2008 North Carolina State Preview - Offense
NC State RB Andre Brown
NC State RB Andre Brown
Posted May 9, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - North Carolina State Wolfpack Offense

NC State Wolfpack

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN NC State Preview | 2008 NC State Offense 
- 2008 NC State Defense | 2008 NC State Depth Chart 
- 2007 CFN NC State Preview | 2006 CFN NC State Preview 

What you need to know: Head coach Tom O’Brien desperately wants to establish a power running game, especially with State’s on-going uncertainty at quarterback. Although he’ll be loaded at running back with Jamelle Eugene, Andre Brown, and Toney Baker back in the fold, it won’t matter unless the Wolfpack gets dramatically better inside. The line got routinely blown off the ball in 2007, making Eugene’s three 100-yard days all the more impressive. Out of Daniel Evans, Russell Wilson, Harrison Beck, and Justin Burke the Pack needs a reliable quarterback after combining for a league-high 23 interceptions. O’Brien’s offenses aren’t built around the passing game, but everyone benefits if the quarterbacks play with more consistency. Don’t expect an epiphany from the passers, but it’ll help getting back TE Anthony Hill from a season-ending knee injury.  

Returning Leaders
Passing: Daniel Evans
194-339, 2,030 yds, 12 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Jamelle Eugene
172 carries, 667 yds, 5 TD
Donald Bowens
41 catches, 598 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Junior RB Jamelle Eugene
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior C Ted Larsen
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore G Jake Vermiglio
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Anthony Hill
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hill, 2) Eugene, 3) Junior WR Donald Bowens
Strength of the offense: Depth and talent at running back, tight end
Weakness of the offense: Turnovers, quarterback play, the offensive line

