Tag:Tom O'Brien
Posted on: April 29, 2011 5:39 pm

Russell Wilson given release by N.C. State

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Tom O'Brien made no secret of the fact that he wasn't expecting budding baseball star Russell Wilson back with the Wolfpack in 2011, and that he was ready to move on with Mike Glennon under center. Talking with Eye on Football at the end of March about the quarterback situation, O'Brien didn't even bother to mention Wilson's name.

But all the same, the assumption has been that if the Pack's most recognizable and -- arguably -- most talented player wanted to put off his baseball career to return to school for one more season on the gridiron, O'Brien would welcome him back with open arms. We found out this afternoon, that that is definiteively not the case; despite Wilson's apparent desire to return to N.C. State's quarterback position, O'Brien has granted Wilson an unconditional release to pursue his football opportunities elsewhere.

O'Brien's statement leaves little doubt as to his reasoning (emphasis added):
“Russell and I have had very open conversations about his responsibilities respective to baseball and football,” O’Brien said in a statement released by the school. “While I am certainly respectful of Russell's dedication to baseball these last several years, within those discussions I also communicated to him the importance of his time commitment to N.C. State football.

“My staff and I thank him for his contributions as a member of Wolfpack football and to this university and wish him only the best in the future."
In other words: show up for spring practice, or don't bother coming back for the fall. Wilson elected against the former, and O'Brien has followed through with his decision about the latter.

So what now? For the Wolfpack, it makes 2011 the first critical season for O'Brien in the post-Wilson era; if the coach needed to prove he could build on the gains of 2010 without his star quarterback, that will now go double since he's gone without him voluntarily.

And as for Wilson, having already graduated from NCSU means he can now transfer to any school with a graduate program NCSU doesn't offer and play without sitting out a transfer season. For instance, if Wilson wanted to enroll in a Parks and Recreation program and couldn't in Raleigh, he could do so at -- to choose an example entriely at random and not at all based in the realm of actual possibility, trust me -- Ole Miss.

But Wilson's future is for another afternoon; what we know today is simply that, for better or worse for either side, that future won't involve O'Brien or N.C. State.

Posted on: April 12, 2011 3:52 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 3:53 pm

NC State leading rusher undergoing foot surgery

Posted by Chip Patterson

North Carolina State entered the 2010 season with serious questions at the tailback position. Most of those questions were answered early on by sophomore running back Mustafa Greene . As a true freshman, Greene led the Wolfpack in rushing with 597 yards and added 272 yards receiving out of the backfield. On Tuesday, head coach Tom O'Brien announced that Greene had suffered a foot injury that would require surgery.

"Mustafa will have surgery sometime this week," said O'Brien . "He's got a foot injury. Whenever he has surgery he'll be back in the fall."

Even though he is just a sophomore, Greene carries more game experience than most of the projected starters on the offensive side of the ball. Getting an effective running game will be a big part of breaking in quarterback Mike Glennon , who is taking over for star quarterback Russell Wilson . Glennon has been with the program for three years now, and in the words of O'Brien only lacks the game experience. Luckily Greene's injury does not sound serious enough to keep him off the field when Glennon makes his start under center for the Wolfpack.
Posted on: March 29, 2011 9:20 am

Eye on Coaching: NC State's Tom O'Brien

Posted by Chip Patterson

In just his fourth year as the N.C. State head coach, Tom O'Brien delivered a 9-win season and brought the Wolfpack within a game of the ACC Championship. On Monday I got a chance to visit Coach O'Brien at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh to talk spring practice and the state of Wolfpack football.

CBSSports.com: Reflecting back on 2010, down the road what are some of the things that will stand out from last season?

Tom O'Brien: Well I think it was the first time we won here. We had all those injury problems the previous years, a depleted squad, and really never had a chance. We went into the year feeling we'd be very competitive. It was the first year we almost were all scholarship guys with no walk-on's in the two-deep. We got Nate Irving back, who did a great job for us, was our Most Valuable Player last year. Played one full-year finally in five years of play, it was kind of a snapshot of where had been in the previous three years. I think last year, as far as building a program and moving forward, was a huge step.

That fact that we won five conference games, that hadn't been done a lot here. Nine wins is the second-most in school history, and to be ranked in the Top 25 at the end of the year is really important to show where we can go with this program.

CBSSports.com: You mentioned moving forward, obviously one of the big topics of the spring has been moving forward at the quarterback position, with [Mike] Glennon. Fans got to see him last spring, in the spring practice and spring game, what are some things this spring that he's doing particularly well, and where do you think there is still room for growth?

TOB: Well I think he's better than he was a spring ago, and that's just a matter of experience of having played being through another season and going into another spring practice. The only thing I think he needs to do is get in a game and play. He needs game experience. He certainly has enough ability to be an all ACC caliber quarterback. He's just got to get there and get into game situations next year, experience those things. But, he certainly has enough talent to be a really good quarterback for us.

CBSSports.com: The rest of the team embracing him coming in and taking that role?

TOB: Oh certainly, you know he's been around. He's going into his fourth year of school, so he was part of the first real recruiting class we had here. Generally speaking, when you're in that situation those guys have bonded. They came in with a purpose to make the program different, to make the program better. They're all moving up, all those redshirt juniors now, and he's part of that group.

CBSSports.com: What about your philosophy of spring practice? It seems like you have a unique view compared to many other programs, you even said "spring practice is about getting better as individuals." Could you talk about your mentality?

TOB: Well that's what I learned from Coach Welsh, all those years. That was the focus all the time, starting in spring practice and heading into fall camp. As individuals improve, your football team will improve. We spent a lot of time on the basis of "football." Blocking, tackling, fundamentals, getting better as an individual; building and putting it all together.

There is no sense at this time worrying about a lot of X's and O's, I mean you have to do it so you can test what your people can do. We're more worried about getting better individually. As each position player gets better, then we you put it together your football team is better.

CBSSports.com: You'll get to face Coach London and Coach Spaziani this season, do you feel like you are building your own coaching tree?

TOB: You know I've never looked at it that way. I've been very fortunate to have great assistant coaches, and I've been fortunate to keep a lot of great assistant coaches. Certainly their ambitious is to be coordinators, then be head coaches. I'm very happy for them to have that opportunity. Maybe I can Golden in the championship game.

CBSSports.com: Here in Carter-Finley, the fan base has really embraced you in this program. You were 5-1 at home in 2010, with 7 games on the schedule in 2011. How important has this stadium become as a home field advantage?

TOB: No I think it's huge, we have tremendous fans. They love their football, they love their team. They show up as soon as the tailgate lots open, some of them before the tailgate lots open You know we had third largest crowd in history last year and set a single-season attendance record. I think it speaks volumes to their passion for the Wolfpack football team and I think our kids feed off that.

CBSSports.com: If you were to make your sell for Nate as a player in the NFL, what do you think about his game will best translate to the next level?

TOB: Well what I've been telling coaches is that he hasn't had a lot of hits on his body. He's only played one full year of football. On the previous four years he missed one year because of the accident, he missed one year because of injuries, the year before that we didn't know who or what he was as a redshirt freshman and didn't play him till the month of November when we changed the team around, and the year before that he was redshirted. So really his best days are ahead of him. He's really a smart football player, and he's an explosive football player, and somebody is going to get a really good player for many, many years in the NFL.

CBSSports.com: Is there anything from spring practice that has surprised you?

TOB: Not really, we are only into day five - with three in pads. We're trying to emphasize in team meetings this morning "the fundamentals." If you can't tackle you can't play defense, if you can't block you can't play offense. I mean it's pretty simple; let's go back to the fundamentals. The guys that can block and tackle the best are going to put themselves in position to get on the football field, and we're still searching.

That's why we have an Organizational Chart [instead of a depth chart], I don't care if you are playing offense or defense right now. If you're the best player and you stand out, we'll find a place for you - and we're still searching.

Click here to check out N.C. State's Spring Practice Primer

Posted on: March 22, 2011 11:59 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2011 12:11 am

Spring Practice Primer: NC State

Posted by Chip Patterson

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at N.C. State , who started spring practice last Friday.

Head coach Tom O'Brien is prepared to repeat 2010's success without Russell Wilson, but are Mike Glennon and the rest of the Wolfpack ready?

For the last three years, N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson has been the face of the football program on and off the field. Even splitting time and missing games due to injury, Wilson has been the favored signal-caller since his arrival on campus. In 2008 Wilson was named Rookie of the Year and selected to the All-ACC first team. In his three seasons, Wilson racked up 8.545 yards and 76 touchdowns and wrote himself into the NCAA record books by completing 389 consecutive passes. He has also served as a perfect ambassador for the program, an active member of the N.C. State community.

But #16 will not be on the field for the Wolfpack this spring. Wilson has not ruled out returning for his senior season, but for now he is playing with the Colorado Rockies organization. Wilson maintained this fall that his goal is to play major league baseball and NFL football, but his indecision is not something that head coach Tom O'Brien wants to wait on moving forward.

“We just can’t sit here and say, ‘OK, we’re going to wait for Russell to come back,’ O’Brien said. “We have to move forward.”

So now the reigns have been handed to redshirt junior Mike Glennon. Glennon, ranked a top 5 quarterback coming out of high school, is also the younger brother of former Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon. He spent last spring with the first-team while Wilson was playing baseball, but now enters spring practice expecting to be the man under center come September.

O'Brien has an impressive list of quarterbacks that have succeeded under his tenure, dating back to the Hasselback brothers at Boston College. Glennon hopes to add his name to that list with two years of eligibility left with the Wolfpack to prove himself as much more than "the guy after Russell."

 It takes little to no time to point out the initial contrasts to Wilson. While the 5-11 Wilson tormented defenses by extending the play, the 6-6 Glennon is much more of a traditional pocket passer. With the sightline to scan the whole field and impressive arm strength, Glennon has all of the tools to be just as successful as Wilson. The question will be whether he can still put them to use in a game after three years on the sideline.

One uphill battle that Glennon faces is the departure of Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams, and Darrell Davis. Wilson benefited from having big targets that he could rely on to get up and catch it over defenders. Spencer and Williams were the leading receivers in 2010, combining for 1,625 yards and 9 touchdowns.  One piece that Glennon does get back is senior tight end George Bryan. Bryan has had at least 35 receptions and 350 yards receiving in his last two seasons, and the 6-5, 265 pound Castle Hayne, NC native began to generate some draft buzz among scouts.

"I considered [declaring for the NFL draft] pretty good for a little earlier," Bryan told PackPride.com. "I talked to some people but we just felt like, my family, coach Bridge, coach O'Brien, all the coaches felt like it would be a better fit for me to come back because I still have stuff to work on. "There is no rush. I love playing for the Wolfpack, and I want to graduate as a Wolfpack."

That kind of leadership and dedication is something the 2011 Wolfpack will find necessary in 2011. Don't be surprised if Bryan becomes a frequent checkdown for Glennon if he can't get his first reads. It will only benefit Glennon's confidence knowing he has that big reliable target underneath when things get uncomfortable in the pocket.

Spring Practice Primers

But there are some fundamental differences in the way O'Brien runs his spring practice that will benefit both sides of the ball, not just the offense.

"As long as I'm the head coach, our focus in spring will be to get better as individuals," O'Brien explained. "Spring practice is still about being a better fundamental football team. Everybody can improve at something, players and coaches. The benefit of having experienced players and more depth is that you can hone in on the things that are really important, but the goal is still the same."

O'Brien does not even release an official spring depth chart. He releases what he refers to as an "organizational chart." Even then, don't expect everyone to be in the exact same position in a few months. Even with eight returning defensive starters, O'Brien will do some shifting before the season kicks off. With almost guaranteed plans of mixing things up, it only further supports his method of focusing on individual players instead of general scheming in the spring.

"We like to bring versatile people in - guys who can play multiple positions," O'Brien added. "Then as we grow as a football team and they grow as individual players, we can decide what each individual's best position is and how he can best help the team."

N.C. State's outlook for the fall is difficult to predict with no official knowledge of Russell Wilson's decision. But my assumption is that Glennon will be the man under center for the Wolfpack in September. O'Brien may prefer to focus on individual players in the spring, but only one will be held under a microscope by the fan base. This is Glennon's second spring practice with the first-string, but it has a whole new feeling with the ball coming his way in the fall.

Click here for more Spring Practice Primers
Posted on: February 3, 2011 12:30 pm

NC State doesn't expect Russell Wilson back

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Now that signing day is out of the way, coaches can begin turning their attention back to the 2011 season and getting their team ready for spring games in a few months. N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien is one of those coaches, and though he doesn't have any official word on the subject, he's preparing for 2011 as though he won't have quarterback Russell Wilson available to him.

