NC State football coach Tom O'Brien is not fooled by Virginia Tech's 2-2 overall record. He noted during his weekly press conference Monday that Virginia Tech is in his estimate about five plays away from being undefeated and ranked in the top five.
He added that the Hokies are "by far the best team we've played all year, not even close." O'Brien noted that the short turnaround from the Boise State loss probably played a role in the Hokies being stunned by James Madison five days later.
O'Brien is also high on Virginia Tech senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor, whom he said fits the mold of recent quarterbacks NC State has faced including Central Florida's Jeffrey Godfrey, Cincinnati's Zach Collaros and Georgia Tech's Joshua Nesbitt, but O'Brien quickly added those quarterbacks are not as good as Taylor.
Other topics covered by O'Brien Monday include:
- The team did not get to practice Sunday because of a thunderstorm in the area.
- He complimented new linebackers coach Jon Tenuta, but also added Tenuta walked into a good situation with the return of fifth-year senior linebacker Nate Irving and maturation of redshirt junior Audie Cole and redshirt sophomore Terrell Manning.
- O'Brien added that he believes redshirt junior quarterback Russell Wilson should be considered for the Heisman Trophy, but he still has to prove it every week.
- He praised the ability of NC State not to panic after Georgia Tech scored two touchdowns a minute apart in the fourth quarter to cut State's lead to 31-28, adding that "what's good about them right now."
- New punter Andy Leffler was identified by special teams coordinator Jerry Petercuskie as a target over the summer to be the backup punter after Chris Ward was dismissed from the team. O'Brien praised Leffler's ability to get the punt away quickly, something that should help Saturday against the Hokies' always potent punt block units. O'Brien though does not want to put too much on Leffler, noting that coaches can over-coach at times and go overboard.
- O'Brien praised redshirt freshman offensive guard Duran Christophe and noted he has a "big, powerful body." Christophe played 63 snaps at Georgia Tech, more than doubling his total from the first three games.
- O'Brien is hoping that the 4-0 start will serve as validation to the players and coaches about the direction and workings of the program. He also thinks being ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press "is a good thing." He quickly added though the ranking does not mean anything on Saturday.
- He said that freshman Mustafa Greene impressed those around him over the summer with his maturity, and they quickly gained confidence in his ability to handle playing football and managing his school work at the same time.
- Sophomore cornerback Jarvis Byrd has not been cleared for practice yet. He tore his ACL in the season finale against North Carolina last season, but he has not been ruled out for this year yet. O'Brien said there will be a time where Byrd reaches a point of no return and will redshirt, but he does not know when that will be. Until then, if Byrd can add something to the team and there is a need for him, Byrd may play. Byrd is currently running with the strength and conditioning staff trying to get back on the field.
Click on the link to listen to Monday's press conference.