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NC State Football

Tony Gibson: "We're an Aggressive Bunch"

November 8, 2023
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NC State defensive coordinator Tony Gibson met with the media ahead of the Wolfpack's upcoming road game versus Wake Forest.

On preparing for Wake Forest’s offense...

As we all know, it's a difficult offense to simulate in practice. Our guys have done a great job, our scout team, of getting us that look. The slow mesh is difficult because it will get you in a bind, whether you're playing slow downhill to the line of scrimmage, or you get in there too fast in zone, and we're in a zone coverage, and they throw it in behind us. They do a great job. Coach [Dave] Clawson and Coach [Warren] Ruggiero are very good football coaches. They have a system that they believe in and stick to. It's always fun playing against them. It's a challenge. It'll be a fun game.

On keeping the defense disciplined...

It's tempting. You guys have watched us play. We're an aggressive bunch. I'm not going to slow them down. We have to be able to hold up, make plays, and speed their offense up at times. We can't let them dictate the pace of the game.

On enjoying the challenge of preparation...

No doubt about it. Every week is something different. Coming from a pro style we played against last week to this, it's totally different. It's great in the meeting rooms to challenge our kids and to make them think a little bit. Again, our kids have played against them. They know what to expect. Now, we have to go out and execute.

On the drive the players and coaches have against the Demon Deacons...

A lot of these kids haven't been to Wake to play. What we have to do is get our team prepared. I don't care where we play. If we play on the interstate, if we play in the parking lot, if we play in the gym, we have to go be us. Being us is being aggressive: hitting people in the face, trying to get turnovers. That's what we do. That's how we're built.

On playing a Wake Forest team without Sam Hartman...

Sam is a great football player. They have quarterbacks that make plays. They're still putting up numbers against people. There’ve only a couple of times that they've been shut down. You saw at Duke. They went into Duke against one of the best defenses in our league, put up 21 points, and had an opportunity to win the game. You throw that film on; our guys are paying attention. They understand. Sam's not there, but [Mitch] Griffis knows the system just as well.

On the value of the bye week for the defense...

It was valuable [as is] any time you can look back on what you were doing, what you were doing wrong, and fix those things. We had some really good games before the bye week. You go back to Louisville; we were playing extremely well. Marshall comes in the next week, and we didn't play so well. We had to self-eval ourselves, see where we were at, and fix some things. Our kids have done a great job of doing that.

On stopping Miami at the goal line...

Everything [went right]. We got a goal-line stand. Shy [Battle] made a heck of a play, but so did the front guys. We had five D-linemen in the game. We were penetrating in our gaps and getting push. Caden Fordham made a great play as well. We built that package during the week last week when they were going to get big. We used it, and it was successful. Beyond that play, I thought Shy played his best game of the year. I thought he was really, really good Saturday night.

On holding Miami to six points...

I love those kind of games. I wish every game was like that. I like the pressure when it's on us to get stops. Our kids like the pressure when it's on us to get stops to win the game. Every challenge that we had, we've kept stepping up. We turned it over in the red zone, and Aydan [White] makes a pick. We turned it over. They were backed up. Red [Hibbler] gets a strip sack, and Davin [Vann] recovers the fumble. We’re helping each other out: offense, defense, special teams. I love it when it's a low-scoring game, and the heat is on us.

On point of emphasis for defense to make plays given past close games with Wake Forest

The standard is the standard on defense right now. They understand that. Every play in our mind is going to be the play that changes the game one way or the other. We take the field in the first quarter with the same mindset we do in the fourth quarter. We're out here to get stops, put the ball down, and let's roll.

On Payton Wilson’s performance versus Miami after leaving the Clemson game early...

The kid is a freak of a football player. He plays extremely hard. Nothing that he does surprises me from the fact that I'm around him every day. Watch the things he [does]: the way he works out, the way the winter workouts [went], the way that he lifts weights, the way he studies film. If you had asked me last week, “Would he have 16 tackles,” I may not have him 16 but I'd probably say 15.

On Wilson’s growth...

That guy has matured so much. He’s stepped not only his game but his maturity level. His leadership skills and what he brings to this football team on and off the field, I've never seen anybody grow as much over the last couple of years as he has.

On Wilson staying in college for one more year...

It tells you how much he loves NC State and how much he loves his teammates. He'll lay it on the line every single week for those guys. For any coach in the building, for G.A.’s, trainers, whatever it is, Payton Wilson is an NC State guy.

On the defense playing 11-man football...

I think, at times, coaches get too much credit. We're not out there between the lines. Those guys are. When they get in that huddle, that's a special bond when they're out there together. We give a call, and they go execute the call. I don't make perfect calls, and I also don't make bad calls, but those guys are the ones that execute. What [Wilson] does for this team and what those guys do together, it's unbelievable. It's not only this year. It's over the last three or four years of this group of kids on our side of the ball have been great to coach. I love them. They lay it on the line every single week for this program. I couldn't ask for anything more.

On the impact of NIL and the transfer portal...

That's not the style I coach with. If my style is old school, and they run me out of the game, then so be it, but I'm going to be who I am when I'm a coach. I'm going to coach these kids hard and hold them to the standard that they want to be held to. Every kid wants discipline. Every kid wants to make the NFL and all that. That's the way I roll. I'm not going to ever lower my standards because a kid needs coddling or whatever it may be. I'm not doing that. That's not who I am.

On coaching during week paying off on Saturdays...

You work all week on so many different things that you've seen off the film, but the ones that really, really stick out that make you the most proud are the halftime adjustments. You're on the sideline where, “Hey, we need to check this. This formation, whatever it may be because of this.” Then, we go out and get the result. That's what really, as a coach, feels really good. Your game plan, you have a week to work on it, but when you have a minute on the sideline to get something fixed, and they go out and execute, that brings even more joy to you as a football coach.

On being bowl-eligible...

It's so good for our program and our young kids, the way that we've gotten where we've gotten after the bye week. I think a lot of people wrote us off. Our kids are resilient, and they're tough kids. They're tough-minded kids. They keep battling. It was a great feeling to get that sixth win and get over that hump that a lot of people didn't think we could do.

On the difference in Wake Forest's offense with different quarterbacks...

"They are who they are. That's what I respect about Coach Clawson and Coach Ruggiero. They do what they do and get good at it. That's who we are. We have a scheme that we live by and die by. I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys.

 
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