Jimbo Fisher, Tom O'Brien on Florida State at N.C. State

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The head coaches preview the upcoming football game between the Florida State Seminoles and the N.C. State Wolfpack.

JIMBO FISHER: We've had a very good week of practice. We'd better because NC State does an outstanding job. We've come off a very tough road battle with South Florida, which I knew it would be; intrastate game, very emotional game. They had dropped a few that they weren't expected to, so they come out and really played very well in the game against us. Our kids did a great job of handling adversity on the road, were able to make the plays we needed to make. I think we learned a lot of lessons. I think it was very good to get that first road win. It's always very tough to win in someone else's stadium. I think this week will be a great challenge. It's again, a double-whammy game; we've got an ACC game and an inter-divisional game, and you have a team that is very hungry, a team that is very talented in NC State, very well-coached, can throw it on offense, good special teams players, can run it on offense. And defense they give you multiple looks, multiple blitzes and then back out and do different things and are very well-coached. Mike Archer and his staff do a tremendous job on that side. So we'll have to have our "A" game. It's a very tough place to play, it can be very loud, and I'm sure they'll have -- being a night game it's always a great environment, so we'll have our hands full. We'll bring our "A" game, we'll have to be very focused and play a great game. I like the way our kids are working, I like the development we're making, and we continue to make little strides each week.

Q. I was just wondering if in general you could talk why you thought tackling was so poor this season and how much time you spend during practice working on the art of tackling each week.

JIMBO FISHER: We do. We do drills every day, which we do, and I think there's two main reasons. One, there's greater athletes playing college football than ever have before on offense -- defense has them, too, but offense has a lot more skill guys, and I think the game is spread out into space. And I think the more space you're in, that's what you -- and when you block -- the old days when you wadded them all up and you tried to block, you're trying to create a hole in space so a guy can get through and make a guy miss. I think the game has become a space game, and I think guys -- greater athletes in space, ball being delivered in so many different ways and getting good players out there, it's harder to tackle them. It's an art, and that's why on defense you have to constantly work at it and you have to gang and run to the football.

Q. My question is a little similar. I was looking at scores, some almost video game scores from the last weeks, and I was wondering, I know it goes in cycles, are we in a cycle where offenses are ahead of defenses right now?

JIMBO FISHER: I don't say that. I think it depends what part of the country you're in, I really believe that. I don't say that out of any disrespect. I think to be able to do the things you have to do to stop people, you have to have great defensive linemen and corners, and I think that's one thing in the southeast that we have large abundances of, that you're able to do that, when you're able to pressure the quarterback and get pressure on him and he can't hold the ball and throw all those balls when you're in no back and one back and all those things, I mean, to be able to pressure the quarterback and affect him, that's why the NFL is so different. That's why it's such a different game. And then have the guys that are covering, I think -- I don't think some parts of the country have as many athletic defensive players as certain parts of the country do, for instance, us and the southeast. It's not a knock on anybody, it's just a fact; and look at the draft and look where the players come from. I think that's just a fact that makes a huge difference.

Q. The fact in the ACC there are a lot of good offenses, is that attributable to the fact that we're in a cycle with a lot of experienced quarterbacks?

JIMBO FISHER: Could be. When you've got a guy at quarterback and offenses can now do more, they can check and get in and out of things, you've got guys that can run and make plays, I think that definitely is -- I think the quarterback trend, when you study defenses and teams that play that are great defenses, really study how many great quarterbacks they've faced and guys that can do things. I think that answers a lot of your questions, but I think that's a very good point, and we have a league that has a lot of excellent quarterbacks.

Q. If I can ask another question on tackling, I'm curious, if a team has a bad tackling game or if yours does, can you generally kind of trace it back to something, whether it was a poor week of practice or maybe a lack of energy or something like that?

JIMBO FISHER: Can be. Can be a lack of energy, could be the skill level of the other team, or it could be a game in which fundamentally you're out of place and not keeping -- you always hear me talk about keeping leverage on the ball. I think it's very easy in today's game to get out-leveraged in a lot of ways because of the way people do things, and I think that can cause you issues, and I think leverage on the football is critical, too, and then playing your role in defense and things that happen.

Q. Can it happen that you can have a bad week one week and then the next week you're actually tackling pretty well?

JIMBO FISHER: Yeah, I think it does. It's like kids today are amazing because some days they can do the same -- take the same test in school and make an F one day and make an A the next day. I think it's a product of our society as far as focus, concentration, and the stress and strain in which a lot of these kids are under. I think it's different today, and I think that does affect you. I think the pressure in the media and the things that happen can also affect how they perform.

Q. For this not to be a shootout game this week, for this not to be a game where NC State is scoring as many points as they did against Miami last week, what does your defense need to do?

JIMBO FISHER: Well, I think, again, keep great leverage on the ball. I think we have to give multiple looks; I think we have to win the battle in the trenches; I think we have to be able to affect the quarterback in a very legal way and be able to put pressure. That's anybody. That's what you want to do. But you have to cover their guys. You're going to have to try to create different looks. They have very good receivers, and (Mike) Glennon, you give him looks all day, he'll rip you apart. He can throw that football to all parts of the field, and I think you have to be dominant up front. I think we have to give multiple looks in the secondary to be able to cover, make tight windows to be able to throw and not allow them to run the football. If they can do both, we can be in trouble.

Q. Do you have to make any different preparations for a guy like Mike Glennon than possibly some other quarterbacks?

JIMBO FISHER: Yeah, you'd better cover all inches of the field, short, deep. He does a great job of using his tight end. Some offenses don't use tight ends or backs or certain receivers. He uses everybody, and I think that really has to bring your awareness up across the board as far as he can get the ball to all places of the field and does a tremendous job of that. You know, in your preparation as far as -- you've got to try to get him pressure and try to get him off his spots and be able to him move and do those things, but I think it's very critical that you have to be there and you have to give multiple different looks in the secondary because of his knowledge that -- when those guys have been around a long time that get the ball to all parts of the field, he's going to find those holes
TOM O'BRIEN: 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.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about EJ 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?

TOM O'BRIEN: 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 (Christian) 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.

Q. 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?

TOM O'BRIEN: 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.

Q. But if you are kind of in good shape, do you think, I have the horses to be in a shootout game with FSU?

TOM O'BRIEN: 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.

Q. 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?

TOM O'BRIEN: 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.

Q. 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?

TOM O'BRIEN: 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.

Q. 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?

TOM O'BRIEN: 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. (Tank) Carradine and (Bjoern) 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.

Q. 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.

TOM O'BRIEN: 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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