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December 21, 2011

Q&A: Tom O'Brien turns attention to Louisville




Head coach Tom O'Brien met with the media after practice on Tuesday afternoon to talk about quarterback Mike Glennon, linebacker Terrell Manning and the running backs, in addition to previewing Louisville. He also talked about the Pack's Christmas plans while they're in Charlotte for the Belk Bowl.

A full transcript of O'Brien's question and answer session with the media is below:

When did you feel like Mike Glennon got the hang of the offense?

Probably after the first month of the season. I think it takes a while to see different defenses and figure it out. I think he improved through the month of October. I think, as usual, a lot of first-time [starters] kind of hit the wall a little bit, which he did. What happens is defenses figure out what you're doing and try to take it away, we have to make adjustments. He certainly played well enough the last month of the season to help us win three of the last four.

That position got a lot of scrutiny, were you impressed with how he handled it?

Absolutely. As I said from the start, I think the advantage he had was that his brother had been through it before at Virginia Tech. He had some point of reference of how it might be. I think the best thing he did was he focused on himself and what he had to do each and every week to get better and knew he would get better because he worked so hard and is a talented kid.

How do you plan to handle Christmas?

On Christmas Eve, we practice and we practice Christmas Day, too, but we get up in the morning and have church services right there at the hotel, we have that scheduled. Then, we'll have a brunch, then we'll have meetings and we'll go to practice. We'll have the world-famous Christmas dinner that night.

We've spent a lot of times in hotels at Christmas time, so we know how to do this. We take as much family as we can, one of the kids will be Santa Claus - last year it was Tyson Chandler, I don't know who we will elect to be Santa Claus this year - because we travel with a lot of little kids and we give them gifts. We finish up with the world-famous 12 Days of Christmas.

What does it take to be Santa?

He has to be hefty [laughs]. It takes somebody to look like Santa and fit into the suit, we have problems getting guys into the suit.

Could Alex Barr be in the running?

He could be as a freshman…he might make it, that's a good candidate.

Is there anyway to know if Mustafa Greene will be back for spring practice yet?

I haven't asked. When we took him out for the rest of the year, it was my understanding that he would be back for spring practice, but I haven't checked on his rehab lately.

Have you been happy with the way that James Washington and Tony Creecy have run the ball?

Tony Creecy has really improved as the year has gone on and helped that position immensely. As we said coming into last year, James was going to be the back until he hurt himself in preseason camp with an ankle and he really didn't get healthy until probably the last month of the year last year; Mustafa kind of burst onto the scene and had a great year. I think Tony's done a great job and grown up a lot through the year, he played better as the season went on.

Louisville had a couple of close losses early, what have they done better in the last six games to turn it around?

They grew up. They played so many freshmen at key positions - quarterback, wide receiver, they have a freshman on the offensive line and they have got freshman playing defense - I think it was just a matter of them growing up. They've surrounded them with some really good senior players that they've got on their roster, but I think their skill kids have grown up a lot and that's really helped them on offense.

They utilize the pistol offense so what are the advantages of it and how much do you see Louisville playing that style?

The advantages of it are if you want to be in the shotgun all the time - not under center - the quarterback can be there and you can still put the tailback in the I-position, and run him from the I-position. A lot of kids run better downhill out of the I then they do out of the split back formation, when they are having to go sideways then ups. I think that's where the pistol came into existence.

Do they run the wildcat more than most people?

We're fortunate that, starting with Boston College, we've seen a lot of different wildcat formations - through Boston College, Clemson and Maryland. It's something that, number one, you have to recognize the formation, you have to recognize the personnel in the game, you have to recognize if you've got a two or three or four-man surface - if they're going unbalanced on you - and then you've got to find the eligible receivers; and then you have to do it quickly. That's the advantage of a wildcat, to try to get the defense back on their heels. The defense worked the past two days on Louisville and we'll do it again tomorrow. That's a focus - making sure you line up right because if you don't get lined up right, that's where you get problems.

How much do you do on special teams leading up to the game?

We do a lot on special teams. We've spent a lot of time on trying not to get a punt blocked. Those are the most important things on special teams you worry about playing in a bowl game, you worry about catching the ball and the timing of passing on offense, holding onto the ball and not fumbling, and then you worry about tackling on defense. Those have been my three concerns for each phase of the game going into bowl games, making sure we practice to get those things covered.

Talk about the season Terrell Manning had.

I think he's had an excellent year. He got hurt there in the South Alabama game, missed those two games and came back a game early - probably before he was supposed to. But it was crucial and we ended up beating Central Michigan. Then, through the second half of the year, we got those guys in front of him healthy and he really helped him a lot. I think he can be better and get better. Certainly, he can be a leader of this football team next year. He's got the capabilities, he's been around, he's played enough. We didn't get Nate Irving-type of leadership out of these kids this year, but he has that ability to be that type of leader for this football team going forward.



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