O’Brien Working Hard To Manage Expectations

As the Wolfpack Caravan winds its way around the state, one thing that is clear is that fans are excited about the upcoming football season and that a large number of them are predicting big things for the 2009 edition of NC State football.  You can see that in the poll here at SFN, where currently 23% — nearly one in four respondents — think State will win 10 or more games in the upcoming year.

But don’t tell that to Tom O’Brien.  He knows full well the value of summer prognostications, and at many Caravan stops, he’s quick to point out the folly of them.  In Whiteville recently, O’Brien said that “not many people picked Boston College to win its division the last two years,” but according to the Wilmington Star-News he at least acknowledges that he and his staff have enough horses to be a legitimate contender.

Indeed — State is one of several contenders in its division, and the entire road for the season, with its ups-and-downs, has yet to begin.  In the meantime, O’Brien has several problems he’ll need to solve before the South Carolina game in the season opener — the offensive line being the most obvious — for State to live up to some of the lofty predictions being placed on it at this point of the offseason.  O’Brien will also need for most if not all key players to remain healthy and ready to go through pre-season practices, where the Pack experiencing personnel losses have seemingly grow into an annual tradition that predates the O’Brien era.

At the same time, in the Star-News online article, O’Brien added that “there’s nothing wrong with high expectations. We want to win every game. We want to win our division, and I don’t know if you can tamp the expectations down around here.

“But the reality is that you have to play the season. We have to take care of our business. If we do what we’re supposed to do, maybe we can match those expectations.”

One thing is certain: having high hopes is a welcome change for State fans, who have been waiting for one of their major sports teams to be a solid contender for several years now.  The football team’s rebuilding process has been proceeding nicely, and this upcoming season is the first one in a long time where Pack fans can spend the summer rubbing their hands together and looking towards fall with some excitement.  The trick is to keep hope and common sense wired together and the expecatations realistic: State is by no means a BCS caliber team yet, but it may well grow into one as the season progresses, especially if it comes out of the gate playing as well as it played last November.

'09 Football NCS Football Tom O'Brien

28 Responses to O’Brien Working Hard To Manage Expectations

  1. com state10 05/28/2009 at 8:49 AM #

    I am always excited about the start of the different seasons, but this one feels different for some reason. If there is a weakness I dont mind, its the offensive line, just because of TOB’s amazing history of bringing in, and bringing together, great OL’s.

    I would doubt there has been a bigger game in the last 4-6 years for us than that opening night game against SC…

    on a side note, the ncaa just slapped memphis and calipari with a nice little violation: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/news/story?id=4210798

    I think it ends that debate, the dude has no interest in improving young men’s life, just winning at all costs. And I am glad he was never our coach.

  2. Rufftown Wolf 05/28/2009 at 8:55 AM #

    I’m excited about the up and coming season. I hope D. Bowens will be able to play. On a side note. Check out this article on Cal.


    Looks like Kentucky fans are puckering up today..

  3. wufpup76 05/28/2009 at 9:07 AM #

    “The trick is to keep hope and common sense wired together and the expecatations realistic …”

    ^Couldn’t have said it better myself. And TOB has a great mindset and perspective, IMO.

  4. VaWolf82 05/28/2009 at 9:10 AM #

    Please keep the comments focused on the current subject.

    Back to FB, based on the poll results here at SFN, I don’t think that TOB is doing a very good job of managing expectations. Though managing expectations of the State fan base is even harder than herding cats.

  5. primacyone 05/28/2009 at 9:20 AM #

    Based on the poll results on the right, there are going to be a lot of dissapointed pack fans this year. 9 – 10 wins???

  6. wufpup76 05/28/2009 at 9:20 AM #

    “Managing State fans – Don’t let anybody ever tell ‘ya it’s easy!”

  7. Classof89 05/28/2009 at 9:32 AM #

    When I saw the schedule earlier this year, I thought it was very difficult, and I still feel that way. Therefore, I think some of the expectations in the fanbase are a little inflated. I haven’t perused South Carolina’s personnel in detail, but TOB’s “focus on the basics” approach has struggled in the past against top-notch offensive minds on the other sideline (as did Sheridan with a similar approach) and no matter what else you may think of the Ole Ball Coach, there is no doubt he is a really good offensive strategist.

    Then the rest of the schedule features what can be the boogeyman of teams without a lot of depth along the lines (like ours): the toughest games down the stretch run at the end of the season, when you usually have lost some number of players to injury. In the Gator Bowl year, the tough games were all at the end of the season also, and that translated to a November stumble that took us from contending for a BCS spot to out of the top 25 entirely. Starting with the visit to Tallahassee on October 31, we finish with five straight games, with four of those opponents (all except Maryland) likely to contend for a slot in the top 25 at some point in the season, with the two road games against the consensus top two teams in the league in preseason chatter so far (VaTech and FSU). Combine that with home games against two teams that haven’t exactly quaked in their shoes at the idea of playing us in Raleigh–Clemson (we’re 4-6 in the last 10 home games) and UNC(also 4-6 in the last 10 at home, only one of those wins–1991– against a UNC team that finished the year with a winning season and NOT including the “home” game in Charlotte, which we also lost), and you have the recipe for a real struggle in November.

