The NC State Conversation

On Monday, I announced that our guest this week is Steven of  Section Six, an NC State Blog.  I wouldn't usually read an NC State Blog, but I really like his corner of the interweb.  I asked for your questions, and you did a great job, not that I expected anything else.  In the future, we're going to need to pare these down, as we really overloaded Steven.  Luckily, he answered every one for us.

Waylon Jennings & Hank Williams Jr - The Conversation (via Slasheri)

The Q & A follows the jump.  Enjoy.

1) What is the general feeling about the O'Brien hire - how much rope does he have with alumni/boosters?

He has the luxury of a pressure-free environment at the moment, more than a first-time head coach would have under the circumstances, because he has a strong track record. We're confident he can bring the success he had at BC to NC State, which helps with the patience. We also understand this rebuilding job isn't an easy one, and furthermore, the program has sustained such a ridiculous number of injuries to critical pieces that it's nearly impossible to fairly evaluate his job performance to date.


2) What will the atmosphere be like Thursday night?  Obviously, students will be out in force, but is the game a sellout?  These Thursday night games are very tough for alumni who live more than 2 hours away.

Good question. The game isn't sold out, but my understanding is that the available tickets are just those that were returned by Florida State.  I expect
the extra enthusiasm that tends to come with night games, though a lot of fans leave the stadium at halftime for a much-needed beer break, and if Florida State is in control at that point, you'll see a lot of empty seats in the second half.

3) How much pressure does UNC's strong season put on O'Brien and the entire NCSU program?

It puts pressure on the program from a recruiting stand point, certainly; it's not as easy to sell in-state kids on our rebuilding effort when they see what's happening down the road. Even so, I don't think our coaching staff much cares what UNC is doing right now.

I don't like to qualify our progress by comparing it to theirs, because it's not worth it. And no matter how good they are, they still suck.

4) What's the view from Raleigh on FSU's start - do Wolfpackers feel the Noles have really turned it around or is it just more fool's (garnet and) gold.

I was beginning to think that the Seminoles had turned it around, for some reason that defies logic, because they'd only crushed a couple of cupcakes. Then the Wake Forest game happened. So, I don't know. I was impressed with how they played against Miami; that game wasn't nearly as close as the score.  But until they show they can put a competent passing game together against I-A teams (we may be of some help here), I'll lean toward fool's gold.

1. I know NC State runs a base 4-3 defense. Are you primarily Cover 3, Cover-2 Man (Miami), Cover-2 Zone, or Cover 1?

We play a lot of zone; you'll mostly see cover two and cover three, I think. (I don't always pay as close attention to these things as I should.)

2. Do you typically go Nickel v. 3-WR sets, or do you defense them with base personnel.

We stick with base personnel. In our scheme, the strongside linebacker is something of a hybrid, as Tom O'Brien describes it, with that player acting sort of like a half-linebacker, half-safety. That means he's probably going to be undersized for a linebacker, and Robbie Leonard (6-0, 205), who starts at the position, definitely is, but that's something the coaches are willing to live with. We don't have the defensive backfield depth to run very much nickel.

3. What are you running on offense nowadays? I-Form, 3-wr, etc?

The coaching staff built a spread option scheme around quarterback Russell Wilson in order to better leverage his mobility. We operate out of the shotgun almost exclusively, as you'd expect, and you'll see both one- and two-back sets. We do make use of the tight ends, as well; George Bryan is second on the team with 15 receptions.

4. Please give your thoughts on these injured

LT Julian Williams
LB Nate Irving
OL Curtis Crouch
TE Anthony Hill
DT Alan-Michael Cash
S Javon Walker
RB Toney Baker
WR Donald Bowens

Which guys are still out? Which positions have been
adequately filled? Which are still lacking?

Anthony Hill got back into the lineup just recently, Crouch and Cash are definites for Thursday, while Irving is listed as probable and Williams remains out. Walker, Baker, and Bowens are done for the season.

The least damaging injury of the bunch was Baker's, since running back is one spot where we have some quality depth.

The injuries to Bowens, Irving, and Cash were devastating. Irving, who leads the team in interceptions and tackles for loss, emerged as someone we could count on to make plays week after week. We replaced him with a true freshman; you can guess how that's gone.

Bowens is the team's best wide receiver, and the only wideout who had a good amount of experience coming into the season. The kind of guy you'd like your new quarterback to have at his disposal. The receiving corps is talented but incredibly young (nothing but freshmen and sophomores in the two-deep), so they're still a work in progress. But they're getting there.


From FSUBrad: 5. NC State has a losing record right now. Obviously there are some things NC State isnt doing right because they havent been able to get the W's. My question is What are the obvious weak points of the NC State team (offensive and defensive) that you expect FSU will try to expose?

