The Red & White football game is approaching this weekend and Wolfpack fans are starting to look ahead to the 2008 season. (That’s what we do as NC State fans – look ahead…OR…look very far in the past).
I just had to tell you how impressed I continue to be with NC State’s Head Coach, Tom O’Brien.
About this time last year we were basking in the love of a lot of national praise for TOB. You will be interested in the entry which is accessible by clicking here.
Similarly, just this week The Sporting News‘ Matt Hayes picked NC State as one of “Four to Watch” in this article because of his respect for TOB.
NC State: Don’t kid yourself, Tom O’Brien is one of the top five coaches in the game. (SN colleague Tom Dienhart ranked him 4th in the ACC) It took him awhile to weed out the malcontents last year, but by November, the Wolfpack were playing as well as anyone in the ACC (insert your joke here).
This is how Tom O. works: First, he makes the team smarter, then tougher — and once he finds a quarterback, the winning begins. The question: Can junior Harrison Beck become that leader?
I have NO DOUBT that NC State will be a better football team in 2008 than we were in 2007. How much better, and how that improvement translates into wins against a very tough schedule is another question.
I have little doubt that Russell Wilson or Mike Glennon will start the 2008 season at quarterback for the Wolfpack. The worse the offensive line, the more chance that Wilson and his scrambling abilities will get the nod.
Yesterday the N&O ran an article focused on the Wolfpack’s spring practice that I thought was particularly good. It wasn’t the information from practice that was so interesting to me; it was the perspective and tone of Coach O’Brien and his attention to detail
It is no secret to anyone who has privately spoken with the coaching staff that they were nothing short of astounded at the general mess that they inherited when they arrived in Raleigh. I think that this helped set the foundation for a year where TOB and the staff never found their footing or felt 100% comfortable. I think that the transition to a stronger, better program is clearly happening in front of our eyes and some of TOB’s comments in the N&O’s piece indicate his level of comfort with the Wolfpack’s progression:
A year ago, few knew what to expect as the Pack conducted spring practice. O’Brien, after 10 years at Boston College, was unsure about his new players’ work habits, their willingness to learn a new system. The players were unsure about the new coaches.
It was an uneasy time for everyone, a feeling-out process. Baby steps were taken.
“It’s night and day,” O’Brien said. “I think everything in our program is way ahead of where we were a year ago.
“They have a much better understanding of our coaching staff. We stayed intact for a year, which I think is very key and very important in the long-range success of your program. The coaches are all still here. We’re in the same system.
“We’re out of the huddle, we’re at the line of scrimmage, the ball’s being snapped, we’re headed in the right direction. We’re lined up on defense. We’re starting to play faster on both sides of the ball. Those things all become important because they’re all cumulative. They all add up.”
Similarly, Coach O’Brien gave this radio interview earlier in the week to ESPN Radio 93.1 in Columbia, SC.
“The biggest thing you get out of spring practice is individual improvement.”
“We had our second scrimmage last week, and talking to the coaches they think we are making strides in the right direction.”
“I think everybody was somewhat embarrassed by the way we played the last game of the year.”
“The coaches did a great job. We changed a lot of things around and we changed some people around. As you said, we went on a four-game winning streak and got ourselves back to .500 at 5-5 and had a chance to make ourselves bowl eligible.”
We haven’t been very diligent recently in linking to some of our blogging brethren…so, allow me to leave you with this TOB-related entry from RAWFS discussing the ‘rankings’ of “Coaches on the Hotseat”.
UPDATE: 850 am had a nice 15 minute chat with TOB this morning. Hat tip to Joe Ovies.