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(All information as of June 20, 2008)
COACH AND PROGRAM
Tom O'Brien fully expects the second time around to be much different. Sure, there were things that he learned in his first season as the head coach at NC State and things his players learned about playing for him. Don't be late. Don't mess up. Hold on to the ball.
That last one took a while to sink in for a Wolfpack team that committed 22 turnovers (15 interceptions and seven fumbles) in the first six games alone. No team can survive nearly four giveaways a game, but after a few changes in personnel and a few changes in attitude, the Wolfpack stopped turning the ball over -- for a while -- and turned its season around.
In fact, the Pack won four consecutive games -- over rivals East Carolina and North Carolina, over O'Brien's former employer Virginia and at Miami -- to even its record at 5-5. Amazingly, considering how the season started, the Wolfpack would have qualified for postseason play if it had won either of its last two games. But the turnover bug returned, State lost at Wake Forest and at home to Maryland in the regular-season finale to finish the season 5-7.
O'Brien charged into his second spring practice refreshed and ready to coach. He reshuffled his offensive line, switched a handful of positions on his defense and opened up the competition for the starting quarterback while two-year starter Daniel Evans recovered from offseason shoulder surgery.
And he saw a completely different program.