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    PEELER: Pack's Confidence Keeps Growing
     
    Head coach Tom O'Brien
    Head coach Tom O'Brien
     

    Oct. 11, 2010

     

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    BY TIM PEELER

    RALEIGH, N.C. – Midway through the 2010 season, NC State football coach Tom O’Brien has a team brimming with confidence and a 5-1 overall record.

    But he also has a team that will play its seventh game in seven weeks on Saturday at East Carolina (noon, CBS College Sports), with a long list of nicks and bruises that are always a part of college football season in the middle of October.

    “Right now, we're banged up,” O’Brien said. “We haven’t had any time off to speak of. No one's hurt and out of the game, but we have a list of guys with nicks and bangs. We're a little heavy-legged, due to the stretch we just went through with Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

    “There are a lot of things we can get better at in terms of offense and defense and special teams.”

    The good thing for the Wolfpack (5-1 overall, 2-1 ACC) is that there have been few of the long-term injuries that hampered the program the last three years, including season-ending injuries to a total of 16 players last season.

    Those continual setbacks took their toll over the years, and the Wolfpack has just missed finishing with a winning record in each of O’Brien’s first three seasons at the helm. Now, however, the coach sees his team growing and maturing at a rapid rate.

    For some, that has made the Wolfpack a surprise contender in the ACC’s Atlantic Division race.

    “The problem for us the last two years is that every time we took a step forward, we took two steps back with injuries,” said the coach. “Everybody was waiting for this and that and the other bad thing to happen.

    “When good things started happening to us this year, they just kept happening.”

    Those good things included wins at Central Florida, at home on national television against Cincinnati and on the road at Georgia Tech.

    The team suffered a setback when it allowed Virginia Tech to come back from a 17-0 deficit and take a 41-30 victory at Carter-Finley Stadium, but it bounced back with a decisive win Saturday over Boston College, O’Brien’s former team, which he had never beaten since arriving at NC State.

    “There were some landmines we had to face early in the season that we overcame,” O’Brien said. “Once you start winning in those situations your confidence keeps growing. I think that is the one thing this team needed was confidence.

    “The talent was always there.”

    But the coach and his staff have also answered some major questions since preseason camp opened in early August. They have developed two young running backs, redshirt freshman Dean Haynes and true freshman Mustafa Greene, into solid contributors and capable protectors of quarterback Russell Wilson.

    They have developed an offensive line that has more depth than O’Brien has had since he’s been here.

    “I think certainly the running backs on offense [have been a pleasant surprise],” O’Brien said. “We had no idea about them at the beginning of the season. I could have said anything I wanted to about them before the season about how they would play, but the fact is we just didn’t know.

    “We thought up front the line would get better as the season went along and that's been the case. I think their performance has been a surprise.”

    And they have found a trio of true freshmen – cornerback David Amerson and safeties Dontae Johnson and D.J. Green – who have answered the defense’s biggest question going into the preseason.

    “I think on defense, the secondary has played much better than they did a year ago, the fourth quarter of the Virginia Tech game notwithstanding,” O’Brien said.

    Now, the coach hopes his team can perform well again in its final non-conference game before getting an 11-day span to prepare for a Thursday night game against Florida State.

    You may contact Tim Peeler at tim_peeler@ncsu.edu.

     


     

     

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