Monday, April 14, 2008

O'Brien: State has made progress

It’s been 16 months since N.C. State hired Tom O’Brien as its football coach, and he has seen huge advances in the implementation of his program.

O’Brien said there’s no comparing the current situation to last spring.

“It’s night and day,” O’Brien said Monday during a news conference to preview Saturday’s 1 p.m. spring game. “I think everybody in our program is way ahead of where we were a year ago.”

O’Brien still has a lot of concerns about the offensive line and quarterback positions. Having standouts such as Daniel Evans, Toney Baker, Andre Brown, Anthony Hill and Javon Walker miss spring practice because of injuries also has been a setback.

But his system is in place, and most of those players should be talented enough to jump into it when they are healthy in August.

Here are some other notes of interest from N.C. State:

- Wide receiver Geron James missed the 2007 season but has re-enrolled and is showing glimpses of the big play ability he demonstrated early in his career. He is 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds and used his height to snare four catches for 91 yards and a touchdown in a 2006 win over Florida State.

“He has height and he’s got size,” O’Brien said. “He can block. He goes in and cracks people and goes up and catches the football. Hopefully at the end of the semester he’ll have his academics in tune and he’ll be eligible and be with us in the fall.”

- N.C. State returns offensive line starters Julian Williams, Curtis Crouch and Meares Green from last season plus Jeraill McCuller, who started the last four games at right tackle. But Green has moved from guard to center, and John Bedics and Ted Larsen have moved from defensive tackle to offensive guard as O’Brien seeks depth and stability.

“We don’t have a starting five,” O’Brien said, “and we’re trying to get the best five guys up front.”

- O’Brien said DaJuan Morgan’s draft stock appears to be rising after he decided not to return his senior season at N.C. State.

He said NFL scouts are telling him that Miami’s Kenny Phillips is the only free safety rated ahead of Morgan.

“He’s athletic,” O’Brien said of Morgan. “He tackles. He has speed. He can run to the ball. All those things will make him an NFL-type safety.” – Ken Tysiac