NC State coach Tom O'Brien's talked about a variety of subjects during his weekly Wednesday ACC teleconference, with a concentration on the standout play of sophomore cornerback David Amerson.
Below is a transcript of some of his key points:
"We are certainly working hard to get ready to play a real explosive Florida State team. They started the year ranked in the top 10 and they look like they are back to being a top 10 football team right now. Very explosive on offense. They are leading this conference in defense, so it's a great challenge for us. Our kids look forward to going down there and competing with them."
How much of David Amerson's interceptions are his instincts or the defensive scheme?
"I think it's a combination of both. He's a kid that when you look at eight interceptions in seven games, that's a pretty big accomplishment, especially for this school since nobody has done it here since he tied a record in 1938. That's a pretty good record to have right now. Hopefully, he can get three more and get up to where Dre Bly was in '96 with 11.
"He has great instincts. He has very good ability. He's a kid who only has been playing with us for two years. He came into the scheme and has learned it from the ground up. From day one, he's come in and been coached to do what we want to do. It is a combination of both things right now."
Amerson played safety in high school, so what has been the biggest adjustment about going to cornerback?
"We had him in camp. As he went through the camp and went through all the drills, we had no question at all that he could be a corner at this level and play at the highest level of the ACC at corner. What he played in high school was not very significant for us, one way or another, since we had him in camp.
"He has quick feet and great hands and good instincts. He is a student of the game. That is the thing that is the difference. As a freshman last year, we had him rolled up on the boundary. His freshman year, you are more worried about many other things than what is going on. Now, he is more comfortable going to school and doing more things. He has become much more in the film study room. He has good anticipation.
"He got burned a couple times early in the season on a double move, but he has worked hard to not make that happen because he is so aggressive. All those little things in the studying off the field is coming into play right now for him."
Does watching film give guys like Amerson an extra edge?
"You want to look at formations and study splits. Is it a big split, a numbers split or a hash split. What does a receiver run from the splits he is in. Maybe they can pick up a clue where his feet are. They are looking for all different things. They look for how they come off the football. As they study the guy, you get into what his patterns are. David will be better and better as time goes on, as he anticipates all those things."
Do you think there is anything defenses are doing to minimize the impact tight ends are making in the passing game?
"No. George Bryan has been All-ACC the last two years, but we've had trouble getting him the ball this year. People have made a concentrated effort to not let him catch the ball. We threw one to him the other day, and he dropped the ball. He had a chance to catch a ball there in a third-down situation. It was a little choice route in the middle of the field. We haven't given up on trying to get the ball to the tight end, but we've had trouble with it. People have spent a lot of time taking him away or taking him out of the game."
Is there anything you guys can do about the drops by the receivers?
"I think it's just concentration and reps. You have to look the ball in. In a lot of cases, that is the case. A couple of guys had chances to make touchdowns. In fact, four times we had the chance to catch the ball and make touchdowns. They were overly excited and taking off before running, and the points whatever. It's a matter of concentration, looking the ball in and squeezing it, and putting it away, so it can't be stripped. We'll go back to the fundaments, go back to basics, go back to concentration. It isn't lack of effort, I know on our part."
Do you watch Mike Glennon's body language to see if he is getting frustrated out there with the drops?
"No, I think he did a great job. After the one series where there was a couple of drops, he went over and got them together, and said, 'Hey, just hang in there and keep working. I'm going to keep throwing the ball and you'll have to start catching it. Hang with me and I'll hang with you. We have to get this done together.' I thought it was great leadership on Michael's part."
How good are Amerson's hands? Are they good enough where you'd want to use him at wide receiver?
"We used [cornerback] Rashard Smith this year [at wide receiver] to play both sides. David returned [kicks] because of the loss of T.J. [Graham] and Tobais [Palmer] last week. He returned the kickoffs. He can return kickoffs, he can return punts and he could be a receiver [at this level]. He is a lot like Will Blackman, the kid I had at Boston College that played both ways. He could do that, but we chose Rashard because he's a little bit older and been around longer when we needed help early in the year."
Anything you are particularly pleased with from last week's game or past two games?
"I think it's a combination where we were so devastated injury-wise, and we started to get guys back for the first game [vs. Central Michigan Oct. 8] and certainly the off week, we had a lot of guys who were beat up themselves. We got [fifth-year senior defensive tackle J.R.] Sweezy back and a couple of others for Virginia. After trying to put a defense back together for a couple of weeks, that was the biggest thing that happened. People and the players played with a lot of enthusiasm and knew they were going up against a really good Virginia football team coming off a great win vs. Georgia Tech. It was a very good victory for us to go on the road and win a game."
What happened to redshirt junior wide receiver Tobais Palmer before the game, and have you ever had a season where you lost two guys before a game during warm-ups (punter Wil Baumann the other in a previous game)?
"Never. As I keep saying, you can't make this stuff up. They go out early and get to the stadium, and a lot of guys go out and kind of toss the ball around. They were running around and he kind of ran into another guy. He got dinged and had a headache. The doctor wisely said 'You better stay out.' It's better safe than sorry, and that was the case."
How much did redshirt freshman wide receiver Bryan Underwood's role expand with Palmer out?
"He was the only one left. We took Steven Howard inside. Thank goodness he's been around and knows every wide receiver position. We basically were down to four guys in the first half against Virginia. We talk about it a lot and you hear me say it all the time, one man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. Bryan certainly made the most of his opportunity to get some time in there to play."
What kind of morale boost was defeating UVa?
"It should be a good boost for them to understand how difficult it is. This league is very difficult to go on the road and win, especially when you go play a good team and a team like Virginia, who is 4-2 at that point and coming off a great win the week before. It caught their attention, the NC State football, and how great a team Virginia was, and how great they were playing. That win is by us and we have to look forward to Florida State. We can't be looking in the rearview mirror. We have to get focused on Florida State or you can get run out of the ball park down there."