    I expect this season to play out a lot like the Gator Bowl year, where we could very well bolt out to a 6-1 or 7-0 start and a top 10 ranking, only to fade in November to a 2nd tier bowl (FWIW, I consider Gator and whatever they call the 4th pick bowl in Florida to be the 2nd tier bowls…the Papa John’s bowl is more like a 4th tier bowl). I consider 8-4 to be the centerline prediction (split of USC and Pitt, 2-2 against FSU, VATech, Clemson and UNC, and one of those WTF losses against a team we should have beaten–at Wake in particular has been a game we haven’t really shown up for recently). 9-3 would be an outstanding coaching performance and a really exciting season. 7-5 would be nothing to be ashamed at, given the tough late schedule.

  8. anti-smurf 05/28/2009 at 9:51 AM #

    I think 8-4 is very realistic.

    USC – W
    Murray St – W
    Gard-Webb- W
    Pitt – L
    WF – W
    Duke – W
    BC – W
    FSU – L
    MD – W
    Clemson – L
    VT – L
    unc – W

    I’ll take that and be happy!

  9. Packman02 05/28/2009 at 10:17 AM #

    ^ Taking a quick, way too early, assesment of the schedule into account, I boldy predict 9-3.

    South Carolina – Home game, first game of the year, ESPN game at that – we’ve tradionally played well in these. A healthy RW gives us the edge here. Garcia has never overwhelmed me with his talent, and the USC defense experienced some attrition (NFL). That said, this is the 1st ame of the year. We’ll not have ‘gelled’ yet but USC will not have either – thinking homefield is a big factor here but I cannot honestly say this is a guaranteed W, so I’m taking the conservative road,
    – L, but a CLOSE ONE. (0-1)

    Murray State – Success here is = W + no catastrophic injuries. (1-1)

    Gardner-Webb – Success here is = W + no catastrophic injuries. (2-1)

    PITT – LeSean McCoy (who was PITT’s offense last year) is gone and it seems that there is a perpetual ESPN headline detailing the latest arrest/ dimissal of a PITT WR. Again, Home Field is a big advantage here. – W (3-1)

    @ Wake Forest – Deacs always give us headaches. Why? Because Grobe is the best there is in the league (this side of TOB, of course?). Close game – again, taking the conservative route. – L (3-2)

    Duke – Believe it or not, THIS could be a close game. Cutcliff really began maximizing his personnel late season last year and it would be logical to assume that trend continues. Ultimately, I think home field and talent prevail. – W (4-2)

    @ Boston College – THIS IS THE YEAR. PERIOD. – W (5-2)

    @ Florida State – I have absolutely no idea. Ponder is the best QB they’ve had down in Tallahassee in a while, and the defense is ALWAYS outstanding. Who the heck knows how the tumultuous end to last season (scandal, suspensions) and offseason have affected the Noles. Going with a loss here b/c this will be the second road game and, by this point in the season, we’re bound to be experiencing key injuries (hopefully minor in nature). – L (5-3)

    Maryland – Terps are rebuilding and this is a home game. Of course it is Maryland, which always has the potential to be the WTF? game of the year – but I have a gut feeling that Coach is going to reverse that trend. – W (6-3)

    Clemson – Entering the BRUTAL stretch of the schedule. This is a win, but a close one. Clemson will have the edge talent-wise, but as long as we keep Bowers away from Russell and unleash the hounds on defense (the QB, whoever it might be, will still be green), I think we pull it out.
    – W (7-3)

    Virginia Tech – Oddly enough, I think we get this done. Tyrod Taylor may ultimately make look like a complete @$$, but I have no faith in him. PLUS – we’ll be catching the Hokies in the midst of their annual late-season implosion. – W (in a squeaker!) (8-3)

    unc – This will be one for the ages, mark it down. Butch will finally get his act together and have the Holes vying for the Coastal (tied with GT for 2nd). Too bad we’ll have to ruin things for them – close game but the home field advantage of Carter-Finley and (another) outstanding game by one Russell Wilson cement a 3rd place Coastal finish for the Holes. This one assures Russell Wilson’s place alongside Philip Rivers in the Hole Pantheon of Hate!
    – W (9-3)

    Bowls, you ask?

