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August 29, 2012

Q&A: Tom O'Brien talks season opener

Coach Tom O'Brien met with the media for the last time in Raleigh before Friday's season opener against Tennessee after practice on Wednesday. The biggest news was that redshirt sophomore wide receiver Bryan Underwood, one of the most experienced pass catchers on the squad, made his return to practice and the coach declared him a game-time decision for the contest with the Volunteers.

Below is a full transcript of what the coach had to say:

Did we see wide receiver Bryan Underwood out there today?

Underwood got on the field, we'll see how much he can do. We have to see how he reacts from getting a little bit of work. It will probably be a game-time decision, whether he can play or not.

Coaches probably feel like they never have enough time to prepare, but do you feel the team is as ready as can be?

I think they're itching to play a game, they're tired of practicing. They're probably like we are as coaches - trying to figure out who and what we are, and if we're ready to play or not. They're excited about this opportunity, and we look forward to the challenge of playing Tennessee.

We heard ESPN will show their All-Access with NC State tonight, did they get the icy commander or smiling Tom?

I have no idea, you'll have to watch tonight to find out.

How did that come about?

They asked if we'd be receptive to them come and do a day with us. I asked them what that entailed, and as we talked about it, it worked out fine. I think the kids really enjoyed it.

Is that something you're more inclined to do when you're still a team trying to make a stamp, rather than an established national commodity?

I don't know that, I haven't been an established national commodity, so when I get there, I'll let you know.

How confident are you in which NC State will show up on Friday - the really good one we saw against Clemson and Virginia or the one we saw against Boston College?

It's hard to tell, it's a new year, it's a new season. You've got a lot of new guys playing a lot of new positions. You talk about the experience we have on the offensive line, but we've got three guys that are playing new positions up front. In a college game, [R.J.] Mattes has never played at left guard, [Robert] Crisp has never been a left tackle, [Andrew] Wallace has never been a right tackle. Those are all questions that have to get answered as we go along. It's great to be starting against a team like Tennessee, and to be in a high-profile game like this, but sometimes you'd rather get another game in there so you can get them on the field and see what they're going to do. We got this opportunity, we have to make the most of it.

For what percentage of your team do you think this is the biggest game they've ever played?

Probably all of the guys who have never been in a game. The guys who have been around have played big games against Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and anybody else in this conference. It will be the guys who have never been in a college football game. Those are the ones that are the most unpredictable. You throw them out there and hope they go the right way.

Is it possible to have the kind of season you want to have without a win on Friday?

Certainly, the goal is to win the ACC Championship. This is a high-profile, non-conference game, but conference doesn't start until we get to October.

Will the team get any time to practice in the Georgia Dome before the game?

No, we'll just show up and play.

How confident are you if it comes down to a kick?

We have great confidence in Nik [Sade]. He showed last year that he can handle the rigors of being a field goal kicker. I think he's much better this year because he's more mature, he knows what to expect. I think he's stronger, so we'll see. I think kickers want to be in that position, so hopefully he does. If he comes down to it, we'll feel very confident throwing him out there.

We haven't heard much about Niklas or Wil [Baumann] this preseason, is that a good thing?

Nobody has asked about them, so that's why you didn't hear about them.

I'm guessing you don't have any updates on C.J. Wilson?

No, I don't. If I did, I would have told you.

It's a new return game with T.J. Graham in the NFL, talk about that.

That's one of those things where they're going to be back there for the first time. We've made the decision that Rashard Smith is going to return punts, we still haven't settled on the kickoff return totally yet, but they're going to get their first opportunity. T.J. was a great thing to have back there for four years, but now we have to move on, somebody else has to pickup the slack.

Do you get nervous at any point for the first game?

I've been nervous for the last ten days. If you're not, then you're not worried about what the heck is going to go on, one way or the other.

You haven't talked a lot about Mike Glennon either in this camp, my guess is that you expect him to start the way he finished because he had such a strong finish?

Certainly, as I said before, his starting point in August was a lot higher than it was August a year ago. Today, he is much better than he was a year ago at this time. The starting point is much higher and all of those guys who have played have that season of experience under them, that's great for them, as far as confidence goes.

As you look at how that whole thing played out between him and Russell Wilson, you have to feel good about the decision?

I felt good when I made the decision back then, and it worked out for everybody. Russell is doing great and got his chance to start. Mike is still here for us, and we've got an [experienced] quarterback heading into a high profile game. Everybody should be happy.

Can you give us your honest assessment of Rocky Top as a song?

We played them in the [1990] Sugar Bowl [when O'Brien was an assistant at Virginia] in the dome in New Orleans, and the only thing I know is that if they don't score, they aren't playing it, so that's a good thing.

N.C. State NEWS


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