"Our plans are he's not coming back," O'Brien told the Charlotte News & Observer. "He'll be a baseball player. We have to move forward with Glennon. We've planned for this day, and Michael's ready to do it."

Wilson was drafted in the fourth round by the Colorado Rockies last summer, and though he stuck around Raleigh to play with the Wolfpack this season, the general consensus is that when he joins Colorado for spring training later this month, he won't be coming back. Though O'Brien isn't completely ruling Wilson's return out, but made it clear that being a quarterback is a full-time job, and that if he's not available for the spring game, the odds will decrease dramatically.

"It [would] be a tough situation for him to come back and do it," O'Brien said. "We would have to see if that ever happens, but I don't foresee that happening down the road. Russell has never failed at anything he has ever attempted. He's going to try make the Colorado Rockies. That's where I see him."

If Wilson is indeed done at N.C. State, he's leaving the school ranked third all-time in total offense (9,268 yards), passing yards (8,545), and second in career touchdown passes (76).
Posted on: December 29, 2010 12:43 am
Edited on: August 20, 2011 8:59 pm

Bowl Grades: Champs Sports Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

N.C. State rides Russell Wilson's 275 yard, 2 TD performance to a 23-7 win over West Virginia


Offense: Russell Wilson has been the cornerstone of the NC State offense since he took over the position as a freshman.  Tuesday was one of those better performances that NC State fans will fondly remember for years.  The Wolfpack have only been to three bowl games since 2003, and the 2010 team was determined to leave their mark.  Particularly after falling one game short of the ACC Championship Game, NC State now gets to end the season on a good note.  Wilson and the offense was a big part of that.  GRADE: B+

Defense: NC State's linebackers lived up to their hype against West Virginia, bringing the heat on West Virginia's Geno Smith.  On several big third downs, the Wolfpack dialed up pressure from the linebackers and forced a bad pass/checkdown that led to a punt.  When Geno Smith put the ball on the ground, the Wolfpack always had a man there to fall on the ball.  While nothing was stunning, the NC State defense was opportunistic.  Clearly outmatched at some positions, the defense simply came to play while West Virginia's offense did not.  GRADE: B
Coaching: NC State has to be happy to have Tom O'Brien on board in Raleigh.  He was able to give the Wolfpack fans a 9 win season, something that hasn't been done since 2002 and ranks as the second best finish in program history.  In the same game, O'Brien picked up his 100th career win.  Props to the rest of the coaching staff for spreading West Virginia's tough defense out of the 3-3-5 to cover Wilson's many threats.  All in all, good day for NC State football fans. GRADE: A-  

Offense: How many different ways can I hint at different forms of excrement?  The West Virginia offense is obviously the problem that needs to be fixed.  Mountaineer fans are particularly excited about incoming coach-to-be Dana Holgerson after watching the offense cough the ball up five times against NC State.  Geno Smith put together several strong performances near the end of the regular season, but he could not keep his hands on the ball - fumbling two hand off's and throwing an interception.  The offense was horrendous, and that has to be awfully difficult to swallow after the standard set by Pat White less than a half-decade ago. GRADE: F

Defense: West Virginia has thrived on their defense here in the second half of the season, but when Russell Wilson hit his rhythm the Mountaineers had no answers.  The key to shutting down Wilson was to avoid letting him get comfortable and try to disrupt the timing by getting to him in the backfield.  The Mountaineers put Wilson on his ground a few times, but he still used short passes to slowly move the ball on West Virginia. But the turnovers by West Virginia's offense put the defense in pretty difficult spots, and they did do a good job of forcing kicker Josh Czajkowski to beat them.  GRADE: C

Coaching: It feels lazy to try and put some of the blame on the whole Bill Stewart/Dana Holgerson situation, but you can't deny that West Virginia just looked a little confused on the field.  NC State doesn't do a lot of tricky things on the field, and you have to guess that the off-field distractions might have something to do with that.  Feel bad penalizing only head coach Bill Stewart on this one, but if "Coaching" includes the entire administrative staff - we gotta lay the hammer here.  GRADE: F