    I’m tapping FSU to win the Atlantic and VT to win the Coastal, and have the Pack finishing tied for 3rd with Georgia Tech. Our strong travel record and superstar QB send us to the Gator Bowl, which, selfishly, works well for me (girlfriend’s family lives at the beach, just outside of JAX).

  10. BJD95 05/28/2009 at 10:28 AM #

    Given how over-inflated folks usually get pre-season, I was pleasantly survived that 8 and 9 wins got the most poll votes (you could read the question to include the bowl game, as well). I voted for 8 wins, and think that would represent solid progress for the program. I expect State will go 4-4 in ACC play, and lose to USC or the bowl opponent. I do think there is potential to do a little better than that and go 5-3 or 6-2 with good health and a few breaks.

    It is true that our general athletic malaise has fans desperate for a season to truly be proud of. But I trust TOB to keep the players’ heads on straight, and not be distracted by any hype.

    The window for contention is still 2010-12, IMHO.

  11. GAWolf 05/28/2009 at 11:06 AM #

    Weren’t we 4-4 in conference for “The Parade?”

    Until the staff has confidence in our O-Line and openly voices that, I’ll temper my expectations considerably. We’re NC State after all: whatever bad can happen will.

  12. Daily Update 05/28/2009 at 11:28 AM #

    Realistically 7-8 wins in the regular season is what we should be expecting.

    3-1 OOC
    4-4 ACC

    With maybe another win OOC or ACC, gets us to 8-4.

  13. Sam92 05/28/2009 at 11:36 AM #

    our season opener will really tell the tale – South Carolina might be the best team we face all year (possibly VT though), if we can pull out a victory over s.c., i think we’ve got 9 wins for sure. if not, we might get only 7 or 8, but still an improvement.

    Classof89, I think what your analysis is missing is that tom o’brien’s teams improve as season progresses – this is in contrast to chuck amato – i’m more concerned that we’ll stumble early, but expect a strong finish, and tom o’brien to begin cementing ownership of butch davis.

  14. BJD95 05/28/2009 at 11:42 AM #

    We were 5-3 in the parade year.

  15. orionpack 05/28/2009 at 12:04 PM #

    I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not overly impressed by what Spurrier has done at USC (not to sound over confident). They seem to have a great defense, but not as good on the offensive side which should be to our advantage with Wilson running the show with one full (well nearly) year under his belt. As pointed out above, our defense was poor early on in the season, but we still were able to hold USC to a tie (0-0 if I remember correctly) before Wilson went out.

  16. packalum44 05/28/2009 at 12:30 PM #

    I picked 9 wins in the poll. I prefer a qualitative high-level overview. My thoughts:

    We were the BEST team in the conference during the last 5 games. We return MOST of our key starters. TOB said we looked like the same team from last December during spring practice (he did not have the same compliment the previous year).

    We have a backup QB who has more TALENT/POTENTIAL at the QB position than RW who is the best QB in the ACC. We will be better and deeper at EVERY position than last year except possibly tailback in which is the easiest position to reload. TOB teams get better period. Not just from start to finish of a season but start to finish of his tenure.

    I think we lose 3 games and don’t care to pick which ones.

  17. Classof89 05/28/2009 at 1:02 PM #

    SAM92: my concerns about the season-ending stretch are not about whether the team improves, but the almost certainty of season-ending injuries to one or more key players, which has absolutely hobbled this team in TOB’s first two seasons AND which TOB has absolutely no control over.

    That said, we are certainly due for a light injury year after the last two seasons, but I’m certainly not going to count on that…

  18. Noah 05/28/2009 at 1:50 PM #

    Seven or eight wins sounds about right to me.

  19. ryebread 05/28/2009 at 3:09 PM #

    This is the type of schedule that sets up well for a middle tier program to maximize their talent. Mid tier teams looking to get as many wins as they possibly can are typically better off when they have tough non-conference games at home (check), winnable conference games at home (check), rivalry game at home (check) and toughest games on the road (@ VT and @ FSU, check).

    This isn’t the type of schedule that favors running the table, but we’re not there yet either. If our goal this year were a national title, I’d say we’d have a very tough schedule. Our goal this year should be taking the next step though, and I think we do set up well for that.

    I think we’ll get between 7 and 9 wins this year. If I were betting, I’d go with 8-4. Having said that, if we could get the OL playing at a high level, we could have a special season.

  20. skitchwolf 05/28/2009 at 3:11 PM #

    I voted 8 wins. Packman02 has it about right I think, except that I think we drop the VaTech game. (Hope I’m wrong of course!) I know as a long time Pack fan (did my first turn at State in ’75) that it’s always dangerous to get my hopes up – but I swear we were one of the top 4 teams in the ACC at the end of last season. I know we’ve lost some good players (Brown and Hill, particularly) but we are not out of any game in which Russell Wilson is healthy. And, unlike last season, I believe our back-up QB has what it takes to get it done, too! (No offense to Daniel Evans – that kid has guts!) I think it all depends on whether we stay relatively healthy across the board or not.

