August 25, 2010

Wed. practice report: O'Brien talks as opener nears

Head coach Tom O'Brien met with the media following practice on Wednesday morning. O'Brien was asked about his concern with job security, changes that have been made to the program since last year and compared his current situation to when he was starting out at Boston College. Below is a full transcript of what the Coach had to say.

One of the biggest questions asked is about your job security, is that something that you get caught up in?

I can't control it so the only thing that we do is work hard to try to get a good football team together to go out, have a winning season and go to a bowl game. That's what our goals are so that's what we're working towards.

Other than the practices being switched to the morning and hiring Jon Tenuta, have there been other significant chances coming into this year?

We've made a lot, obviously going to the morning practice schedule is a big change. During the summer, we finally got a summer program to help the freshmen to be much better acclimated for their college life, and it seems to have been a great success, looking at GPAs and what they've accomplished as freshmen. More things have been done off the field, I think, than on the field to help us get our APR up and those kind of things. The whole point of the champions in the classroom, champions in the community and the champions on the field is, if you don't do the first two, you'll never get to the third. If you don't build the first two as a solid foundation, you're going to be up and down all the time on the field. We're doing the same thing that we did at Boston College, going in and taking over a program that had some problems, kind of similar to what we had to do here, and build the program. I think what everybody remembers is the last five years at B.C., they don't look at the first five.

How is Justin Byers progressing at corner?

It's his natural position and he's played actually for two years with his shoulder and he gutted it out for us for two years. We had the surgery in the offseason, it was one of those things that he could play with, it wasn't as bad his first year but it got progressively worse last year. He had to have surgery, we got it in the offseason and now he's back to one hundred percent and he's back to playing his position. I think he's much more comfortable there, it's a position where I think we need him right now so he's doing a good job.

How did you get over the hump at B.C.?

Just sticking to our game plan and just working the plan, recruiting the guys that we had to recruit to fit into our style of things and what our beliefs are so that they could be the champions in the classroom, community and playing field. It's the same thing. You look at those last five years when they juxtaposed the top 25 when it came to bowl season, we were the number one school in the country for graduation rate and being top 25. Those things don't happen overnight and, if you don't do it right off the field, you're never going to get it right on the field.

How good is it to have T.J. Graham back?

Obviously, he's something special in the return game. Every time he touches the ball, he's got a chance to take it all the way, which we've seen the first two years so that was a big loss for us last year. In spring practice, for sure, he took a step forward. It looks like he's much more comfortable as a wide receiver. He's making many more plays, he kind of understands that maybe he came in more as a track guy than a football player but now he's a football player and you can see it in all phases of your game.

When Debbie Yow started here, she said she wanted the major programs to be top 25 programs.

Well, they should be, there isn't any reason why we can't be but you can't be unless you have the pieces in place to be that way. For the last three years, we haven't had enough guys to do what we have to do. The one year that we got healthy at the end of the year and made a run, our only chance to get over the .500 mark, then we lose our quarterback at halftime of the bowl game, that was as close as we were. Last year, it's all documented and I'm not going to use the injuries as an excuse, but you need to have all of our weapons, it's too hard nowadays not to be able to use all the guys that you have to be able to win.

She promised some institutional support. Do you believe State will be a top 25 program sooner rather than later?

Well, I think so, I think we can get there. You've got five teams in this conference in the top 25 this preseason, the goal is to be there at the end of the year, but if there are five in this conference that can get there, we think we can get to the top of the conference. We were able to do it at Boston College so certainly, we'll be able to do it here.

How have Earl Wolff and Brandan Bishop progressed since last year?

Well, their progression is that they understand the defense, which helps them now play faster. That's certainly the key on defense, we have to play much faster, we have to have greater anticipation, you can't be thinking about what you're doing, you have to be reacting. Certainly through all their experience last year, this spring and this preseason, they are more reactive than they were a year ago.

Have you made any determination about depth at cornerback?

No, we haven't made any decisions anywhere. As I said, we kind of changed things around and moved a couple of guys around so we still have until Sunday before we have to make any decisions, so no sense in making them on Wednesday when you have until Sunday.

Talk about Dana Bible and how good it is to have him back for the coaches?

I think it's great for the team, I think they really respect Dana. They know that he's a great coordinator, he does a great job with the passing game and, when he's out on the field, there's a different tenor to practice, and certainly that's true, too, in the meeting rooms. He came back from his last test a week ago, everything is still cancer-free so now we move on. I don't think he does it for another month or two months, he's getting stronger each and every day.

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