NC State head coach Tom O'Brien met with the media during a luncheon at Backyard Bistro in Raleigh Monday to discuss Saturday's season opener against Liberty at Carter-Finley Stadium.
O'Brien warns that Liberty will not be a pushover for the Pack. The Flames are 40-16 in five years under head coach Danny Rocco, and they return eight starters on offense, highlighted by quarterback Mike Brown who piled up nearly 4,000 yards of total offense and 32 touchdowns last year.
Liberty runs a spread offense and is expected to air it out against the Pack. Liberty also return five starters on defense, including massive 6-foot-5, 380-pound tackle Asa Chapman.
Last year they won at Ball State, 27-23, and two seasons ago the Flames gave West Virginia a run for their money before falling 33-20.
O'Brien talked with the press for over 18 minutes Monday. Click on the link to listen to O'Brien's press conference.
- O'Brien noted that when trainers and coaches give a timeline for a player's return from injury, they always try to give the worst-case scenario. That would have meant offensive guard Duran Christophe would not have returned until week two.
Christophe though returned to practice last week following preseason surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his knee without complications and is ready to go for the opener. Redshirt freshman running back Tony Creecy, who will be the third tailback behind junior James Washington and fifth-year senior Curtis Underwood, Jr., also returned to practice last week after nursing an ankle injury.
- O'Brien continues to feel confident about his running back situation, noting that Washington was a workhorse coming out of Boone High in Orlando, Fla., and that Underwood is a power back.
- Two true freshmen found their way on the depth chart as backups. Michael Peek is at strongside linebacker and Tyrrell Burriss is at boundary corner.
O'Brien praised both Burriss and Peek for quickly grasping the defense.
- Redshirt sophomore defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop got a starting nod because he "finally convinced" defensive line coach Keith Willis that he's ready to play.
- O'Brien said his ideal schedule would include two BCS games, one of which was on national television, an FCS contest and one non-BCS opponent.
- Redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon is excited according to O'Brien. The coach relayed a story to Glennon recently about last year's season opener.
Then fifth-year senior linebacker Nate Irving was so excited about his return after missing the 2009 season with serious injuries sustained in a car accident that he did not do anything right on defense in the opening series. Western Carolina promptly went down the field and scored a touchdown.
O'Brien wants Glennon to relax Saturday, and take heed of the sign the team sees before running onto the field: Individuals play the game, teams win the championship.
Back-up quarterback Tyler Brosius, a redshirt freshman, will go in if the opportunity presents itself.
- The wide receivers as a group have performed better the last two weeks of practice after starting strong and then taking a step back, O'Brien said.
He also noted sophomore cornerback David Amerson had a similar-type of camp as the receivers did, but O'Brien feels good about the starting corner combination of Amerson and redshirt junior C.J. Wilson.
- O'Brien admits he feels "a lot more comfortable" about the specialists than he did before the start of camp, but Saturday will be the key test. He reminded reporters of the first time former BC standout punter Johnny Ayers punted for the Eagles.
Ayers dropped the punt in the end zone and gave up a safety.
- O'Brien reiterated his promise that senior fullback Taylor Gentry will get a carry this season, and O'Brien added "he better get a standing ovation."