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October 26, 2011

Tom O'Brien

TOM O'BRIEN: We're certainly working hard to get ready to go play a really explosive Florida State team. They started the year ranked in the top ten. They look like they're back to being a top ten football team right now, very explosive on offense, and leading this conference in defense. It'll be a great challenge for us, but our kids look forward to going down there and competing with them.

Q. I was just wondering how much of David Amerson's success picking off passes has been about his instinct and how much you think has been about your scheme?
TOM O'BRIEN: I think it's probably a combination of both. You know, he's a kid that when you look at eight interceptions in seven games, it's a pretty big accomplishment, especially for this school since nobody has done it here since -- it ties the record since 1938, so that's a pretty good record to have right now. Hopefully he can get three more and get up to where Dré Bly was in '96 with 11.
But he has great instincts and I think he has very good ability. He's a kid that has only been playing with us for two years, so he came into the scheme that -- he's learned it from the ground up. From day one he's come in and been coached to do what we want to do. But it has to be -- I think it's a combination of both things right now.

Q. Just to follow up with David Amerson, what were the things that -- he was primarily a safety in high school, and adjusting to cornerback in college, what are the things that he had to work his way through and learn about a little bit different position?
TOM O'BRIEN: Well, you know, we had him in camp, so as we put him through -- as he went through the camp and went through all the drills, we had no question at all that he could be a corner at this level and play at the highest level in the ACC at corner. So what he played in high school was not very significant for us one way or another since we had him in camp. So he has quick feet, he has great hands, he has good instincts. He's a student of the game.
I think that's the thing that is the difference. As a freshman last year we had him rolled up into the boundary, and as a freshman, you're more worried about many other things than what's going on. Now he's more comfortable going to school and doing those things. He's become much more in the film study room -- he's got good anticipation. He got burned a couple times early in the season on a double move, but he's worked hard not to make that happen because he is so aggressive.
All those, the little things and the study off the field is coming into play right now for him.

Q. I talked to him recently and he said that he spent a lot more time studying film than he ever has before. Particularly with guys in the secondary, does that give them that little extra edge if they believe that they can anticipate what a receiver is going to do?
TOM O'BRIEN: Yeah, I think you want to look at formations, study splits. Is it a big split, is it a number split, is it a hash split, what does this receiver run from the split he's in. Maybe they can pick up a clue on where his feet are. They look for all different things, look for how they come off the football. As you study the guy, you get into what his patterns are, and I think David will be better and better as time goes on as he anticipates all those things.

Q. I never thought I'd see a Virginia-NC State game where neither team completed a pass to the tight end. Has there been any kind of evolution in offensive or defensive philosophy that's minimized the role of the tight end at all?
TOM O'BRIEN: No, George Bryan has been All-ACC last two years. We've had trouble getting him the ball all year because people have made a concentrated effort not to let him catch the ball. We threw one to him the other day and he dropped the ball. He had a chance to catch a ball there in a third-down situation, a little choice route in the middle of the field. So we haven't given up trying to get the ball to the tight end, we just have had trouble with it because people have spent a lot of time taking him away or taking him out of the game. In our case, I don't know about Virginia's.

Q. You mentioned George's drop in that game. That was far from the only one from the receivers. There have been a couple of games this season where you've had kind of a breakout of the drops. Any explanation for it? Anything you can do besides just reps?
TOM O'BRIEN: No, I think it's concentration and reps. You've got to look the ball in. A lot of cases that's the case. A cases guys had a chance to make touchdowns. In fact, there were three of them, four times we had chances to make catches and make touchdowns. They were overly excited, taking off before running, counting the points up or whatever. But it's a matter of concentration, looking the back in, squeezing it and putting it away so it can't be stripped. We'll go back to the fundamentals, go back to basics, go back to concentration. It isn't lack of effort, I know that, on our part.

Q. Any concern at all about reading Glennon's body language to see if he's getting frustrated out there?
TOM O'BRIEN: No, I think he did a great job. After the one series that had a couple drops, he went over and got them together and said, listen, just hang in there. Keep working. I'm going to throw the ball, you guys have to start catching it. Hang with me, I'm going to hang with you. We're going to get this done together. So I think it was great leadership on Michael's part.

Q. I want to go back to David real quick. How good are his hands?
TOM O'BRIEN: Very good.

Q. Have you ever thought about using him at receiver at all?
TOM O'BRIEN: No, we actually used Rashard Smith this year as you know to play both sides. David returned because of the loss of TJ and because of the loss of Tobais last week. He returned a kickoff. He can return kickoffs, he can return punts. He could be a receiver. He's a lot like Will Blackmon, the kid I had at Boston College that we played both ways, too. He could do that.
But we chose Rashard because he's a little bit older and been around a little bit longer when we needed help earlier in the year.

Q. You've won two in a row now. Is there anything you were particularly pleased with from last week's game that you're telling the kids, all right, this is exactly what I want, keep it up for this week?
TOM O'BRIEN: Well, I think it's a combination that we started -- we were so devastated injury-wise and we started to get some guys back by the first game, and certainly the off-week allowed -- we had a lot of guys just beat up in themselves, and then getting Sweezy back and a couple others for Virginia, after being able to try to put a defense back together for a couple weeks, I think that was the biggest thing that happened. It was people and the players. They played with a lot of enthusiasm, knew that they were going up a really good Virginia football team, coming off a great win against Georgia Tech, and it was a very good victory for us to go on the road and win a game.

Q. What exactly what happened to Tobais Palmer before the game? And have you ever had a season where not one but two key guys have gotten hurt in pregame warm-ups?
TOM O'BRIEN: Never. I mean, as I keep saying, you can't make this stuff up. They were just out -- they go out early, they get to the stadium -- a lot of guys go out and just kind of toss the ball around, they were running around, he ran into another guy and got dinged and had a headache. So the doctor wisely said, you'd better stay out, and better safe than sorry. I mean, that was the case.

Q. How much did Bryan Underwood's role expand because Tobais was not available?
TOM O'BRIEN: Well, he was the only one left. We took Steve Howard from the other side. Thank goodness Steve has been around, knows every wide receiver position. We were basically down to four guys in the play in the first half against Virginia. We talk about a lot. You hear me say all the time, one man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. Bryan certainly made the most of his opportunity to get some time in there to play.

Q. Each year's team is a new thing, and prior to the Virginia game your three wins had been at home where people would have perceived you as the favorite. How important is it, and how much morale boost do you think your players got from beating an ACC team on the road?
TOM O'BRIEN: Well, it should be a good boost for them to understand how difficult it is. This league is very difficult to go on the road and to win, especially when you go play a good team and a team like Virginia who was 4-2 at that point and coming off a great win the week before. It caught their attention being the NC State football team and what a great team Virginia was and how great they were playing.
But that one is by us, and we have to look forward to Florida State. We can't be looking in the rear view mirror. We have to get focused on Florida State or you can get run out of the ballpark down there.

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