  21. PackerInRussia 05/28/2009 at 3:27 PM #

    “I expect this season to play out a lot like the Gator Bowl year, where we could very well bolt out to a 6-1 or 7-0 start and a top 10 ranking, only to fade in November to a 2nd tier bowl”

    I don’t know if that season’s schedule is the same as this season’s. The first 7 games that year were: New Mexico, East Tenn St., @ Navy, Wake Forest, @ Texas Tech, UMass, and @ UNC (the next two games were Duke and @ Clemson–both wins to start 9-0). I think that schedule is much weaker than the first 7 games of this season. So, I think going 7-0 to start this year would predict a stronger finish than the Gator Bowl year. The TT win was a good test as was the Clemson game, but 9 games into the season, it was hard to say how good that team really was based on their competition.
    I picked 8 wins for this year. I’d be happy with that. It’d be a good sign of steady improvement. The good news is that, unlike Rivers’ last two years, instead of seeing high expectations met with a drop off in the record (going from his junior to senior year), we should be able to see improvement each year. So, I think this year will be enjoyable, but I’m not going to allow myself to get too overly excited. Actually, I don’t think that’s possible as a Wolfpack fan anymore.

  22. Sam92 05/28/2009 at 3:38 PM #

    Classof89, you’re still missing the point; TOB’s teams have come on strong in the second half of the season because they improve *despite* injuries; we have reason for optimism there not pessimism; also, to chalk a fade up to the “certainty” of injuries neglects to consider that our risk of injuries is no greater than any other team’s, and, we have increasing depth this year so are better positioned to withstand injuries than in the past

  23. Greywolf 05/28/2009 at 5:06 PM #

    What was between us and a very good SEASON last year was quality depth on defense and a healthy Russel Wilson. What’s between us and a very good TEAM this year is the O line. We can have a “very good” season with an “adequate” line that doesn’t give free shots at RW. We have the depth on defense and RW backed up. The overall depth is coming. On paper our D-line looks be very good. Our D-backs won’t have to be super stars with some pressure on the QB. Having played Obie’s zone defense for a season and a spring, the indecision and mistakes will start to minimize and our backers and D-backs will start to make plays.
    Our 2nd team skilled players such as Glennon, Washington, Barnes, are good enough to win when the other team is not scoring.

    I am excited about Wolfpack football! We have the makings of a very sound team that can control the football with its short passing game and yet strike from anywhere. Preparing for the Pack is going to be a different task. Cheating on defense against the Pack is going to be costly for anybody who tries it. Eight in the box? Please do. Drop back an extra defender? Thank you very much.

    While I’m excited about Wolfpack football, I have no expectations, good or bad. One thing for sure, I am not engaging with that voice in my head that wants to talk shit about all the bad things that are going to happen because it’s State. (If you are wondering what voice I’m talking about, it’s that one — the one that talks all the effing time.) The voice can talk but I don’t have to be a part of that conversation.

    Let’s play the game and take what we get. At least one person has predicted that we beat every team on our schedule — some say SC but not Pitt, Clemson but not Md and so forth. In other words we have a real possibility of winning every Saturday. It’s been a long time since that has been the case. I don’t expect it but I’m excited to have that kind of possibility.

    We’re playing on a “level playing field” – pun intended — for the first time in a long time. I do predict we’ll do just fine.

  24. patientwuf 05/28/2009 at 6:37 PM #



  25. choppack1 05/28/2009 at 8:39 PM #

    Just looking at the way we finished the year – and the kind of confidence our team had in that last 5 games when RW was behind center, Irving at LB and AMC at DL – Wolfpackers should be very optimistic and excited about this year.

    I can’t recall a year when we’ve return the amount of sucessful experience on both sides of the ball that we’ve got this year.

    However, I have to temper this excitement w/ the dose of reality that is the way that we’ve come out of the gates the last 2 years. It’s hard to tell from last year’s season because I thought we looked pretty sharp on D for the first 3 quarters and we were moving the ball when RW got hurt – but the next 2 games were brutal. And the USF game was just awful.

    The key for this year is Glennon’s ability to command the confidence of his teammates. 2 years ago against Wake Forest, the team lost confidence in Daniel Evans – and it didn’t return but for a few brief moments vs. Rutgers. For Beck – they lost it in him during the fumble vs. ECU. If Glennon can command this team, we’ll be much less susceptible to the kind of craziness we saw last year. In addition, if our D has built enough depth at the DL and LB spots to sustain a few injuries or two better than it did last year – it’s much the same.

    The simple fact is that the team that played the last 4 ACC games and the first half of the Rutgers game was arguably the best team in the conference.

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