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ACC Opener Analysis - NC St vs. Wake Forest
NC State WR T.J. Grahams & Wake Forest LB Kyle Wi
NC State WR T.J. Grahams & Wake Forest LB Kyle Wi
Posted May 19, 2011

Looking ahead at the Early Matchups. The ACC Opener - NC State vs. Wake Forest

Preview 2011 - ACC Opener

NC State vs. Wake Forest

- 2011 Wake Forest Preview | 2011 Wake Forest Offense
- 2011 Wake Forest Defense | 2011 Wake Forest Depth Chart
- Wake Forest Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006  

- 2011 NC State Preview | 2011 NC State Offense
- 2011 NC State Defense | 2011 NC State Depth Chart
- NC State Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006   

NC State

Offense: The Wolfpack backfield will have a fresh look, but will it be able to reach the levels of production that became customary over the past couple of seasons? Star QB Russell Wilson is making a full-time commitment to baseball, opening the door for former blue-chip recruit Mike Glennon to get his long-awaited turn at the controls. The sky is the limit for the pro-style passer. He’s expected to be joined in the backfield by another can’t-miss get, second-year RB Mustafa Greene, who led the team in rushing as a rookie despite starting just a single game. The primary offensive concerns in Raleigh are at wide receiver and the offensive line. State must replace last season’s top two pass-catchers and plug the leaks in a front wall that was last in the ACC in sacks allowed and blocked for a running game that averaged 3.4 yards a carry.

Defense: Credit the Wolfpack staff for the phenomenal job it did in 2010, transforming a defense that imploded just a year earlier. NC State attacked from all angles, ranking No. 4 nationally in sacks and improving to No. 29 in scoring D. Three starters from that unit are gone, namely all-star LB Nate Irving, but the wave of returners are determined to keep the defense on a northern trajectory. The 2011 edition will be built on the front seven, including penetrating DT J.R. Sweezy and linebackers Audie Cole and Terrell Manning. Ultimately, the group’s final grade will rest with a secondary that’s been victimized regularly over the past few years. There’s no shortage of experienced players, but they’ve got to do a better job of breaking up passes and defending the red zone.

Best Offensive Player: Senior TE George Bryan. Russell Wilson loved playing catch with his tight end, as will Mike Glennon. Bryan will be looking for his third consecutive year as an All-ACC first teamer, making 35 grabs for 369 yards and three touchdowns a year ago. At 6-5 and 265 pounds, he has ideal size for matching up with linebackers and the soft hands to encourage the quarterback to look in his direction. An improving blocker, he’ll have a chance to be one of the first tight ends selected in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DT J.R. Sweezy. Sweezy is one of those types of players that coaches wish they had more of on the roster. An unheralded linebacker when he arrived in Raleigh, he’s grown into a playmaking, 6-5, 293-pound interior lineman. The emotional leader of the Wolfpack defense, he plays with constant energy and a non-stop motor, earning honorable mention All-ACC last fall with 46 tackles, 13 stops behind the line and a half-dozen sacks.

Wake Forest

Offense: Rock bottom. That’s where Wake Forest will be looking to climb back from after ranking 11th in the ACC in scoring and total offense. While a dip was expected in the first year without QB Riley Skinner, it wound up being a freefall on this side of the ball. Hey, at least the Deacons suffered through growing pains by using underclassmen at key positions. The backfield was comprised of freshmen, QB Tanner Price and RB Josh Harris, who are both expected to be more competent in their second seasons. Plus, the Joe Looney-led line returns four starters, which should help make everyone around them better. Chris Givens is the cover boy of a receiving corps that’s light on stars, but heavy with speed and athleticism. Wake Forest has to be better with the ball in 2011, but by how much will depend on the play of the quarterbacks, likely Price or possibly last year’s backup Ted Stachitas.

Defense: When coordinator Brad Lambert opted to become the first head coach in Charlotte history, it left the Demon Deacons in a bind. They responded by promoting Brian Knorr and Tim Billings to co-coordinator status. Knorr was a particularly good fit since he had a past history operating 3-4 defenses, which Wake will employ this fall. The objective is simple—get the program’s 11 best players on the field at the same time, which means an additional linebacker to roam the field. There’s a lot of work to be done after the Deacons ranked near the bottom of the ACC in most statistical categories and produced no all-star performers. That ought to change this fall, with LB Kyle Wilber, S Cyhl Quarles, and NG Nikita Whitlock as the most likely contenders for postseason honors.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore RB Josh Harris. It’s both a concern and cause for excitement that a second-year player is Wake Forest’s most potent offensive weapon. Emerging from a sea of veterans, the 5-10, 205-pounder ran for a team-high 720 yards and seven touchdowns on 126 carries. In one October eruption, he shed some anonymity by shredding Virginia Tech in Blacksburg for 241 yards and two touchdowns on just 20 carries. He hits the hole in an instant and has the speed to get into the secondary with a little bit of daylight.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Kyle Wilber. The leading man of the new 3-4 defense, Wilber is moving from end to outside linebacker where his length and quickness will be in full bloom. Despite giving away a lot of weight a year ago, the 6-5, 240-pounder made a triumphant return from a broken leg, collecting 65 tackles, 14.5 stops for loss, six sacks, and three forced fumbles. Now able to roam more freely, he’s liable to become a force on the Deacon D and one of the ACC’s most exciting defensive playmakers.