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NC State Football

Tony Gibson: "We've Got a Big Challenge Ahead of Us"

September 7, 2023

NC State defensive coordinator Tony Gibson met with the media ahead of the Wolfpack's home opener versus No. 10 Notre Dame.

NOTE: Click on the video in the player above to watch Gibson’s interview.

On Sam Hartman in Notre Dame’s scheme versus Wake Forest’s…

It’s not even close to Wake’s scheme. They’re going to set those tailbacks seven, eight yards deep and call a downhill run right at us. There is no mesh read and all the stuff that Sam was used to playing in. It’s a pro-style offense. Obviously, they’re big up front. We know what they’ve done the last few weeks. They can run the ball maybe as good as anybody in the country. We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us.

On the differences between Gerad Parker’s offense and the Irish’s offense under now-Alabama OC Tommy Rees…

I don’t know. We broke down all their stuff from a year ago, but it’s a little different.

On last week’s breakdowns being attributed to inexperience…

The first drive, they did a good job. They did some things we weren’t ready for and didn’t prepare for. They ran an option with their quarterback, and then they caught us in a pressure. They schemed us up at that point. That was more of a schematic standpoint than it was on the kids. Then the second touchdown on the long run, one of our best players was out of his gap. It was unfortunate. We had a couple of older guys not in the right position and didn’t have angles to make that tackle, so we got hit. You take that long run out, and I was pretty happy with how we responded after the first drive.

On the team adjusting to Jakeen Harris’ injury…

It was good; our kids stepped up. Sean Brown came in and played really well, in my opinion. He and [Rakeim Ashford] were going to be the guys that manned that position up, and then Rak got hurt as well, so Sean played the whole game. I thought he did a really nice job and made a lot of plays for us.

On Bishop Fitzgerald learning the system…

We thought he had a really good fall camp. He actually had the most interceptions in camp of any of our DBs. I’m really impressed with how he plays. He’s smart. He understands our scheme really well. He’s a former high school quarterback, so he’s a smart guy. He’s used to making calls. We really like where he’s at right now.

On Fitzgerald playing on third downs and passing downs…

That was a package that we play with, and Bishop’s in that. His role is just going to keep increasing as we go up in the season. Again, he’s very smart and can play any position in the back end.

On Hartman’s improvements from his time at Wake Forest to now at Notre Dame…

It’s just so different when you’re breaking him down now in a pro-style offense where he’s not, again, running the mesh and doing all those things. As we all know, Sam’s a great quarterback. The numbers show you that. He’s just calm. He has great pocket presence. He knows the game. I’m sure Sam’s fired up to come back to North Carolina and play an old rivalry.

He’s going to be fired up for this game. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s a good, good football player. We’re going to have a challenge, but I’m excited about that challenge, and I know our kids [are, too]. It goes back to this: your most improvement all year long is game one to game two because all the cobwebs are broken.

You’re ready to roll now. I feel really good about how we’ve practiced this week. We’ve had a lot of energy. It’s a big game, obviously. We know our fan base is going to be here to support it. I think the kids are starting to feel that. I’m looking for big-time improvements from us, and we’ve got to go out, play very solid, and play well to win this game.

On Notre Dame’s four-tailback rotation…

They’re all big. They’re all fast. They run hard. Again, it’s going to be a challenge for us, but we have to make sure that we have 11 guys to the football. That’s the key for us. We can’t leave our DBs one-on-one with these big backs. That will be an issue for us. We’ve got to get guys to the ball. That’s the key for us: getting everybody to it and playing with a lot of effort.

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