Temperatures have been stuck below 50 degrees all weekend, and by the time NC State hit the practice fields Sunday afternoon, about half an inch of rain had fallen across the Triangle. It's days like these that head coach Tom O'Brien may wish for an indoor practice facility.
"Absolutely," O'Brien said with a smile after practice. "I think it's on the horizon. It's on the planning board. It's just a question of raising the money. It certainly last couple of years hasn't been a good time to raise money. We do the best we can with the situation we're presented. The kids know I'm not going to call practice off anyway so might as well be out there and have a good time and get through it."
NC State has had four practices, all of them in the past two weekends, in preparation for the Champs Sports Bowl against West Virginia Dec. 28 in Orlando, Fla. Last weekend was bitterly cold, but despite the tough weather, O'Brien seems pleased with NC State's effort.
"They are working hard," O'Brien said. "I think we finally figured out this year how to practice and they've done a nice job, especially in the weather conditions we've had because three of the four days have been pretty miserable out here. Last Sunday was awfully cold, and yesterday and today we got drenched pretty good and pretty chilly. They are working hard. They are pushing.
"The worse the weather is it seems the better they play. They like jumping in puddles, so it works out pretty good."
Every player is receiving equal reps, with older players working on weaknesses that have been identified during the season, and younger players who have been on the scout team relearning the offense and defense. O'Brien said that the players on the scout team have been coached well by the veterans.
"You're breaking the huddle with about 15 guys because you got a wide receiver following a wide receiver, a quarterback following a quarterback, tight ends, so they are coaching them up, telling them where they are supposed to go and what they're supposed to be doing," O'Brien said. "It's a good thing for the upperclassmen."
O'Brien does not often start any press gatherings with a statement, but he felt compelled to bring to light the recent accomplishment by NC State's Academic Support Program of Student-Athletes. They received accreditation from the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletes, the first school in the ACC to get one.
"I saw the thing buried in the back of the paper the other day about our learning resources department being the first one certified by the national board in the ACC," O'Brien said. "I think it's a great story and a great compliment to them that they are compliant with everything on the national level as far as tutorial and tutorial services. I think it's a little bigger deal than was reported here in the last couple days."
O'Brien also addressed several personnel issues for NC State. Of most immediate concern was the health of freshman running back Mustafa Greene, who suffered a neck strain after a hard hit in the regular season finale at Maryland. O'Brien said that Greene would be fine.
"He's made every practice," O'Brien said. "If we were able to go on I think he would have been able to play the next week."
O'Brien also acknowledged that the Champs Sports Bowl could "quite possibly be" the last time redshirt junior quarterback Russell Wilson suits up for the Wolfpack. O'Brien has not brought up the subject matter with Wilson, and said he will not until the time is right.
"Nobody really knows," O'Brien said. "You think of the fact that when [Wilson] left last time he spent the entire spring and whole time around us, and he wasn't being paid. He's being paid now and he's going away. They have money, and what do I have to offer? Who knows what's going to happen."
O'Brien was also asked about the NFL prospects of his upperclassmen. O'Brien said that he has not talked with any prospective juniors about submitting their name to receive a draft grade. He also believes the fifth-year senior linebacker Nate Irving will earn a draft combine invite.
"We'll have to wait and see, in my experiences trying to guess what the NFL is going to do, I'm always wrong," O'Brien said. "I'll let it go. I think Nate is a definite and I think other guys are on the fence."