Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Guest Blogger: StateFansNation

StateFansNation got behind this blog very early on. I appreciated it then and appreciate it now as they become my latest guest blogger. Here are the questions I asked and Jeff's answers. Check out StatefansNation.com for more on the Wolfpack.

1. Saturday's win was huge. Do you see it as a turning point or just Amato having Bowden's number...again?

I do NOT view Saturday's win as a turning point for Amato &/or the Wolfpack program. Amato's problems in Raleigh have not been a dearth of "defining moments" or getting over individual humps through the years...so, a one game scenario cannot put his ship on the right direction.

State's/Chuck's problems have been rooted in much longer-term performance issues that no one "peak" is going to solve. For example, NC State outgained EVERY opponent in yards in EVERY game last season; we averaged more than 100 more yards per game of offense per game in conference games. In multiple games we gained over 200 more yards than our opponents and still lost those games. Ultimately, we finished 5-6 because of penalty and turnover problems that were amongst the worst in the country.

This year's team has performed similarly pathetic in 6 of the previous 8 games and we remain one of the worst teams in the country in turnover margin. All of this is in addition to a 5-year trend (we carve Norm Chow's year in 2000) of questionable game decisions and poor time out management that equals horrible X & O strategy and execution. Even Saturday's big win was littered with problems similar to the past like the major special teams breakdowns that we continue to experience since Amato replaced one of the best special teams coaches in America, Joe Pate, with the son of the Mayor of Miami.

Turning points are often points in time where programs move to levels and situations where they have not yet been. Chuck cannot achieve that this year, even with the FSU win. If State wins our next three games, we finish .500 in the ACC and 7-4 overall with something like a Tire Bowl appearance. That is nothing that Amato hasn't already generally done. Therefore, the next real turning point for Amato's program will actually come this offseason It will come when the program FINALLY experiences an offseason with no major changes our coaching staff and avoids crippling defections. Amato MUST find a way to instill longer-term familiarity and trust with the players that can only come through consistency and continuity with the staff of assistants.

That is Amato's next turning point.

2. I questioned the Trestman hiring. The guy has worn out his welcome with many NFL teams. Did you think he would be the answer? Can he still be?

I ABSOLUTELY think that Trestman can be the answer. In fact, if we don't screw it up, I think that he IS the answer. I don't want to sound like hyper-optimistic homer, but I think that he could be just what the NC State program needs on many levels, some of which aren't blatantly apparant on the outside.

You have to remember that our quarterbacks are now working with their third offensive coordinator in the last four years (and 4th in 6 years). That's brutal on 18 to 23 year old minds. Add the complexity of Trestman's system and a thin/spotty offensive line, and I don't think the true verdict on his offense can be passed until next year, or even the next. (Thank goodness he has a three year contract). Our quarterbacks this year (BOTH Jay Davis and Marcus Stone) are very limited in what they can do; each have different characteristics, but neither is close to being a complete college QB who can execute what Trestman wants/needs to have his offense humming.

Similar to the comments in question #1, the key again is to create some continuity for the program and the players. Let Trestman teach skills and his system to a capable quarterback (Daniel Evans? Mike Greco? Justin Burke?) for more than one year and let's see what can take root and grow.

Trestman is as cerebral as they come and takes an approach to the game that is much more "corporate" in style. IMHO, our staff has a tendancy to be far too stubborn; almost 'meat-headish' with the way that we sometimes refuse to let go of failed ideas and strategies. Additionally, Trestman is not one of Amato's "yes men" that do a better job stroking Chuck's ego than game planning. We desperately need the presence of his approach to the game and his independent thinking around the program. So, his off-the-field impact and presence can be as valuable as his play calling for us.

The best thing that Chuck Amato can do is to pretend that NC State does not even have an offense and let Trestman be the true "Head Coach of the Offense." Trestman has been hired to do a job -- stay out of his way and let him do it. If he fails, then he gets fired. If not, then we all succeed.

3. The team was expected to be dominant defensively. Instead they have been inconsistent. BC's offense has been equally inconsistent. Where are the weaknesses in the Pack's defense? How should BC attack?

The preseason prognositcators pointed to the strength of our front four and claimed that our linebackers and defensive backs would be weak. I said at the time that they were very wrong about our linebackers, and have been proven right by the amazing play of Stephen Tulloch and to a lesser extent, Oliver Hoyte. The secondary was young at the beginning of the season, but has grown up a lot in the last month.

It was obvious that Florida State thought the way to attack was with the pass. They ended up being wrong because our defense gameplanned effectively with strategic use of extra defensive backs and our defensive line was able to get great pressure on the quarterback without being required to commit linebackers to the rush (therefore allowing them to drop into coverage).

If you want to gameplan effectively against State, then you need to watch the Carolina film and see how the Heels widened the line of scrimmage and ran away from (#9) Mario Williams and straight at (#91) Manny Lawson. Manny is an excellent pass rusher with awesome speed and athleticism, but he is a weak link against the run. Clemson followed the Carolina game by spanking us along the line of scrimmage and running at will.

I'm hoping that the inconsistency part of your question has been eradicated; State has been pretty consistently good on defense over the last three games. I do not know what adjustments were made since Carolina and Clemson, but the defensive efforts against Wake Forest, Southern Miss and Florida State were very good. (Wake scored 14 of their 27 points on interception returns for touchdowns)

Ultimately, BC should utilize that awesome offensive line to attack the run the same way that Carolina & Clemson did, and then take vertical shots down the field in the passing game for the big play. In past years, State's defense has been prone to giving up big plays by asking too much of our corners. I think this year's team has mitigated that risk by being more conservative in coverage. The only way to beat that is to establish the run just enough to set up play action and take some shots down the field (if you can get the pass off before Mario and Manny get to the QB). It is MUCH easier to score on our defense with a big play than to try to methodically drive down the field. Just ask Florida State.

Read about everything Wolfpack at statefansnation.com.

No comments: