Tony Haynes: Wolfpack Cranks Up Preseason Drills
BY TONY HAYNES
Raleigh -- In many respects, NC State’s first preseason football practice on Friday afternoon looked very familiar. The weather was hot, the enthusiasm high and the sense of urgency very evident. But make no mistake; this was not just another preseason workout.
In less than a month, the Wolfpack will be playing its first game under a new head coach and a new staff. On Friday, Tom O’Brien and his loyal group of coaches were finally able to put a transitional summer behind them by opening the fall practice schedule with a crisp, regimented two-plus hour workout.
Even before practice started, O’Brien intently watched his players as they entered the gates of the practice fields adjacent to Carter-Finley Stadium.
“I like to watch them run on and off the field to see what they have in their eyes,” O’Brien said. “Sometimes you can tell which guys are ready to go and which guys aren’t. The heat is something they have no control over. They control it by their diet and by hydrating themselves and getting in shape. Some guys get shook up by those things and they’re defeated before they even show up. I think sometimes it shows in their faces.”
The offense has already received a jolt with the news that second-team All-ACC tight end Anthony Hill will miss the entire season after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery.
An offensive line that often struggled last year will be breaking in two new tackles.
On defense, there is virtually no proven depth at the linebacker positions. Changes abound at the critical kicking positions as well: the Wolfpack will be breaking in a new placekicker, a new punter and a new long snapper.
While certainly aware of his team’s fragile make-up, O’Brien is also confident that he’ll figure out a way to have success this year. And why shouldn’t he be? He was able to overcome limited facility resources and high academic standards to guide
He used practice one as refresher course on the basic fundamentals his team learned in the spring.
“Today was about learning,” O’Brien said. “It’s like the first day of spring practice all over again. There was a lot of teaching, a lot of instructional work, a lot of individual work and very little team stuff. I thought they showed up and made it through the heat. They were conditioned enough to make it through practice. We got through a script; that was positive. It took us 13 practices in the spring. The first team work we had today we got through all 21 plays. That was good.”
The fresh approach has helped to dull the memories of a disastrous 2006 season that ended with a seven-game losing streak and ultimately, the dismissal of head coach Chuck Amato. The 2006 season is gone, but not completely forgotten. Picked to finish sixth in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, the Pack wants to prove that last season was an aberration for NC State football.
“Our offensive coordinator (Bible) said he’s never been picked last in his life,” said running back Toney