Print and Go Back ESPN.com: ACC [Print without images]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
NC State's O'Brien reflects on third spring in Raleigh

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

NC State coach Tom O'Brien is facing higher expectations as he heads into his third season with the program. The Pack finished 2008 as one of the hottest teams in the country, as quarterback Russell Wilson helped lead NC State to a 6-7 record. The Pack will wrap up its spring at 1 p.m. on Saturday with the Kay Yow Spring Game. O'Brien gave his thoughts recently on his third spring in Raleigh:

 
  Andrew Synowiez/US PRESSWIRE
  Tom O'Brien knows expectations are higher for his team in 2009.

One of the things I wanted to ask you is what you're looking for out of the spring game, if there are any areas you'll be paying particular attention to?

Tom O'Brien: No, we play a game because something always pops up that even though you try to practice it, it's not the same. It's different when you have people in the stands and coaches aren't on the field telling you what to do. My experience in the past is something happens in the spring game you really can't coach. It's a good learning experience for the team to be put in that situation.

What have you been most pleased with in terms of progress this spring?

TOB: We try to make individuals better, and as we count up the number of guys that we think have improved, it's more than the guys who have stayed the same. We've made strides in a lot of different areas. We'll worry more about team offense, team defense, team special teams as we get into August. We're looking for individuals to become better football players and we've accomplished that.

As far as entering your third season, where do see the program's need for the most improvement?

TOB: I think the whole program, we should be improved. We've had enough injuries the previous two years to last us, so if we stay healthy, then we're in a situation that offensively, defensively and special teams we should be a much better football team.

Tell me a little about how Mike Glennon has looked and how Russell (Wilson) improved this spring.

TOB: Russell has been part-time football, and he's been playing baseball. Russell hasn't been as consistent. You could tell, though, that he has confidence coming off last year and he's participated. Glennon has used the time very well. He's a guy that learns from his mistakes. He doesn't make the same mistake twice. He's had an excellent spring. With those two guys certainly we have two capable quarterbacks heading into the fall.

Wasn't the secondary an area you had a couple of holes to fill?

TOB: Well, certainly at the safety position it was a bugaboo for us last year and it's a position we're working hard to solidify this year. Clem Johnson is back, Justin Byers is back, those are two guys, Bobby Floyd was a walk-on who started for us at the Miami game last year. Those are the three guys right now that have done the most at that position. We're looking at a lot of the young kids. Donald Coleman came in as a true freshman, Earl Wolff is a redshirt freshman. They're getting a lot of work this spring back there.

Overall, how did you think the spring went?

TOB: I think it went well. From an organizational standpoint, one of the benefits of having the staff together, it's our third year together so we all are on the same page, we understand what we have to do and what we have to get accomplished and the team feels that way, because it's the same system they've been in, which has not been the case in previous years.

Are there any lingering position battles or concerns that won't be answered until summer camp?

TOB: No, I don't think so. I go through this thing that it's an organizational chart because we move around, back and forth, and we're not really worried about who's going to be starters until we have to get ready to play South Carolina. We're trying to get the best 22 guys on the football field as fast as we can.

You mentioned during your spring press conference a few position changes, I think one was on the offensive line?

TOB: Wayne Crawford went from defensive line to center. It looks like it was a good move for him, a good move for us. It's a tough position to play, it's the hardest position on the offensive line to play because of the calls and everything. He looks like he's a much better player there at center than he was at defensive tackle.

I feel like every time I read the Carolina papers there's always something about an NC State recruit. I know you can't talk specifically about guys, but it seems like you guys are really on the ball with getting some good players to come in. Is that on an upswing right now?

TOB: It goes back to the fact of the continuity of the staff. My coaches, going into the high schools every year, we try to hit every school in the state of North Carolina. We've had some work to do to repair some bridges there, but I think we've done that. I think it's going to pay off in the long run in our recruiting in the state of North Carolina.