Head coach Tom O'Brien met with the print media at the ACC Kickoff in Greensboro, N.C., Monday afternoon. Here is a brief portion of his extended sit down with the press.
A full audio link is also provided.
Can you tell us about Rashard Smith?
Rashard had surgery last week, he basically had the Toney Baker surgery. He'll be out for the year.
Talk about what a blow that is to the secondary.
Certainly it is to the secondary when you think about all the young kids we played back there. You already know Jarvis Byrd is out until at least November because of his injury. So you put five freshmen back there and we already lost two of them, that's a tough thing for us but, once again, it's something we know about now and we're still way ahead of where we were last year so we are looking for a normal year, maybe (laughs). Last year at this time, we had Nate Irving down, we had Jeff Rieskamp down for the year, we had two guys that didn't come back and one was a starting corner so we were four guys down last year. We're only down one this year going into camp so we're way ahead.
Who is in position at your starting cornerback spots now?
Justin Byers missed the spring but he's played corner for us so we're going to put him at corner. C.J. Wilson is back, he started last year. Gary Grant played some last year and he's grown up, and he should. We played the freshman from Georgia, Dean Haynes, played corner in the spring, too. Those four guys have played and certainly, some of those freshmen will be in the mix. Then, we had a couple of those walk-ons who played last year, Jordan Monk and Jesse Riley, played a lot of football last year as walk-ons so I don't know what we'll have to do there.
How big of an impact does having Nate back make on the entire defense?
It's a huge difference because the thing that Nate does, is Nate finishes plays. He's always been a finisher. A lot of guys can read plays and a lot of guys can read things and get there and they like to inspect the body when they get there. That's not Nate. Nate gets there and makes the play. He's gotten off the field in a lot of crucial situations when he has played and I don't think he's played more than 12 games in three seasons that he has been here, anyway, due to injury. The best thing that can happen to us is that we get healthy, we provide continuity and consistency on defense and, certainly, if he can play 12 games and play middle linebacker the way that he is capable of playing, it would be a huge boost to the defense.
Any reason to think that he won't be able to return to the level that he was at?
Yeah, I think there is. We had the same situation a year ago, coming out of spring ball. I wouldn't have given you odds if Toney Baker was going to play at all. Nate came out of spring practice 1,000 percent better than Toney Baker did but he still wasn't at where Nate was pre-June 28, 29 a year ago when the accident happened. Now, he's had a good summer program, he went to the doctors two weeks ago and the doctor said you don't have to come back ever again, you're done, you're cleared for everything. Hopefully, he can get the explosiveness back that he had but, certainly, it will be a whole lot better than what we played with in the past and that's not knocking the guys we had before, he's just a lot better football player than they were.
Between Nate, Mark Herzlich and Dana Bible, there are a lot of people that you know that are making comebacks. Is there anything you can draw from those three guys to teach your players?
Certainly, we don't have access to Mark, Boston College does, but all they have to do is watch the look on Nate Irving's face or the look on Dana Bible's face when the tests came back and he was cancer-free. You talk about living every day like its your last but now you've got a great example of two guys; one coach and one player that were to that possibly last day. I think it's a great thing. You know, we had Mike Archer and his wife coming back from their son's wedding, stopped on 64 outside of Huntington and somebody hits them at 65 mph from behind, they go under a semi, luckily they saw it coming and they ducked, but he calls me and says, 'the jaws of life had to cut me out of a car,' and I'm going, 'what's going on here?' Luckily, they just had scratches so I don't know what it is but hopefully it's over with.
[Laughs due to someone coming up with a TOB cut out and standing around the table]
In the fourth season, is there anything you want to see to show progress?
You have to win, that shows progress and that is what we haven't been able to do. There's no question in my mind and I could probably take a vote here and get 99 percent agreement, if Russell Wilson doesn't go down in the last play of the half before Rutgers, we could have solved that problem. I don't think there is any question that we would have won that football game but we didn't so it is what it is and that's what the record is. We got to go on, we got to win and we need to have a winning season and go to a bowl game. After my first three years at BC, there's no difference in the total number of wins, the only difference is that I won four games, four games and then eight games. That's a little different than five, six, five but it is what it is; we've got to be able to get over that hump?
How much pressure is there for the team to make that jump?
I think you feel pressure every year, it's not any different this season than last season or the season before. If you don't feel pressure as a coach to win and to get to bowl games then you're not leading.
Does it make any difference that you have a new boss?
I don't think so but, really, I don't know that. There's been a lot of turmoil at State, we've had three Chancellors and two Athletic Directors in the last year, but winning goes a long way to solving everything.
Have you had any conversations with Russell about baseball or his dad?
Yeah, since he's been out there, we've had a couple of conversations on how things are going. I think I've told some people that last Monday or Tuesday, he was obviously bored on a seven hour bus ride to Boise and we were texting back and forth all afternoon. Obviously, he didn't have anything to do but he is excited about coming back, he told me he had been on contact with Owen, Jarvis and the guys and that he was looking forward to getting back here Sunday and getting started next Tuesday with practice, we report next Monday. A week from today.
What is Singer's situation right now?
Singer and Bennett have both, for personal reasons, withdrawn their applications. That's an individual decision on their part and I'm not at liberty to say why, where, what.