South Florida and Boston College both spread the field and came out throwing the football, taking advantage of both our lack of depth in the secondary and the growing pains of freshman linebacker Dwayne Maddox, who'd replaced Nate Irving in the lineup. We couldn't get any pressure on either QB, so those teams moved the ball at will. Florida State could gameplan along those lines, though our run defense hasn't been very good either, so the Noles could also simply stick to what they've been doing and run us the hell over.


Can NC state keep up with the speed of the FSU receivers? Colorado and Miami sat back in zone, daring the Noles to run, and they gashed them for a combined 570+ yards. Does NC State have anybody int he back 4 who they can leave 1-1 against the 'Nole receivers?

You are going to see us sit in zone all day because that's our preference and because circumstances limit our options. Our corners get almost no relief from the second string, which is one reason among many why we want to limit one-on-one situations. We've got defensive backs that can match FSU's speed, but we can't afford to tax them with too many man situations.

From user "Curtain Jerker":

How different is Tom O'Brien's approach/system different than Chuck Amato's? What are the main differences?, What does O'Brien now emphasize that Amato did not? Did Amato do something that you would liked to have seen O'Brien continue? Is O'Brien doing a better job of securing in-state talent before turning to Sunshine State Also Rans? How soon will O'Brien match Amato's best year at NC State?

Not surprisingly, there has been a pretty dramatic shift in tone, from Amato's more laid back dig-my-shades vibe to TOB's shut-up-and-eat-your-vegetables no-nonsense. O'Brien is just about the complete opposite of Amato,
personality-wise, and that's reflected by the change in the atmosphere around the program. It was a definite culture shock for some of the players, but
they eventually bought into what O'Brien's doing.

O'Brien puts extra emphasis on playing tough, physical football; he's also made a point to cut down the mistakes we make on a weekly basis, which Amato did as well, but the difference is that O'Brien is actually making progress in this area.

Regarding scheme, we've gone from playing the aggressive man-to-man defense that Amato brought from Tallahassee to a more typical zone package.
Offensively, we've gone from Marc Trestman's West Coast, uh, thingy or whatever to the spread option.

O'Brien had a surprisingly outstanding initial recruiting class, and did indeed do a better job of securing in-state talent in the process. He'll match Chuck's best season in, oh, let's say, 2011. Much work yet to be done.

From user "Njfoshizzy":

Concerning the NCST offensive line, FSU has several dynamic defensive ends and active blitzing quick LBs, all with excellent speed and pass rushing abilities,
especially Brown and Moffet. So far, Wake, Colorado, and Miami all thought they could handle the speed off the edge, and all allowed 8 or more tackles for loss.

Do your tackles have the speed to be able to keep their blocks and be effective? Or do you think the NCST offense will attempt to take them out of the game with quick passes, screens, and runs between the tackles, etc?

One of the things that caught my eye when I was looking over FSU's numbers was the fact that 13 guys have at least half a sack. Impressive. Also scary.

The offensive line is still a significant work in progress, and those guys--like every other unit, it seems--have been dealing with attrition. If Florida State's defensive ends are as talented as it sounds like they are, then, no, we can't match up.

Quick passes will probably be a necessity, and operating almost exclusively from the shotgun like we do will help a bit. Screens aren't our game, at least
not to this point, but there will be plenty of running between the tackles. We'll hope to freeze or at least give those DEs some pause with the quarterback keeper threat that is inherent in our brand of the spread.

Rather than further pondering the unfortunate implications of this mismatch, I am going to distract myself with something shiny.


How creative is the NCST offense? Has NC State shown any trick plays? Do you anticipate them pulling out anything crazy on Thursday?

I'm not sure I've seen any trick plays from us yet, come to think of it. We aren't much for gimmicks, unless you consider the spread option itself a gimmick. Which makes the Florida State game a pretty good time to spring a trap, perhaps. (Not likely.)


How is your kick return game? We just got murdered by Miamis returns game, and our Kickoff coverage has been undisciplined at times. Is there an All-ACC Type talent that we will face?

NC State leads the ACC and ranks sixth nationally in yards per kickoff return, thanks to the efforts of freshman wide receiver TJ Graham, who took his first
return against Boston College sixty yards, and took his second about 102 yards for a touchdown (they kicked it away from him after that). Graham is
averaging nearly 29 yards per kickoff return, which ranks him 14th nationally. Needless to say, he's emerged as a really valuable return guy.

Fun Questions:

Regarding the state fair... what's better: People watching or the rides? Fried Snickers or Fried Twinkies?

People watching, definitely. The snickers/twinkie question is a tough one, as both are delicious, and both offer you eight weeks' worth of saturated fat. I
have to go with the twinkie, as the frying process seems more of a natural step in its evolution; a better complement to the twinkie, you could say.
Which is not to suggest there's anything wrong with frying a candy bar. There's nothing wrong with frying anything.



thanks again.  I know our readers will pay a visit to Section Six

I encourage you to come and join us as we liveblog the game!  Festivities Start at 7PM Thursday!

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