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NC State Football

Tony Gibson: "I'm Not Going To Just Leave Here For Anything"

February 28, 2023

NC State defensive coordinator Tony Gibson discusses the defense, the start of spring practice, and much more with the media.

NOTE: Click the video above to watch the interview.

What was your reaction when you knew that Payton Wilson was going to come back?

Yeah, so obviously very excited. It was an early Christmas gift. He told me right after the season. We had a lot of discussions and brought up that he was going to return and stay with us for another year so obviously, elated, excited. And his role will not change. Obviously what I'm going to look to him for is to be a great leader. Being a six-year guy this time for him to take that roll over that Isaiah carried for so long and just looking for him just to bring his consistency that he brings every day but now lead some others.

Aydan White had sort of a breakout season for you guys at cornerback. Can you just discuss the year he had, his skillset, and maybe your expectations for him going into the spring?

Aydan had a great year, if I'm saying it right, I believe this is right, didn't give up a touchdown all year long in one-on-one coverage. Had some big, big plays. I mean, busted the Texas Tech game wide open for us. But just played with a lot of confidence and again, I think his best football's still ahead of him. He got through an injury a couple of years ago, had some surgery in the offseason last year at this time.

But really, really stepped up and had a tremendous year for us, so very consistent, love the way he plays, love the way he approaches the game, and he's just a silent assassin. I mean, he doesn't say a whole lot, but just goes out, works every day, and gets his job done. So, very excited to see where he's at coming in the fall.

I know with your experience you haven't had to play a ton of really young guys the last year or so, but in the offseason have you evaluated your depth, and who are some of the younger guys who maybe have kind of caught your eye?

Yeah. Well, I think starting up front, Brandon Cleveland was a guy that played some toward the end of the year, got some snaps under his belt, so he'll be a guy up front that will add depth. Nick Campbell will be another guy. And then we have Red Hibbler and Noah Potter that are some new guys that we're counting on to come in and fill some holes in there on the D line.

The good news is we get Savion and C.J. Clark and Davin Vann and Travali and all those guys back. So it's just going to add depth. We'll be deeper than we've ever been on our defensive line.

Linebacker wise, Caden Fordham is a guy that's going to step up and battle for a job. Then we've got Kamal Bonner that is now with us. Daejuan Thompson, Torren Wright. So, we didn't bring any transfer guys in at that position. That's the one position we did not go out and get a transfer, older guy. So counting on them. Jordan Poole's another guy. And then you have Betty, you've got Payton, and you've got Jaylon Scott that have played a lot of games.

Yeah, coach, you just talked about those guys, the linebackers. Obviously you lost two great linebackers, but you do have some depth coming back and guys that have been around, they've bided their time, they've waited for their opportunity and now here it is. And how refreshing is it? Because a lot of times kids don't wait that long, they transfer out.

The two guys that, obviously, we're talking about the most here, Betty and Jaylon Scott, those kids have been tremendous for our football program. They've been great on special teams for us. They've started games. I mean, each of those guys probably have 8, 9 starts under their belt. So two years ago when we got hit with all the injury bug in our room at linebacker, those guys stepped up and obviously the results were good.

So, a lot of experience with those first three, and then again, a guy like Caden Fordham, and Jordan Poole and Jayland Parker, guys that have been on special teams and doing a lot for our program that now have been in the system a few years, they understand it, and I'm excited about all our young guys as well.

Speaking of young guys, Zack Myers is maybe someone who can contribute earlier. What are your initial thoughts about him? What have you seen that's impressed you?

Yeah, the one thing I really like about Zack is that you could tell he's a natural leader. The kid is not afraid to speak up as a freshman and say some things and get guys going in the right direction. He's very athletic, again, brings some needed depth to that secondary, and it's going to be a big spring for him moving forward. Yeah, he's got a jump on some of the rest of the guys because now he's here, he is going to go through 15 days of spring practice, has an offseason with Coach Thunder and his staff. So yeah, excited about Zack. We really love the way he is and his attitude and just everything about him. He's a fit for us.

You had such a successful season on defense last year your name was thrown around a lot. I'm sure you got some head coaching offers or some interest. Is that something that is on your future goals – is to be a head coach somewhere?

Yeah, that's a goal. Any time you're an assistant coach, a coordinator, you look for the opportunity to go lead your own program. Had a lot of things thrown on my plate this offseason and just talking with my family and Coach Doeren and the guys that we have coming back and what we're building here, I'm not going to just leave here for anything. It's got to be something special to drag me out of Raleigh, because if it wasn't special, I think I'd be going by myself. My wife loves it here, so it's going to be a hard sell.

You coached against Robert Anae a couple of times since you've been coordinating at NC State. What's it like trying to prepare for his offense, and what are some of the challenges it was trying to prepare for him?

Yeah, I got to know Robert really well in 2012. We were together at Arizona. Robert was our old line coach, so we spent a year together there. And then obviously when he was at Virginia we played him during the covid year, and then last year at Syracuse.

But the thing that's the most challenging with him is obviously he's going to use his quarterback in the run game. He uses a lot of different formations of motions and makes you think, puts you in some challenging situations, and gets you with bad match-ups, wide receivers in the backfield to shift out the tight end spots and different things like that. So you have to be on top of your game. And I think what he does, it minimizes what you could do defensively. You have to stay really basic because of the personnel groupings and the way he uses all that. So just does a really good job of mixing all that up and challenges you and gets your eyes in the wrong spots at times. And so I'm excited to have Robert on board with us and think that's going to really, really help us moving forward.

Tony, you mentioned Red Hibbler. As a JUCO player, is he a guy who you think can come in and help you from a pass rushing standpoint this year? Or are they viewed maybe differently than the transfer portal guys? I'm not certain how you look at them experience-wise.

Again, we go after needs when we go junior college. That is a need for us that we need to fill a spot. And I think that Red, he's tremendous getting after the quarterback, but that's an older guy that's played against some really good competition in the Mississippi Junior College system. And we think that he could come in and be a day-one guy for us, be in the mix, be in the rotation. And we would not recruit a junior college kid to be a backup, per se. We want him to add depth. Not saying he is going to be a starter, but he is going to be one of the 7, 8, 9 guys we count on Day One.

What were some of the traits you liked about him skillset-wise?

He's very athletic and he's strong, as well. He could play in that B gap for us. He can get out on an edge and create mismatches on tackles and tight ends and things like that that are going to try to protect. We're going to try to attack, obviously, everybody's protection, and I think that he's a great guy to be able to do that with.

Yeah, Coach, you also faced Brennan Armstrong when he was at Virginia. What did you feel about him as a quarterback? What were his strengths and how can he help you the most, do you think?

Yeah, I thought the kid had great vision, spread the ball around a little bit. They had a big tight end that was a really good player for them. They had some skilled guys, that wideout, they had some big kids. And also his ability to extend plays. You could tell he was smart. He knew their system very, very well, unfortunately for them and I guess fortunate for us.

I hate to bring it up, but we all know how that ended for him. The day we played in Charlottesville, Tanner Ingle got him on the sideline, and I think we defended him for a quarter, a quarter and a half. But going into that, he was obviously a guy that we worried about. And then we didn't play him in the '21 season where he threw for almost 5,000 yards but watched him on film or seen him on film a bunch.

I really like where Brennan's at. I mean, I think he brings great leadership and depth to that position. And again, I think he's a natural leader and really, really liked the way he carries himself.

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