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November 14, 2012

Tom O'Brien Q&A: Clemson presents many challenges



NC State crushed Clemson 37-13 last year at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, but know the challenges Saturday won't be as easy.

NC State coach Tom O'Brien answered a variety of questions Wednesday during his weekly ACC teleconference. Below is a transcript of what he said:

Opening statement:
"We'll have a big challenge heading to Death Valley this weekend, but it's a great place to play football against a great football team. Very explosive on offense and solid on defense. Big challenge but our kids are excited about the opportunity to go play and see what we can do on Saturday."

What is your message to your defense to keep this game competitive?
"Probably the same thing if you ask that question every week to teams that play Clemson. They are so explosive on offense, and they are averaging about 28 points in the first half. What they've done is they come out and jump on people right away. I don't know if you can stop them, but you have to try and contain them and slow them down. That's the best thing you can do. A lot of big plays off play-action pass and run fakes, and things like that. You have to control what they do and not give up the big explosive plays that they are so good at."

Is that easier said than done?
"Well, that hasn't been done yet this year. They've lost one game on the road at Florida State. They've been undefeated two years at home. It's a tough venue to play in and they feed off their crowd. They have so many big play guys. The quarterback can beat you, arm or leg. The tailbacks catch the ball or run with it. The same thing with their wide receivers. There isn't one area where you can say they are weak in. They are strong in all areas and put a lot of pressure on your defense."

Are Clemson receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins the toughest pair you've gone up against in a while?
"There are two of them, where everybody seems to have a featured guy and then there are the other guys. These are two top-rated guys, and that's where all the stress comes in on the defense. They have two guys that can get into the seams and get down the field, double moves and things like that coming off play-action fakes that gets the ball deep. They can run by you. Then you have the quarterback and tailback to deal with at the same time."

How has the secondary improved since playing Tennessee and Miami earlier in the season?
"It's something that we had to get fixed if we were going to succeed. From the opening game [vs. Tennessee], we got stung a bit that way. I think the kids have done a better job from that point on. I think this will be as big a challenge as we've had this year, especially with throwing the football to two guys that are quality NFL receivers, basically."

Where do you see things going with such high scores in the ACC?
"I think what has happened in the league is a couple of years ago or when I first came in, everyone wanted to know about the offenses not scoring this or that. I think what you see is the amount of senior and or junior quarterbacks that have played a lot.

"You look at Florida State [EJ Manuel] and look at Clemson [Tajh Boyd], look at our quarterback [Mike Glennon], and I don't want to slight anybody by naming quarterbacks, but there are a lot of guys with a lot of experience that are coming back at that position, which allow you to do some things on offense that I don't think has been done before in this conference with the spread and everything else that forces all those one-on-ones on defense. You have to have a guy that understands the offense and can throw the football. The classic quarterbacks in the conference this year are as good as any in the last five, six, seven years."

How has the no-huddle offense change things?
"It's like anything else. Some teams do it, and we saw Rich Rodriguez do it at West Virginia back in the Big East, and it has started the whole trend toward that. It's like anything else in college football, whether it's offensively or defensively, somebody will catch up to it. We are a huddle/no-huddle team and we had 94 plays last week [against Wake Forest]. I don't know if it's just the no huddle, but there seems to be for whatever reason I can't remember running 94 plays in a game that I've coached."

What would have been a normal number of plays?
"I think somewhere in the 70s, 70-75 is normally where it was. I think we are close to 80-something. I haven't looked at it lately, but we close to the high 70s. Last week, it might have pushed us to 80 plays a game."

Is there something about the new rules changes that are causing more touchdowns on kick returns in light of Tobais Palmer going 100 yards for a touchdown last week?
"I think what you have to do, and it's one team we caution our team on all the time, is if you have a guy that can kick it into the end zone, sometimes they get lazy running down. All of a sudden, pow, and he doesn't hit it into the end zone and the ball is coming down, and there isn't that same intensity coming down. That might have something to do with it. They automatically assume the ball is going to be kicked into the end zone and the ball is coming out to the 25. Maybe the ball is mishit or the other thing is, coaches are doing a good job of coaching returns."

How do you approach your kick returners on bringing out a kickoff from the end zone and not take the touchback?
"I think it has to do with pre-scouting the kickers, and it has to do with hang time. How does the ball get there? Does it get there on a line or is it hung up and gives their team a chance to cover? It has to do with the hang time with the kick, and the special teams coaches look at what yard stripe are they at when the ball gets to the end zone. Is it worth bringing out this week or should we just take the ball on the 25?"


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