OíBrien OK with second spring
By Joedy McCreary
RALEIGH ó On the first day of spring workouts, North Carolina Stateís players made it all the way through an entire practice script.
For the Wolfpack, that was an accomplishment worth celebrating. By the time last yearís team did it, springtime was nearly over.
Thatís just one sign of progress coach Tom OíBrien has noted during his second spring at N.C. State. And as the Wolfpack prepares for its annual intrasquad scrimmage, itís finally looking like a team that reflects the discipline-first mentality that the no-nonsense former Marine and his staff were hired 16 months ago to instill.
iItís night and day,î OíBrien said Monday. iEverything in our program is way ahead of where we were a year ago. … They have a much better understanding of our coaching staff. Weíve stayed intact for a year, which I think is very key and very important for the long-range success of your program.î
OíBrien never promised any quick fixes when he left Boston College for ACC Atlantic Division rival N.C. State shortly after the 2006 season ended to replace the fired Chuck Amato.
After a 1-5 start in which the Wolfpack seemed to struggle to figure out what their new coach wanted, they turned the season around and threatened to qualify for a minor bowl game. A season-ending 37-0 loss to Maryland left them with a 5-7 record but reason to believe they can carry some of that momentum into this season.
iWeíre in the same system. They have a better understanding of whatís expected of them and what theyíre supposed to do,î OíBrien said. iWeíre out of the huddle, weíre at the line of scrimmage, the ballís being snapped. Weíre heading the right direction. Weíre lined up on defense, weíre starting to play faster on both sides of the ball.
iThose things all become important because theyíre all cumulative,î he added. iThey all add up.î
Because the players have a better grasp on those big-picture concepts, OíBrien has spent the spring fixing the on-the-field problems that contributed to last yearís horrible start: Porous tackling and poor ball protection. N.C. State allowed an ACC-worst 186 yards rushing per game and ranked 116th nationally with a turnover margin of minus-1.33.
iThe one thing we had to improve on on defense was (to have) not so many missed assignments and missed tackles,î OíBrien said. iItís getting down to where weíre getting lined up ó weíre understanding where weíre supposed to be, and our defense did a much better job tackling (in its most recent scrimmage).î
The key position in OíBrienís offense ó quarterback ó wonít be decided until the fall. Rising senior Daniel Evans, who has started 17 games over two years, is out after having shoulder surgery. That left Nebraska transfer Harrison Beck, sophomore-to-be Justin Burke and redshirt freshman Russell Wilson in the mix this spring.
Hotshot freshman Mike Glennon, a four-star player from Virginia rated by Scout.com as the nationís fifth-best quarterback in the Class of 2008, will arrive this summer and should liven up the competition when camp begins in August.
iOffensively, it still comes down to protecting the football,î OíBrien said. iThe key is still going to be the play of the quarterback. The three kids are working hard. … Glennon will show up in the fall, and weíll get a better shot at the quarterbacks as we go through preseason camp.î