Transcript from Live Chat with Tom O'Brien
O'Brien: Hello to the greatest fans in the country. Just wanted to start out by saying how much I appreciate all of you. Did you know you set a new school record for average attendance last year? The Virginia Tech game was the third-largest crowd in school history. Everywhere I've been during the winter, I've met people who were at the Champs Bowl in Orlando. Looking forward to spending the holidays with all of you again every year!
QUESTION: How do you replace a playmaker like Nate Irving on defense?
O'Brien: It's very difficult to replace a player like Nate Irving and what he did for our defense last year. The most important thing is that everyone else on defense who has experience and has played has to be better players so the whole defense gets better. Somewhere on defense we will have to find someone who can give us the big-play capability that Nate gave us.
QUESTION: What areas from 2010 are you focusing on for improvement this spring?
O'Brien: The first thing we have to do is replace the dozen or so players we lost. What we will always do is try to improve as a football team. As individual improves, our football team will improve. One area we've talked about on defense is to work on containing the football. Last year there were multiple times that we lost contain and people made big plays against us. It's a small thing, but little things are important in the big picture.
On offense we turned the ball over too many times. Our turnover ratio was much better this past year - we were better taking the ball away, but we had too many turnovers. A big point of emphasis will be better protection of the football.
QUESTION: People talk so much about recruiting rankings. What intangibles do you look for in recruits that might not show up as "stars"?
O'Brien: I think the most important thing is to find people who fit our system. We look for guys who are multiple position players. In conversations with Bill Belichick many years ago, talking about most important ability a player can have is dependability. We look for players we can depend on - will show up every day, give us a hard day's work and be ready to play on Saturday (or Thursday).
QUESTION: What position group is the deepest heading into the spring?
O'Brien: I would think that would be our tight end position. We have four players there from Bryant to Carter to Watson to Talbert - all who have played in some capacity. It's nice to have four guys who are able to play, plus those tight ends can help us a lot in special teams situations.
QUESTION: Will we ever see the fullback rush the football while you're the head coach?
Yes! It will happen. I've talked to Taylor Gentry and told him that somehow, some way, he's going to run the football. It might be a "where's waldo" moment, so you might have to look hard, but I promised him that he will carry the ball this year.
QUESTION: The secondary played much better in 2010, and with Byrd and Smith back in the mix after injuries, could this be a strength?
O'Brien: We look for better things out of the secondary and having Byrd and Smith back will add quality depth to a secondary that was much improved from 2009. They bring competition to the corner position and everyone knows we value competition. It's a great opportunity to make our secondary better going into 2011. With both of them coming off of knee injuries, we will not overwork them this spring. We are a little more concerned with Smith because his injury was more recent. We will get them on the field, but don't know how much scrimmage opportunities they'll get. We want to get them out there and ready to challenge for starting positions come August.
QUESTION: What kind of off-season conditioning program has the team gone through?
O'Brien: It's similar to what we've done every year that Todd Rice has been our strength coach. We've tried to improve strength and increase speed, but most important, to improve our football-related strength - explosiveness - so that we can become a championship football team.
QUESTION: EJ Carter did not appear on the initial Org Chart, many fans were excited about his transfer from Syracuse is there anything you can tell us about his absence, injury? position change? etc.
O'Brien: E.J. has not lived up to his responsibilities off the field and until those are met, he will not be a part of spring practice. Hopefully he will meet those obligations so that he'll be ready to go for camp in August.
QUESTION: What are the strengths/differences between the three halfbacks? Greene, Barnes and Washington.
O'Brien: I have refrained from trying to make public comparisons of our football players. My reasoning behind that is that I don't believe in telling our opponents what we believe the strengths or weaknesses or our players are. They will have to formulate their own scouting report as the season goes on. We're excited about that position and there should be great competition there this spring and going into August. I can see that battle going all the way until the week before we play Liberty.
QUESTION: I don't see any kickers or punters listed. Do you not do any kicking work during the spring?
O'Brien: We will do kicking periods in the spring. Ellis Flint is still a member of the team and we'll do some FG kicking with him. We always work on our punt block and punt coverage and we will work on punt protection as well. We are excited about the three freshmen who have signed with us this year and look forward to them coming in this August and getting them ready to handle the season ahead.
QUESTION: How important are Thursday night nationally televised games for the exposure of your program?
O'Brien: They are certainly a great value for our program, especially when they're at home, because we can show off our fans. They've done a tremendous job in supporting our team on Thursday night. I hear people all over the country complimenting the atmosphere in our stadium on Thursday night. As a coach, sometimes I'm not thrilled with the short week we have to prepare, but the tradeoff is the opportunity to be the only game in town. That's certainly worth it.
