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September 8, 2010

Tom O'Brien

MIKE FINN: We now welcome in state head football coach, Tom O'Brien, whose Wolfpack will travel to Orlando, Florida for a Saturday game against UCF in Bright House Networks Stadium. The game will have a 7:30 p.m. kickoff, and will be televised by CBS College Sports or CBSCS. We'll bring out coach and ask for a brief opening statement and then go to questions.
Coach, just a brief opening statement and then we'll go to questions.
COACH O'BRIEN: We're on our way down to Central Florida to play a really good football team on Saturday night. They had a nice start to the year. They're a big, strong, powerful offensive football team, likes to run the ball. Quarterbacks had a great night. Threw for over 80%.
Defensively they led their conference in defense last year and seven starters back from that unit, so it will be a great challenge for our football team. But we look forward to the opportunity.
MIKE FINN: Questions for coach.

Q. Obviously, Russell Wilson had a strong game. Tell me what you saw in your running game, and in particular in Haynes, and in Mustafa Greene?
COACH O'BRIEN: Well, we understood going in that we had five offensive linemen that never started a game, and two running backs that had never been in a football game at the collegiate level. So our thought process early was keep it simple. Hold on to the football, run to the goal line, head straight up the field, no bouncing, no doing anything.
As the game progressed and everybody started to get a little more in sync and get into the flow of things and get used to playing, we did a couple different things with them. As the game went on, we got better both up front and we got better with both those kids running the football.

Q. What about their pass protection? What did you see in that? I know that's something you were watching closely.
COACH O'BRIEN: They were perfect in where they were going and what they were doing. Technique-wise there were some things that we worked on this week that they've got to get used to, so they could be a little better fundamentally in what they're doing. But as far as assignment-wise, they were going the right direction the whole night.

Q. In the first week of the season in which both teams have had months and months to prepare for the same thing, do you think it's easier to block punts or easier to protect them?
COACH O'BRIEN: I don't see why one should be any easier or any harder than the other. I think your punt protection is set up to look at different looks and you study your opponent from last year and the same thing. You attack opponents' punt off their punt protection the same way. You watch it all year.
The only thing that you can identify is personnel. Sometimes you have better people, sometimes you have not as good of people that have to fill those spots. So I think that's the biggest difference is the personnel issue.

Q. Generally speaking, how do you feel about your special teams?
COACH O'BRIEN: I think we were better Saturday night. We punted the ball. Had better hang time, better distance. First one wasn't as good, but we ended up getting the bounce, and getting the ball back so that made it wonderful. But the second one was exactly what we wanted.
Kickoffs, we were about 50% from where we have to be. But for the whole night, even the bad kickoffs were better than our good ones a year ago. So I think we're making strides in both areas.

Q. You started Rob Crisp at left tackle, which that is a tough position for a true freshman to play at this level. One, what did you see in him in the game, and do you expect Vermiglio to play in the game or start in the game on Saturday?
COACH O'BRIEN: With Rob Crisp it was an exceptional performance for him for a freshman. I think what you see in him is really good athletic ability. You saw great tenaciousness. He's got a certain confidence about himself, and I think he did a great job.
Vermiglio is still going through practice this week and will be determining his status as we get to game time.

Q. You may not know until Saturday?

Q. With two guys in --
COACH O'BRIEN: I may know before, but I'm not telling you until Saturday.

Q. But we'll keep asking. Vermiglio, you have two good players here, would you look to use one of them at a different position?
COACH O'BRIEN: No, I don't think. I think Rob Crisp was exactly, if it works out that he's going to be the back-up this year, he's exactly where he should be and learn and play a little bit every game to give Jake some rest. Which we haven't had that luxury here in the past to give a starter some rest and get a back-up in maybe a series or two a game.
Certainly a guy like Rob can learn a lot because a lot's going to change, especially as we go in in different defenses and different blitzes and everything. We'll certainly learn and project himself to be a three-year starter for us at left tackle.

Q. What will your game plan be for Bruce Miller at defensive end?
COACH O'BRIEN: One thing is they move him around a lot, so it's tough to identify where he's going to be. Something in base defense you kind of know. But once they go to substitution defense he moves inside, speed rushes on your inside guys, makes him miss to a lot of things.
So I think certainly you have to identify where he is, and if you can get some help out of somebody and figure out where he is and get some help, we certainly would try to do that.

Q. How does this UCF team look to you on the field?
COACH O'BRIEN: They look a lot like they did last year in the summer film study. They're powerful guys up front. They have really good experience at linebacker and run and attack the football. Their secondary progressed as the year went on because they had a couple of true freshmen back there, but they're kind of like us. Now they have sophomores and that's better with the other two seniors, 23 and 40 back there.
George O'Leary can coach defense, there is no question about that. We're well aware this is projected to be the top defense in their conference.

Q. I was just wondering how you felt Nate did in his first game back, and also it looked like Terell Manning from the numbers was pretty active. Could you talk about how he did?
COACH O'BRIEN: Nate didn't have many opportunities. I don't think -- I think he got a little frustrated out there because everything got funnels back to Terell.
Thank goodness he had a good night and put up the numbers that he did. He was the linebacker that they attacked. They didn't go to the field and test Audie Cole at all. Everything was a cutback run away from him. So I don't know if that was by design or not, but it was just the way things worked out the other night.

Q. Was Nate tackled?
COACH O'BRIEN: No, he didn't. Neither did Audie Cole, which is very unusual.

Q. I didn't see the game. Was he double teamed a lot?
COACH O'BRIEN: No, just the way that they had structured their offense. A lot of it was either cutback run or fake to the field and come back into the boundary. So it's just the way it worked out.
MIKE FINN: Coach, thank you for being with us. Good luck this weekend, and we look forward to talking to you next week.
COACH O'BRIEN: Thank you.

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