyone recently that you would compare the quarterback to?

Well, he reminds me a little of [former NC State quarterback] Russell Wilson. He's about the same size - about 5-10, 203 pounds. And he doesn't go down, he's not your typical quarterback; when you do get him, he's going to fight for the extra yardage. If he's going to run the football, we have to make it physical because if they lose him, they lose a major part of their offense. He's fearless and he's a lot of fun to watch because he's just really exciting.

What have you liked about the defensive line so far in practice?

J.R.'s injury has hurt but that's part of football. Brian Slay has to move up, the young guys have to step up - Thomas Teal has to be ready to give us some quality reps Saturday night, as does A.J. Ferguson. A.J. played a little bit last year, Thomas has not played so that's going to be important. You've got to play four or five tackles because it's going to be hot, but you have to move on from [J.R.] being hurt. Somebody else is going to get the opportunity and we'll find out about those guys.

Can you talk about Darryl Cato-Bishop's performance so far?

He and McKay Frandsen had a competition and right now, we're going to go into it with Darryl starting. Who finishes the game is going to be dictated by who plays the best at that position. Right now, Darryl has probably graded out a little bit better, been a little more productive. By no stretch of the imagination does he have it locked up. They're both going to play. On the other side, Jeff Rieskamp obviously is an experienced guy and Art Norman has been a pleasant surprise. He's not the biggest guy, but he's got some quickness and he'll be in our sub package on third down, rushing the quarterback.

Are you happy with how McKay has fit into the defense this summer?

Yeah, we brought him in with the purpose that we were short there in the spring. We were able to get a spring out of him and then had him come in and go through camp. Now, we have to see does he do it in the game? It's different in practice because you're in your own comfortable setting. When the lights go on Saturday, let's see what he does, that's what we have to find out.

The linebackers are experienced with Terrell Manning and Audie Cole. Talk about how D.J. Green is fitting in with that group.

D.J. has gotten better. [Linebackers coach] Jon [Tenuta] has done a tremendous job, Jon's a great football coach. If they just listen to what he tells them, they're going to get better. Obviously, Terrell and Audie are very important, they're going to make a lot of the checks and calls. They're going to make sure D.J. has his feet grounded and doing what he's supposed to do but he's made improvement each and every scrimmage. This is going to be his first time out there at that position with the lights on and with a different color helmet and jersey out there. There's a tendency sometimes to forgot what you've been coached on. That's the great thing about the start of the season, you find out what guys do first time under the lights.

All four of your starting defensive backs return, you have to be happy about that.

Yeah, the two safeties have both had a lot of experience. C.J. Wilson and David Amerson played a lot last year and started. Those four guys obviously have to be the guys. We don't have a lot of depth behind them right now, other than Dontae Johnson at the safety position. We've got to bring [safety] Dean Haynes into the game and see what he does, we've got to bring [cornerback] Gary Grant into the game and see what he does because right now we have two corners and we have to find the third one.

Gary and [freshman cornerback] Tyrrell Burriss open the season No. 2 on the cornerback depth chart. Can you talk about how they've done?

They're pushing the other two guys but, right now, David and C.J. are clearly ahead of them. Obviously, they have experience, they've played in games but we've got to get those other guys in the game. The only way to get experience is to get in the game.


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