O'Brien: Russell has made the decision to give major league baseball his full attention. We are excited that he has that opportunity. I personally told Russell that if I was 21 again and had that opportunity, I would be thrilled. With that being said, Russell understands that we have to move forward. There are no guarantees that he's coming back and we HAVE to prepare to move forward without him. Mike Glennon is a very talented young man. It's his turn to take the reins of this football team. We have to re-do the whole passing game. We lost three receivers that had 138 combined catches last year, 12 TDs and averaged 152 yards per game. The question isn't about being fair to Mike it's about being fair to this team and this program. We wish Russell the best - if he comes back, we'll welcome him, but he knows he'll come back as the backup quarterback.
QUESTION: Does our staff visit other schools during the spring? Do other schools visit NC State?
O'Brien: Yes - we are on spring break right now, so we're on the road visiting other schools and/or pro teams. We have always believed in professional development. We're fortunate that other schools want to come and see how we do things as well, so we have many opportunities to exchange ideas. It helps us grow as a staff.
QUESTION: We lost our top three wideouts from 2010, who will step up to be the go to WR's on this years team?
O'Brien: We previously spoke about the wideouts we lost. Those that are returning: Graham, Howard, Smith and Payton, all have played in football games. We need them to improve and step up. We will get a good look at the redshirted kids - Palmer and Bryan Underwood - this spring and we moved Proctor to the wide receiver position to see if he could help create depth. Once again, it's a very important spring for our passing game.
QUESTION: Which player surprised you the most last year with their play?
O'Brien: I would have to say David Amerson. We knew coming in that he was an exceptional athlete, but didn't know about his maturity level - he was able to handle the pressure of being a starting corner in the ACC. As you may have noticed on our organizational chart, we've moved him to the field corner because of his playmaking ability. We will see how that works out with him and CJ Wilson changing spots this spring.
QUESTION: Has anyone stood out or distinguished themselves to either you or Todd Rice during the off-season conditioning program, as it stands now, are you pleased with the teams off-season conditioning progres?
O'Brien: The player who Coach Rice has talked about the most is DJ Green. That helped us feel confident in our moving him to field linebacker. We will find out this spring and into the summer if he is able to handle that position, but he certainly has the athletic ability to play it at a very high level.
QUESTION: At first glance, what are your thoughts on how the schedule is laid out?
O'Brien: Having to go on the road for a conference game the second game of the season will get our attention through preseason camp. That hasn't happened since my first year here when we had to go to Boston College for the second game. That's a tough challenge for our football team. Once again, in order to get a Thursday night game, we have to play on a short week and we have to travel to Cincinnati so that will be another difficult challenge for our team. Then Georgia Tech finally comes to town and they are always a challenge to defend their offense and attack their defense. I like the idea of having a full week off, which we didn't have last year, but having a full week off in the middle of the season before the last six games, which are all conference games. We intend to attack that part of the schedule against all ACC opponents with the goal of heading to Charlotte for the ACC Championship game.
QUESTION: Coach, after a successful 2010 season and a healthy beginning roster to start the 2011 season. What message are you and your staff going trying to send to the players and NC State community to build off the recent success and how has Glennon began take over that role of leader which Russell left behind?
O'Brien: In our initial meeting when we came back in January, we stressed the fact that 2010 was over and that day was the first day of the 2011 season. We accomplished great things by being ranked 25th in the country and winning the bowl game BUT we understand how difficult it is to move forward. My message to the team was that whatever they did last year in preparation for 2010 will not be good enough in preparation for 2011. We as a coaching staff, as a strength and conditioning staff and as a football team all have to be better. THAT has been the emphasis since the first workout in January and will continue to be until the last game of the 2011 season.
QUESTION: How has Mike Glennon responded to the role of leader which was left behind by Russell?
O'Brien: He has done a fabulous job gaining control of the offensive football team. He has natural leadership abilities that, with his talent level, will bring the respect of his teammates as he leads us into the 2011 season.
QUESTION: Do you plan on having a green beer on St. Patrick's Day?
O'Brien: I certainly, positively will! It's the greatest holiday of the year. It's the only day of the year when everyone is Irish. However, we will be practicing on St. Patrick's Day (our first day of practice).
QUESTION: Are you expecting the offensive line to be improved over last year's group?
O'Brien: We have to be improved over last year. We will improve because of age and experience. Losing Wallace before the bowl game was a big hit to the line.
O'Brien: I look forward to the Wolfpack Nation coming out and supporting the team at the Kay Yow Spring Game on April 16. Each year, we have raised the attendance and contribution from the previous year - let's keep that going in 2011. I also look forward to eating bar-be-que with some of you on the Wolfpack Caravan trail this spring. GO PACK! Experience is a great quality to have as an offensive lineman. That being said, we have some very good young prospects that we hope to take a good look at this spring and into preseason.