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September 6, 2012

Q&A: Tom O'Brien sees resilient team




NC State coach Tom O'Brien met with the media for the last time this week on Thursday morning after practice. His squad will travel to Connecticut for a Saturday afternoon tilt, looking to rebound from the season-opening loss to Tennessee.

A transcript of what the coach had to say is below.

How has the team been since we last talked?

They've been fine. They're a pretty resilient group, they've had ups and downs. Certainly, it was a low for them, but I think the extra day helped, it was an extra day to get away from it and let things go. They came back on Sunday, and it has gotten progressively better as the week has gone on.

How did R.J. Mattes grade out in his first game at left guard?

I think he did an exceptional job. I think that's a good spot for him and, more importantly, he feels that it's a good spot for him going forward. It has helped solidify the middle, which we've had trouble with the last couple of years - we always seemed to be short one, but with those three guys in there now, I think we're pretty solid up the middle of the offense.

How did you think your offensive tackles did in that game since they were in new spots?

I think they're still a work in progress because, more than the guys on the inside, they're new to the position. It was good for them to play against a bunch like Tennessee, it's going to be good for them to go against this kid, No. 48, this week. He's the 100-meter champ in Connecticut, he's a guy that can run and get off the edge, so we'll be challenged this week, too, with speed off the edge. That's all good and positive going forward.

You said you were pleased with the resilience of the group, was there an area or two that stood out particularly at practice?

No, I just think it's the way that they come back. They're able to put things behind and focus on what we have to get done to win this football game. We'll find out come Saturday at 4:00 if we've done what we've had to do to win it.

They run some wildcat, how important is it for your linebackers to line up and Sterling Lucas to make sure they're lined up properly?

Yes, they do. That's huge - recognizing personnel in the game and what they do with the personnel because it changes totally from an I [formation], power-running, play action, drop-back passing game to option, speed sweep and everything else that goes with that. No. 11 [the wildcat quarterback] is a good athlete, a good quarterback. No. 10 [the starting quarterback], we don't know that much about him, we've only seen him one game as a JuCo transfer, and they set him up to have success. It will be a challenge for the defense, as it was last week, to get lined up and get in the right spots.

This rookie class that you put into the NFL is pretty impressive. All six draft picks made final rosters and two guys are opening-day starters, can you talk about that group?

It's exciting - we got to watch the game last night, even though our guys lost. I think we had three State guys and I had three Boston College guys playing last night for the Giants. When you put six guys in the NFL, and they all make NFL opening day rosters, I think that says a lot about the coaches' evaluations and recruiting the right kids.

Are you surprised by the transition of J.R. Sweezy from college defensive tackle to starting offensive guard, or did you see those traits in him?

To tell you the truth, as we went through this, we told [the NFL] that both J.R. and Markus Kuhn were probably NFL offensive linemen, even though they were college defensive tackles. It's ironic because R.J.'s dad, Ron, played defensive tackle for us at Virginia then went out and played 8-10 years in Seattle as an offensive lineman. It's déjà vu all over again, with a guy that I know going out to Seattle and playing offensive line.

J.R. has worked so hard, it's really important to him. He has great leadership abilities, and you know that you can count on him in there. I can see where he can be a good offensive lineman going forward.

Do you like playing on the road after a game like the opener?

No, absolutely not.

Some coaches would say they like to play on the road after a loss because it gets their team focused.

No, you don't want to go on the road after you've had a tough loss, the way we had a loss. It's going to take a lot for this football team [to perform on the road] and it's going to show a lot about the character of this team, how they are going to react to after that game because some of the guys that played for the first time - you'd like to be at home and play somebody that you can get lined up and use as a practice session, or whatever. That isn't the case anymore in college football. We've got to go on the road and play, play a BCS team and play a Big East team that is mad at an ACC school, which Connecticut has always been.


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