O'Brien: "We've Made Strides"

O'Brien: "We've Made Strides"

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Tom O'Brien met with the media Monday to discuss the Wolfpack's recent win and Miami.

Tom O'Brien

What does the running back situation look like in terms of health and roster status?
"We're going to go into the week with (Tony) Creecy and (Shadrach) Thornton. We'll see where the week ends up."

After having a chance to reflect, how would you describe Military Appreciation Day at Carter-Finley Stadium?
"We get better every year doing the military appreciation day, it seems like there are more and more thing, and the administration did a great job.

"I asked Earl (Wolff) if he knew his mother was going to be coming, and I guess his mother told him. He said it was a good thing because he said 'I started to tear up anyway, I would have been a basket case if I didn't know it.' I thought that was particularly touching, and anything we can do to support the men and women of the armed services, we should do it, especially in this state, where you have such a presence."

When you look back at the film, how did Shadrach Thornton do at the other things besides running the football? The blocking, receptions, etc.
"He really didn't miss anything, he was headed in the right direction, ran the right routes and did what he was supposed to do, which is good. With most kids, you hope that after his first experience that he'll be better this week and more prepared to do things. This defense will pressure us a lot more than we saw on Saturday.

"He's a tough kid from the first day of camp, we've always done pass protections with running backs against linebackers. He wasn't afraid. He's not afraid to go block somebody, we just have to make sure he goes to the right guy, because he's going to have to pick up somebody in pass protection this week."

Could Tony Creecy have played last week?
"He didn't get on the practice field until Thursday, which generally means you aren't going to play. He was healthy enough, in case of emergency, if we would have had nobody left, we would have had to use him. In that case, we didn't have to."

So you think he's a pretty good go this week?
"We think so, but he's got to go out there and do it. He was fine Sunday in practice."

What are your thoughts on Miami?
"Typical Miami, great speed, great athleticism, power explosiveness. They have skill guys, the tailbacks. Guys in their offense, if they get it they can go all the way with it, so you have to get them on the ground. They have a really big offensive line.

"Defensively, they have big guys in the middle and two guys off the edge who are good rushers. The secondary has skill and guys who can change direction and make plays."

Are you comfortable going into conference play with the way things have gone in the first four weeks?
"I don't have a choice, so I guess I am."

These past two weeks, do you feel like you've accomplished what you set out to do?
"Yeah, certainly, we won both games. We played well on defense in both games. We've made strides offensively, even with the injuries maybe we found something in Shadrach."

Was there a reason the offensive line was noticeably better Saturday?
"This is no disrespect to The Citadel, but they are not the three teams we played before them. I didn't want to answer that question, but that's the answer."

Can some of that progress carry over?
"Yeah, it can. It doesn't matter who you play, when you do what you did you have to be happy with it. But you still have to temper your enthusiasm with the fact that you're going to play a whole different breed of cat come Saturday, it's going to be like the first two weeks of the season."

Rob Crisp isn't on the depth chart, is he a possibility this week?
"If he can get on the practice field and practice, then he'll play. If he can't then he will be on the injury report Thursday."

How do you feel about your linebackers moving into conference play?
"As I said after South Alabama, I think we've kind of sorted what their jobs will be going forward. We have a better understanding of how to use them in the defense that we want to play against personnel groupings. Going forward, we can put them in advantageous positions for us so that we can be successful on defense."

How do you plan to go up against Miami's offense?
"Sometimes they are a speed up offense. They've caught people changing personnel, but at other times they are conventional. I think they change personnel a lot, we're going to have to do a good job knowing who is on the field. You have to be ready for their hurry up offense, that's where they have gotten a lot of big plays."

With them scoring as many points as they have, are you concerned with your offense keeping pace?
"I don't know that. The first goal is to not let them score so many points so we don't have to match them. That's the dilemma we're working through right now. Offensively, we're working to get one more point than they do."

C.J. Wilson is eligible to play this week. What do you expect from him?
"Yeah, he'll get out there at practice. We're going to start him off seeing where we can use him. His best chance probably is to get into substitution defense. We'll see what his conditioning is, it should be fine because he's been playing scout team. Hopefully his skills haven't eroded and he'll be able to help us."

How excited is he about getting back in action?
"He's really excited for the opportunity to help. I think he's done a really good job down on the scout field with the young kids and defense, working hard against the offense and giving them a good look. It's his time now to hopefully help us win some football games."

In those substitution defenses like nickel, will C.J. move outside and allow Dontae Johnson to go down inside?
"Dontae is going to be on the inside, so yes, he will go outside."

Has Bryan Underwood's emergence as the top receiver been something you guys have planned?
"No, I think it just happens. He's a guy that now his legs are back and his speed is back he can go get the ball deep. The under on Saturday was a clear out, he got a good block and got into the end zone."

Discuss your defenses effort on third and fourth down.
"That's always been an emphasis for us on defense. We've been at the top of the conference for the last couple of years. After Tennessee, we're working our way back up to the top again. One of the amazing stats Saturday night was I think we went three-and-out or four-and-out six times, which is pretty good against wishbone team."

Are you proud that you ended up with more rushing yards than a wishbone team?
"Yeah, because they all happened in the second half when we possessed the ball like 9 minutes a quarter. They only had 12 plays in the third quarter and 10 plays in the fourth quarter. As we said a week ago the best way to play that offense is to have them sitting on the bench."

Talk about Al Golden's progression and how proud you are to see where he's gotten.
"It's not surprising. Al, first of all, he's smart. He's relentless, he's got a great work ethic. He's a player's coach, I'm sure the kids down there love him. He's super organized, so he's got all the characteristics.

"He went to Temple and did a great job with Temple. There are more guys in the NFL because of his tenure there at Temple. Once he withstands all the stuff that's going on in Miami, I guess the sooner they find out he can get going forward and I think he'll get Miami back in the national championship scene."

Speaking of the national championship scene, do you feel like your team has the wherewithal to compete week in and week out with those teams?
"We're going to find out starting Saturday. I certainly believe it, but whether it's this year or not we'll have to prove it."

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