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September 1, 2011

Tom O'Brien holds final practice before opener

Thursday morning was NC State's final practice before Saturday's season opener against Liberty. Head coach Tom O'Brien talked with reporters one last time before the game.

How much have you been able to work on kickoffs and how is Niklas Sade's leg on kickoffs?

We've worked on kickoffs the normal progression as we go along. He goes through a normal game week. I think he's been fine. It's going to be interesting to see what happens Saturday night the first time he kicks off, to see where it goes. He's been good enough in practice. He's gotten enough elevation, he's got enough depth on the ball I think to be able to hold them back and end up with decent field position.

But once again the whole kicking game depends on how they react once the lights turn on and everything starts going Saturday night.

Is that one of those smaller stories, under-the-radar stories, that you hope to learn more about Saturday?

It hasn't been under the radar at all. I think it's been out in the open the whole camp. We're depending on three freshmen to perform. That's a lot to put on their back. They seem to be great and have accepted the challenge. Until we get out there Saturday night. That's always the start, what happens in opening day.

I mentioned earlier in the week, Nate with all of his experience showed up last year in the opener and tried to make every play himself, didn't play the defense at all and those things happen. You just have to get out there and we need some of those guys to not hyperventilate, relax and just play the game.

Mike Glennon has played in college games, he's showed you everything he has in practice. What are you lingering concerns about him being the starter?

What he has to do is execute the offense. It's not all on his back. He's part of a team. Eleven guys out there that got to do their job, and he's got to do his job. He can't do anymore, any less than what's expected of him. He's the starting quarterback of a major college team that wants to challenge for a conference championship.

How did Wil Baumann end up as the holder?

Because kickers spend a lot of time on their own down there. In the past, that's worked out best. Instead of getting maybe 10 snaps in practice, or 15, they can get 50 or more snaps in practice, work on the snaps to the holder to the placement. It just fits in the kicking game gets better, and you'll find a lot of people do it that way.

Talk about your options in the return game.

They are as good as they've ever been. You got your 2-4-6-80 combination back there. That's what it looks like when they stand back there, the four of them. They've all returned kicks. They've worked hard at it. It gives us some possibilities if somebody gets nicked up or somebody's not doing what they are supposed to do, we go to somebody else.

Do you like having two punt returners?

It depends on what the team does. If they are a directional kick team or they are going to kick away from you, then you want to play with two kids. If they're going to try to bomb the ball back there and it's pretty consistent, which a lot of teams are, then you play with one guy back there.

How do you prepare for the two All-American skill players that Liberty has. How have you been able to replicate them in practice?

You can't, it's impossible to do that in practice because we don't skills that they have. As I've said, their quarterback is a lot like the kid at Central Florida last year, Godfrey. Came in and kind of embarrassed us running around a little bit. He was quicker. We couldn't stimulate that last year, we can't do it again this year. You harp on some things. You harp on keeping them within the structure of the defense. Hopefully we'll be able to do that on Saturday night.

Do you think you have enough quickness on defense?

"Yeah I think we have enough quickness. I think we have enough experience now. We're still not an old team. We only have three seniors on defense, five seniors starting on offense. We're a young, experienced team. That's good for the future, but we'll see how good it is Saturday night."

What impressed you about Rashard Smith moving him to offense?

"Some guys are offensive players, and that's what he was coming in here. We had to put him on defense because we didn't have any corners to play with in those days. He has a great feel for the game. He understands the game. He's picked up things awfully quick. He really studies the game. That's the thing that has impressed Coach [Dana] Bible the most, it's the effort and work he's put in because it's not an easy offense to figure out. It's pretty complicated with all the positions you got to line up and all the spots and reads you have to do in a relatively short time. He's done a great job which makes you think that's more where he's suited to play.


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