Projected Starter: When picking this year’s starter, Tom O’Brien will have lots of choices. It’s unlikely, however, that any will be good ones right away. Senior Daniel Evans has a slight edge based on the fact he’s started 17 games over the past two seasons, but he’s far from a sure thing. In those two years, he’s thrown 23 interceptions to just 17 touchdowns, and missed all of spring recovering from shoulder surgery. What’s more, the 6-2, 191-pounder possesses just modest arm strength and offers little in terms of mobility. The safe choice based on experience, he doesn’t have a very high ceiling.      
Projected Top Reserves: On the complete opposite spectrum of Evans is Russell Wilson, an inexperienced redshirt freshman who provided a spark to the offense in the spring. The best all-around athlete, by far, among the quarterbacks, he moves well outside the pocket and has surprising zip on his passes for a 5-11, 191-pounder. Given an opportunity to impress in March and April, he didn’t mess up, improving his chances of winning the job.
Junior Harrison Beck was supposed to be the Pack’s quarterback of the future after transferring from Nebraska, but has yet to reach expectations. He replaced Evans last September, but managed to go just 85-of-160 for 903 yards, two touchdowns, and nine interceptions before getting hurt. Although he has the biggest arm of the contenders, he hasn’t been able to control it or achieve any degree of consistency.
Sophomore Justin Burke was one of the program’s top recruits of 2006, a polished passer with an accurate arm and live feet. He has good size at 6-3 and 210 pounds, getting a cup of coffee and three pass attempts in three games a year ago.
Watch Out For ... can’t-miss freshman Mike Glennon. A classic drop-back passer who can make all of the throws, he’s 6-6 and 195 pounds with room to get much bigger. Pursued by the likes of Michigan, Miami, and Florida State, it’s only a matter of when, not if, he becomes the future on offense.
Strength: Potential. In 2005, 2006, and 2008, respectively, Beck, Burke, and Glennon were sought after and highly-ranked high school quarterbacks. None of them have produced yet for the Wolfpack, but the potential continues to exist until proven otherwise.
Weakness: Consistency. Unless one of the freshmen, Wilson or Glennon, can step in and immediately start making plays, NC State could be staring at a repeat of last season, when Evans, Beck, Burke combined to throw 14 touchdowns and an ACC-high 23 interceptions.
Evans is the type of scrappy player O’Brien likes, but if he can’t make plays with greater consistency, his hold on the starting job will have a short shelf life. He’s vulnerable, especially to Wilson and Glennon, young quarterbacks who believe they’re ready to light a spark under a passing game that was dead last in the league in passing efficiency.
Rating: 5.5
Running Backs
Projected Starters: Without any debate, the backfield is NC State’s deepest unit heading into the season. Three players have been the feature back at one point in their career, meaning depth isn’t going to be an issue. After injuries struck the Pack’s top two runners, 5-10, 195-pound junior Jamelle Eugene stepped into the spotlight, delivering a team-high 667 yards rushing, 42 receptions, and six touchdowns in just over half a season of work. A shifty, cutback runner, he brings much-needed durability and pass-catching skills to an offense lacking in both areas.   
Leading the way in the running game will be 5-11, 215-pound sophomore Harrison Ritcher. A walk-on whose brother and father also played for the Pack, he’ll be used mainly as a blocker, picking up the occasional short-yardage carry.
Projected Top Reserves
: Senior Andre Brown and junior Toney Baker are a pair of proven players returning from season-ending injuries. Baker was the starter heading into last season, but was lost in the opener with a knee injury and sat out the spring to continue his rehabilitation. When healthy, he combines outstanding quickness with the 5-10, 225-pound frame to run through would-be tacklers. In his first two seasons, he rushed for 1,234 yards and 11 touchdowns, leading the team in 2006.
Brown is the most physical of the runners, a 6-0, 228-pound battering ram and underrated receiver. Like Baker, his season was cut short by an injury, a fractured in the Florida State game that required surgery. Consistently productive throughout his career, he’s scored 15 touchdowns, and last year’s 447 yards on the ground was a career low.
All of last year’s injuries allowed 5-11, 215-pound sophomore Curtis Underwood to earn a letter a year earlier than anticipated. He appeared in six games, rushing 19 times for 84 yards and flashing the quickness and change-of-direction that first attracted the interest of the program.    
Watch Out For ... Eugene to get the majority of the carries, but share them with Brown and Baker. Tom O’Brien has long favored using multiple backs, and has the deep stable of runners needed to keep everyone fresh and well-fed.
Strength: Depth. Assuming everyone is healthy by the opener at South Carolina, State boasts three runners with the talent and experience to carry the load. O’Brien’s biggest challenges might be making sure Eugene, Brown, and Baker get enough touches to remain in game shape.
Weakness: Durability. As last season showed, the one thing that can stall this backfield is injuries. Baker missed the spring resting his surgically-repaired knee and Brown still needs to prove he can hold up for the entire season.
Outlook: If NC State is anywhere near last year’s 110th place finish on the ground, it means the line was horrible or the injury bug made a return visit in 2008. When everyone is whole, this is a very talented backfield that does a nice job of combining breakaway runners with big backs who can pound it between the tackles.  
Rating: 7.5
