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November 9, 2011

Tom O'Brien credits health to improved defense



NC State coach Tom O'Brien held his weekly teleconference Wednesday, and discussed the impact of having a healthier defense, the development of redshirt junior wide receiver Tobais Palmer and what running back James Washington has done to help the rushing attack.

Here is a transcript of what O'Brien said:

Opening statement:

"We are certainly hard at work this week trying to get focused and getting ready to play a Boston College football team. We know it is an extremely tough place to play. They have a really good home field advantage up there in Chestnut Hill, Mass. Our attention has been turned to them and we are working hard to have continued success that we've experienced three out of the last four weeks."

How much of running back James Washington's success this year is him taking advantage of his opportunity?

"I think more importantly, he's healthy for the first time. Each of the two previous seasons coming in, especially last year when we were counting on him, he ended up spraining his [hamstring] in preseason camp and was never healthy until November of last year. I think he has worked hard in the strength and conditioning area to make sure he would be healthy going into this year. Given the opportunity to succeed, he has made the most of it. I think it's a combination of both of those things."

How has Washington developed in the passing game?

"I think it is important for us, especially at running back, that they can catch the football. That is one thing that they have to be able to do. We work hard, especially when people back up, to dump the ball off to the running back. They have to catch it and make something out of it. That's part of his game that he works hard on. [Redshirt junior quarterback] Mike [Glennon] certainly trusts him now to catch the ball and he's made some key catches and some key first downs for us."

What are you pleased about with your recent stretch of games?

"We are finally getting healthy. We went through that stretch - Cincinnati, Georgia Tech - where we had 12 guys out that played a lot of football for us. We started to get healthy against Central Michigan. From that point on, we played pretty good. The first half of Florida State was not a good defensive effort. The second half of Central Michigan, the second half of Florida State, Virginia and certainly the North Carolina game, the defense started to get healthy again, and we started to get guys back. That's the best thing we are doing now. We haven't been turning the football over.

"If we play good defense, don't turn the football over, then you have a chance to win all the time."

Did you see this coming once the injury problems went away?

"I didn't know we were going to get healthy, but we knew in order to have any success, we would have to get healthy and get guys back. D.J. Green is out for the year. Jeff Rieskamp is out for the year. Two guys that are important to the defense, but other guys have stepped up and played. We have to continue doing this, especially this week going to Boston."

How has tight end George Bryan played?

"He may have pressed early, and he was probably frustrated early. Coming into the year with a new quarterback and new wide receivers, defenses, rightly so said, 'Well, we have to take George Bryan out of the game. They won't have anybody to throw to.' In a lot of cases through the first month, through the first five games of the season, he was double- and- triple-teamed.

"Now that we have established the fact that T.J. Graham, Tobais Palmer, Bryan Underwood, Jay Smith, some of those guys can catch it and hurt you, they've had to cover other guys. It has allowed him a little more freedom to get into the passing game. He has done a solid job blocking in the running game. His game is back to where it should be and where we need it to be heading into this crucial stretch in November."

Tobais Palmer had a big game against UNC and how has he developed this season?

"He was a guy that we certainly were counting on coming in. He came in and we redshirted him last year, even though we knew he spent a couple of years at Georgia Military College. We thought it would benefit him because he was a running back coming out of high school and even in junior college. He could make the transition to wide receiver. We used that year to coach him and give us some extra time to get him ready to go. He has been an integral part of any success we've had. He's learning more and more each and every week. He's learning how to be a big-league wide receiver."

What is it about the bye week that brings out the best in Wolfpack football team?

"In a couple of years, it had to do with injury problems the first half of the year, and trying to get guys healthy and back in the lineup. We were then able to get back to where we wanted to get too. Everybody that plays this game tries to get better each and every week.

"We are such a fundamentally sound oriented staff, so sometimes those things take weeks to kick in, especially, if you aren't a veteran team. We haven't been a senior football team yet since I've been here. You have a lot of young kids that are maybe playing for the first time, and learning, and they will get better as the year goes on. It's important to them and they want to be good."

What do you work on during the bye week?

"The bye week, we always go back and work on the fundamentals. It's similar to a spring practice and preseason camp. We go back to coaching everybody. Everybody gets the same rep, from the first group to the last group. We try to make the football team a more sound fundamental football team."

How has Terrell Manning done this year?

"Nate [Irving] played there [weakside linebacker] two years ago, and then Nate moved to middle linebacker. Terrell has been the weakside linebacker for a little more than two years now. He is a guy that we certainly were counting on. He was the most experienced player coming back of the three linebacker positions, at his position. He had to play well for us. It was tough for us when we lost him for the Cincinnati and Georgia Tech games [due to a knee injury], but we able to get him back for Central Michigan. From that point on, and with getting other people back, the defense has been much better.

"I think the thing that happened Saturday [vs. UNC] with [defensive tackles J.R.] Sweezy getting back and playing, and [Thomas] Teal getting back and playing, we had some guys up front now that could keep the offensive lineman off the linebackers. [Middle linebacker] Audie Cole and Terrell Manning could run and make plays on Saturday, which they both did."


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