O'Brien Talks FSU

NC State head coach Tom O'Brien held his weekly teleconference today where he discussed Saturday's game against Florida State.

Opening Statement:
We're excited about the opportunity to compete against Florida State, who through the first five games of the year certainly is the best football team in this conference and deserved of their national ranking. When you're averaging 51 points a game and only giving up 11, it presents a lot of challenge.

We're excited about the opportunity to compete against them and look forward to the game on Saturday night.

Can you talk a little bit about E.J. Manuel, some of the growth you've seen over the last few years? He now is the all-time leader in the conference percentage wise, completion percentage. What makes a quarterback such an accurate quarterback like he is?
Well, I think that the thing that aided him is, and it was always-- it's a blessing in disguise sometimes when you're a young guy that has to be forced into action because I think Ponder went down a couple times and he had to get in game plays and he had those experiences. And certainly last year, his first full year as starter, he got better and better as time went on.

I think a lot of it has to do with -- what we've done with our quarterbacks, and we've had good quarterbacks through the years, is you have to make them successful. So I think Coach Fisher does a great job of understanding what his talents are and what his abilities are and putting him in situations and throws where he can be successful, and I think that's what the goal of anybody who coaches a quarterback is. So it's a combination of he has great talent, certainly you have to think that he does a good job off the field studying in preparation for a game, and he's been given throws and given opportunities to be successful.

How much of this week is about figuring out how to slow down Florida State, and how much of it is just kind of improving your own selves and correcting some things from last week so it's not another shootout?
Well, certainly Florida State presents all kinds of problems for you, and that's the biggest challenge of the week that we have in the coaches' meeting room is trying to figure out how we're going to put ourselves in position to try to stay with them.

I think as far as the team is concerned, the main problem I'm concerned with is their legs and their health. I mean, we played basically a four-hour game in 90-degree heat with humidity astronomical, too. So right now I think the physical fact of getting our legs back, because certainly if we're not quick-- if we're not as quick as we can be and as fast as we can be, it's going to be tough to stay up with the athletes that Florida State has.

But if you are kind of in good shape, do you think, I have the horses to be in a shootout game with FSU?
No, we don't have the horses to be in a shootout game. I don't think that's ever the case. But we are going to find out on Saturday night.

There's been some talk that tackling through the season doesn't seem to be as good across the board, and I'm curious if that's something you've noticed either watching film or catching games on TV?
No, I think that's been the thing that's probably for the last half dozen years or so, and a lot of it comes from the NFL, talking about fundamentals aren't being taught at the same level they have. And when you look, certainly-- and probably rightfully so because of injuries, we've cut back so much in spring practice and the opportunity to teach the fundamentals that are required. Certainly tackling is something that requires that you are fundamentally sound in what you're doing because of the possibility to be injured if you do it the wrong way.

But I think with all the cutbacks we've had and times that we practice, especially in preseason camp or in springtime when you have a chance to coach those fundamentals and be fundamentally sound is where things are lacking in college football right now.

Can a team go from being a reasonably decent tackling team to just having a bad couple weeks and be able to rebound after that?
Yeah, I think a lot of the things that happen in college football are mental as much as physical, and it's a matter of want-to and make sure you get accomplished what you have to get accomplished. So I think mentally certainly if you want to get somebody on the ground and you've been coached well and you have good fundamentals, then you'll find a way to get them on the ground.

A lot of people think Florida State might have the best defensive line in the conference. From your point of view what problems do they present?
Well, they're big in the middle, and I think that's-- if you're going to be a four-down lineman team, you need to have those big 300-pounder strong guys that control and keep their linebackers free, middle linebacker free specifically, and then they have great skill on the outside.

Carradine and Werner both lead the conference in tackles for losses; they lead in sacks. They turn those guys loose because the guys in the middle can eat up a lot of blockers, and those guys set the edge and get up the field and create all kind of havoc.

How confident are you as far as your pass protection? I know you had some issues early, but it seems to have been better lately.
Well, the problem we have right now is we're starting our fifth offensive line in six games. We only have one guy that we came into the season in the position that we wanted guys to be in. That's definitely going to be a concern for us Saturday night against this great front of Florida State.

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