Wednesday, September 8, 2010

O'Brien likes what he sees so far in young Pack running backs

Quarterback Russell Wilson was the headline in N.C. State’s victory over Western Carolina Saturday, but Wilson will need more help as State’s schedule toughens up with Saturday’s game at Central Florida.

Two issues for State are whether it can run the ball, and how its inexperienced offensive line performs. The Wolfpack rushed for 129 yards against Western, a decent number considering the fact that redshirt freshman Dean Haynes and true freshman Mustafa Greene had never carried the ball in a college game. Haynes carried 13 times for 69 yards and Greene 10 times for 35 yards.

“Our thought process was keep it simple, hold onto the football, run to the goal line,” O’Brien said. He said he wasn’t looking for his backs to do anything fancy, but to turn upfield and not make a mistake.

A major issue with young backs is pass protection. While fans often evaluate runners by how they perform with the ball, coaches are watching closely to see if they protect the quarterback. In that aspect, O’Brien said he was pleased with what he saw.

“They were perfect in where they were going and what they were doing,” O’Brien said. The technique could use some work but at least they grasped the game plan.

“They could be a little better fundamentally but as far as assignment-wise they were going the right direction the entire night,” O’Brien said.

UCF, with George O’Leary as coach, is expected to field a defense that will be much tougher than Western Carolina. The Knights beat South Dakota 38-7 and allowed only 220 yards of total offense.

State’s offensive line is inexperienced, but has talent. O’Brien raved after massive left tackle Rob Crisp, a true freshman who started because Jake Vermiglio did not dress.

“With Rob Crisp it was an exceptional performance from a freshman,” O’Brien said. “What you see is really good athletic ability. You saw great tenaciousness. He’s got a certain confident about himself.”

O’Brien said Vermiglio is practicing this week but refused to say if he will play Saturday against Central Florida. Vermiglio faced drug charges in the offseason, but they were dropped.

O’Brien said Crisp and Vermiglio will both remain at left tackle to give the Wolfpack depth at that position this season.

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