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April 25, 2012

Tom O'Brien

COACH O'BRIEN:  We finished spring on Saturday.  Satisfied with where we ended up this spring.  I think the biggest thing for us right now is that we're healthy.  We only had two guys not participate, scholarship guys.  That is the least amount of injured that we've had coming out of spring.
We're looking forward to getting ourselves ready to play a great game against Tennessee.

Q.  Coach, could you go a little more into the program and what your players benefit from that experience and where you first saw that and thought that could be of help?
COACH O'BRIEN:  Well, the program is something that we did two years ago.  It was first brought to my attention.  It was started up in the New England area, so I had some idea.  Learned about Eric, a fellow Naval Academy graduate and what he was trying to do with it.  It's all about leadership training and team building.
I think it worked very well for us two years ago, so we brought him back and did it Monday night.  We were on the field at 8:00 o'clock Monday night.  Got off the field a little after 11:30, and were in the pool 4:30 the next morning.
He brings basically himself, who is special operations, two other fellow marine officers, a captain and a major that were special operations, a former NFL player, and they run the team through various drills and various team building exercises.  I think it's a great experience for the team.  I think they really enjoy it, especially once it's over.

Q.  What did you come out of spring ball kind of feeling more encouraged about that maybe you were looking to learn about your team in the spring?  On the flip side, what do you go into August thinking I didn't see enough of what I wanted to see positively in this regard in the spring, and thinking I hope I can see that in August?
COACH O'BRIEN:  Well, I think this is the biggest thing we have to solve in August is the linebacker position.  We lost four kids.  We planned on losing two.  Weren't sure about Mann when he went, and then certainly D.J. Green was a big surprise to us.  So not a lot of experience coming back there at all.  Have to play a lot of young kids.  Hopefully Coach Tenuta can get these guys headed in the right direction.
The other position on offense is the wide receiver where we lost three kids last year that played a lot of football for us.
Those are two key areas that we have so solve.  I think we're making progress in some other spots.  We spent a lot of time on the offensive and defensive line shuffling guys around.  We have experience coming back at those positions, but aren't anywhere near set on who is going to play what position except with Wentz playing center.
So those are areas that we have some guys but we kept moving around and kind of happy with where we can be, then the experience with secondary showed up at spring practice with those four kids back there, that three of them are going to be three‑year starters, and the other ones, a two‑year starter, going into three years, and their experience played out well in spring.

Q.  For those of us who are old enough to remember his father is an all ACC defensive lineman, is R.J. ready to take that step on the offensive line?
COACH O'BRIEN:  We think so.  I think he has NFL potential.  We've kind of moved him around.  He's played about every different spot on the line.  He was a right guard, a right tackle and a left tackle.  We're trying to get settled into a position for him.  But he has the skillset to play at the next level.  I think that he's going to need a good year this year to do it.
I'm glad he's on our team.  He's got the same fiery personality and leadership traits as his father.  He's one guy that when we did the program and the leadership drills the other night, he stood out to this football team.

Q.  The spring prospect us listed him at 313.  Is that a good, comfortable weight for him?
COACH O'BRIEN:  Yeah, I believe so.  He's moving well.  He had an injury last year where he had a floating body in the back part of his ankle that required surgery in the off‑season.  We thought he was going to miss all of spring practice, and he missed the first five days.
So you didn't see many ill effects coming off the surgery with his ankle.  He played through it last year, but he certainly looked quicker on his feet this spring than he did at the end of last year.

Q.  I wanted to ask you about David Amerson and how does he follow up a year where I think they said it was the most interceptions in a season by anybody in the FBS since 1968.  In my past experience, when guys have big interception years early in their career, they don't get many after that because people won't throw at them.  Is that something you expect to see?  How do you prepare to use a weapon like that?
COACH O'BRIEN:  Well, that's left to be seen what teams do.  I think that happened a little towards the end of the year, but certainly in the bowl game they threw at him.  He got his record setting pick and played one of the most remarkable interception returns for a touchdown I've ever seen.  Then he got the last play of the game.
I think that may be the case, and hopefully he doesn't get frustrated.  But if that is the case, that takes away a third of the field from a lot of people, which then helps us with the rest of the defense.

Q.  Is there anything he could do better?  I mean, he obviously had a great year.  Could he improve?
COACH O'BRIEN:  He's really humble about the situation.  He's studied a lot.  As far as technique and the thing that we've talked about all the time, we want to be much better fundamentally as a football team in the spring, not as concerned with the X's and O's and concepts, but as individuals our team improves.
There was a laundry list of things that Coach Reed gave him that he wanted him to work on:  Back‑pedal, breaking on the ball, those kind of things that maybe he looks pretty good at, but he can be a lot better at.  Those are all things we concentrated on in spring practice.

Q.  After the game Saturday, you mentioned Rodman Noel and his athleticism.  I was wondering what you saw that made you think he would be a good linebacker?  And how much can you expect him to contribute next year?
COACH O'BRIEN:  Well, he's in a similar situation that D.J. Green was in last year.  Both of them had played back‑up and special teams as a freshman at the safety position.  The way we played defense for years is that field linebacker position is a hybrid/strong safety/linebacker spot.  He has a lot of the same skill sets of guys that we've had there through the years.  He's tall.  He's got length to him.  He can run.  He's smart.  It might have been a spot if E.J. was there, we would have moved him to to start off as a back‑up anyway.  But because E.J. isn't there, he's been pressed into playing a little quicker.
He has the skillset that's required to play that position.  Just a question of gaining the experience and confidence to be successful there.

Q.  At what point during the off‑season do you think that you'll make a decision on the status of Mustafa?  What will happen with him?
COACH O'BRIEN:  Mustafa's on the team.  He just didn't make it through spring practice.  I expect him to be with us in fall practice.  If he continues, he's doing all that's been asked of him from that point on.
So as long as he continues and completes what we've asked him to do, we should see him when practice starts in August.

Q.  With Mike last year, 31 touchdown passes, 12 picks, and more than 3,000 yards way above 60%.  What are some of the subtle things he needs to improve on in his senior year?
COACH O'BRIEN:  Well, the thing that we like most is that he finished the year strong and really used the time from the last game against Maryland.  I think he threw five touchdown passes there in the fourth quarter to the bowl game.  He got better in the bowl game.
I lot of the things we stressed to him from that point on was to get back, to set up quicker, to deliver the ball and be more decisive in his reads.  We've carried that over into spring practice.  The thing that's been good for him is we've talked earlier about the experience of those kids in the secondary.
When you have a kid like that, he's challenged Amerson all spring.  Now Amerson got him in the spring game, but that's all part of the challenge of going best against best.  Both of our safeties are three year starters.  The other corner is a three‑year starter.
So he had a great opportunity this spring to go against a good, competitive secondary, getting that back foot down, getting the ball out and making good decisions.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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