GAME GRADE: The game was a bit of a snore at times, with offenses exchanging punts a good bit in the first half.  It was good to see Russell Wilson have a strong performance in what might likely be his last football game ever.  If Wilson does decide to forego his senior year of football to join the Colorado Rockies basketball organization, at least he will know that he finished his football career in style.  The turnovers at the end of the game reached a point of being absurd in the fourth quarter.  Feel pretty bad for Bill Stewart, who I've always considered one of the more likable coaches in the Big East, and hopefully West Virginia will send him off with a successful 2011.  GRADE: B-
Posted on: December 28, 2010 4:10 pm

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Champs Sports Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

The Basics: West Virginia faces NC State, 6:30 PM Tuesday

Why You Should Watch: Both West Virginia and NC State fell just a game shy of an opportunity to play for a BCS bid, and they will each be looking to turn that disappointment around and finish the season strong.  The game is also loaded with exciting playmakers - Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, Russell Wilson, Nate Irving - to name a few. Both offenses have had high scoring performances this season, though West Virginia's defense ranks among the best in the NCAA in scoring defense.  While Wilson still has one year left of eligibility, many believe that Tuesday will the be his final game in a Wolfpack football uniform.  He has already signed a contract to play with the Colorado Rockies, who he has already bypassed one year for his junior season.  Wilson has been part of Tom O'Brien's success at NC State, and I expect he will be looking to cap his career off with another performance.  West Virginia also has an interesting storyline with the awkward announcement that Bill Stewart will be phased out before the 2012 season.  Basically a sitting duck until Dana Holgorsen takes over, Stewart will fire up the Mountaineers for their seventh ACC bowl opponent since 2002.    
Keys to victory for West Virginia:  While Geno Smith has had an impressive second half of the season, the Mountaineers are living on the play of their defense.  West Virginia's defense, particularly in the second half, simply refused to give up the big play against their opponents.  Russell Wilson has a tendancy to wear a defense down with lots of pitch and catch, so West Virginia cannot let him get in a rhythm.  If NC State keeps this game close, I have a feeling it's going to be a shootout.  If the Mountaineers can shut down Wilson, Geno Smith should find it easy to catch the NC State secondary napping for a big play or two.

Keys to victory for NC State: Match West Virginia's intensity on defense.  While not one of the superior defensive units in the ACC, NC State's linebackers are the cream of the crop.  Led by Nate Irving, they will have an opportunity to create big plays to slow West Virginia's momentum.  When NC State is blitzing the quarterback, they mask their shortcomings in the secondary.  If they allow West Virginia's offense to keep them on their heels, the Pack will struggle mightily to play keep-up. 

The Champs Sports Bowl is like: The third place match in international competition.  Both teams fell just a game short of their conference championship hopes, and now this is their consolation.  Much of this game will be decided by who decides to really "bring it."  If both teams do, it could be a thrilling game in Orlando. 
Posted on: December 13, 2010 1:18 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2010 1:20 pm

O'Brien not expecting Russell Wilson back

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Sometimes college athletes surprise us, choosing to play football for tuition and a cafeteria meal card over baseball for gobs and gobs of money. Who at this time last year foresaw Kyle Parker turning down a multi-million dollar offer from the Colorado Rockies to quarterback Clemson for another year?

Of course, that Parker has struggled mightily through a massively disappointing season on both the individual and team levels shows the risk of the honorable approach, and why so few choose it. So it makes sense that N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien sounds already resigned to the Champs Sports Bowl being the last performance of QB Russell Wilson in a Wolfpack uniform:
Wilson, a junior, returned to the Wolfpack after playing pro baseball last summer in the Colorado Rockies organization. But O’Brien said next season will be a different situation.

“When he left the last time he spent the whole spring here and was, the whole time, around us,” O’Brien said. “And he wasn’t being paid [last spring]. He’s being paid now. And they have money. And what do I have to offer? So who knows what’s going to happen."
That's pretty much the situation in a nutshell, isn't it? "They have money. What do I have to offer?" A chance at getting the Wolfpack over the hump and into the ACC championship game and the joy of collegiate football camaraderie, but that's about it. Compared to the riches awaiting a prospect already taken in the MLB draft's fourth round (one also engaged and reportedly about to receive his degree) it might not amount to much.

To be fair, Wilson has stated he wants to play both football and baseball professionally, and another year at N.C State will likely do much to improve his NFL draft stock. But an injury might ruin his chances at both, for good. O'Brien probably knows what he's talking about.

HT: DocSat .

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com