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September 13, 2012

Q&A: Tom O'Brien ready for home opener

Coach Tom O'Brien met with the media on Thursday following his team's practice, and talked about the upcoming home contest with South Alabama, the first home game of 2012 for the Wolfpack. He also touched on the addition of Notre Dame and scheduling philosophy, among other things.

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

Are the days of a stud offensive lineman, like Jim Ritcher and Willie Roaf, gone because of the way the game has evolved?

No, I think there are plenty of good offensive linemen in this country. It's a position that's harder to play because there are so many techniques involved. It's getting more difficult to play because of the changing defenses, blitzes and things going on - they go from four-down, to three-down, to everybody standing up to radar defenses.

I think the defenses have changed so much in the last couple of years to try to keep up with the changes in offense, and the burden has been put on the offensive line more than any other position.

Would anybody even consider rotating offensive linemen the way you rotate defensive linemen?

No, I think the main thing with offense is consistency. You have to trust the guy next to you. There are so many combination blocks and combination pick-ups that you have to do in pass protection, it's important that you get a feel for the guy that is right next to you - to understand what his pressure is, how he's going to react, what he's going to do and the constant communication that has to go on.

The more you switch [offensive linemen], the more you change that dynamic of them having to pick up what they have to do.

You talked on Monday about protection, decision-making and route running - it had to be a little bit of improvement in everything. Have you seen any of that in practice to make you think that the guys have cleaned some of that up?

Well, we hope so. We worked hard on it this week to get it done. The proof is going to come Saturday night, if we made any progress in any of the three areas.

What is your philosophy on how to put together a good non-conference schedule?

I think the first thing you want to do is try to make sure that you have enough home games. It's still better if you can get seven [home games] and five [away games], I think we had one year where we had eight home games. Those days are getting more difficult to do.

If you look at the schedule, 10 of the 12 of us [in the ACC] are playing 10 BCS conference schools, counting the eight we have in conference, there are a couple of schools that are only playing nine, I believe. I think ten is a good number of BCS because that gives you two schools out of conference that are challenge games, one way or the other, however you play it.

Then, it goes back to you're probably going to have to play a non-BCS school and everybody buys a I-AA school to try to make sure that six or seven-game [home] schedule works.

Any preference in terms of when you like to play those games?

I like the way we've worked out this year, where you play all of your non-conference games in September - kind of the way the Big Ten has always done it - then, you get into conference play. Plus, for the sixth year, I have to go on the road for our first conference game, so that always changes things, too.

How do you think things are going to change when you go to the nine-game ACC schedule with Notre Dame?

It's difficult. With the nine games, we were an odd game when I was at Boston College in the Big East and it creates scheduling hardships, I think - trying to make sure you keep the home rotation, so you can keep six and don't get caught some years with possibly five home games.

How does South Alabama compare scheme-wise to either team you've played already?

They're similar to both in that they're four-down in run down situations. When they get to third-down situations, they go to three-down. I think that's pretty consistent now in college football, people have gotten to that multiple looks when you get to a passing down.

Offensively, they've changed. They're more of the one-back, quarterback read-dive run scheme. They did some of that last year, but they changed coordinators. They were much more power running against us last year, then they showed in their first two games this year.

What improvements did you see from your defense's front seven in game two?

We played more of the front seven last week - defensive tackles played almost 15-20 more snaps. We stayed in only one substitution - five defensive backs, four down and two linebackers - because of the threat of the run, not so much concerned with the speed and the passing ability of Tennessee.

I think that has helped us a lot with those kids in there, and those two guys in there [at defensive tackle], for sophomores, are playing at a level that, hopefully, they continue to get better.

Guys this week sounded pretty excited about finally being able to play a home game.


Have you seen a little bit of extra excitement or anything at practice this week?

I think they've talked about it, it's always nice to be at home. We have a great home field advantage, we have great fans, they show up and I think that's really important for our program. As I said earlier this week, I think it's important for our recruiting, especially all of the other sports, who have visits and bring all of their prospects to games. We have a great atmosphere in our stadium for home games, and that's a plus for us.

Plus, communication [is better] - we had trouble communicating in the Tennessee game because it was a Tennessee home game at the dome. You don't have those problems when you play at home. All of those things come into play, plus we don't have to get into an airplane and go anywhere, which should be number one on the list.

What did you think about the addition of Notre Dame to the ACC?

I just said [yesterday] that it's great for the conference and it's good for us. Notre Dame is a brand name University. I don't know exactly how they fit in, in football, but some day if they become fully ingrained, it is certainly going to be a heck of a conference.

N.C. State NEWS


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