Projected Starters: The team’s most dangerous receiver, 6-3, 206-pound junior Donald Bowens, returns determined to improve on last year’s 41 catches for 598 yards and three touchdowns. Physically imposing, he has the size to out muscle defenders on jump balls and the speed to stretch a secondary. Although consistency has eluded him, that should come with an increased workload.
Moving into the lineup in just his second season is 6-4, 205 sophomore Jarvis Williams, who uses his size well as a receiver and a downfield blocker. A candidate to play as a true freshman before a back injury got in the way, he returned in 2007 to make eight catches for 55 yards and earn his first of what will likely be four letters.
Whoever wins the quarterback race can take comfort in the healthy return of TE Anthony Hill, who was headed for a table-setting season before tearing his ACL last summer. A massive, 6-6, 265-pound target and a dominant run blocker, he caught 45 passes for 478 yards, earning All-ACC honors as a junior. He’ll be an outstanding and oft-used option for a passing game that leans heavily on the short and intermediate routes.    
Projected Top Reserves: Behind Williams is sophomore Darrell Davis, a raw, yet very athletic receiver with considerable upside. Now up to 6-4 and 212 pounds, he has good wheels and enough athletic ability to have also contributed to the Wolfpack hoops team. As a rookie, he started one game and caught a dozen passes for 135 yards and a touchdown.
At 6-3 and 180 pounds, sophomore Owen Spencer is another long and lean receiver with the speed to be a long-ball hitter. The likely backup to Bowens on the outside, he played in 12 games a year ago, making five catches for 73 yards and frequent contributions on special teams.
After Hill was injured, 6-4, 259-pound junior Matt Kushner helped cushion the blow, playing in all 12 games and catching 10 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. A former defensive end and improving run blocker, he could occasionally be used as a short-yardage fullback or as an H-back.     
Watch Out For ...
a breakthrough year from Bowens. After catching 41 balls as a three-game starter, he’s preparing for lift-off as the go-to receiver in the passing game. With Hill back to draw some attention from opposing defenses, he should less congestion when running pass patterns on the outside.
Strength: Size. Good luck locating a receiver or tight end on this team under 6-3. The Wolfpack is enormous at the position, setting up potential mismatches with ACC defensive backs.
Weakness: Proven wide receiver depth. After Bowens, the Pack has a lot of big bodies, but not one who’s caught more than a dozen passes in a season. If the team’s go-to receiver is to avoid getting doubled, he’ll need a couple of his friends to emerge into steady producers. 
Outlook: While NC State is chock full of size, speed, and youth, it won’t matter much if the receivers don’t mature in a hurry and the quarterbacks don’t play with more consistency. The return of Hill, however, coupled with the emergence of Bowens, gives the Pack a solid one-two punch in the passing game.
Rating: 6.5
Offensive Line
Projected Starters: In an attempt to address holes on the interior of the line, State is shifting two former defensive tackles, senior John Bedics and junior Ted Larsen to left guard and center, respectively. The 6-4, 295-pound Bedics actually started the first three games on defense last year before succumbing to injuries. He’s tough and physical at the point of attack and attacking the new assignment as if he plans to remain in the starting lineup.
The 6-2, 295-pound Larsen has a much tougher job moving to the pivot and calling out signals for the rest of the unit. A quick and explosive athlete for a lineman, he started two games on defense as a sophomore, making 20 tackles, four tackles for loss, and three sacks. He has the head to make this move stick, but still needs a lot of work on the finer points of the position.
The anchor of the line will be senior RG Curtis Crouch, a pile-driver at 6-5 and 320 pounds and the line’s best candidate to be an all-star. A starter over the last two seasons, he needs to maintain his weight and improve his pass protection skills if there’ll be any hope of playing beyond Raleigh.
Slated to play tackle are junior Julian Williams on the left side and senior Meares Green on the right. The 6-5, 305-pound Williams is a returning starter and one of the line’s best athletes when his knees aren’t acting up. Before getting hurt last October, he was doing a solid job as a pass protector, particularly since it was his first season as a starter.
As walk-ons go, the 6-4, 306-pound Green has carved out a decent career at NC State, earning a scholarship before the start of the 2006 season. One of the most versatile of the Pack linemen, he started games at tackle and guard a year ago, and was being considered at center before Larsen helped stabilize the position. He’s a blue-collar worker with the experience of a fifth-year senior.         
Projected Top Reserves
: When Williams was injured last fall, 6-5, 315-pound sophomore Jake Vermiglio moved into the lineup and did a bang-up job for a rookie. He held up well against the likes of Virginia’s Chris Long and Miami’s Calais Campbell, stamping him an important part of the future for the Pack. A tackle when he arrived, he’s being cross-trained as Bedics’ backup at left guard.
State’s top reserve at tackle is massive junior Jerrail McCuller, a 6-7, 330-pounder who started the final four games of last season. He made strides in pass protection, an area of concern, yielding just a pair of sacks in 336 snaps. He was behind Green coming out of spring, but can still win this job.  
Watch Out For ... the line to get abused in the early going by the likes of South Carolina, Clemson, and East Carolina. For all of the positive talking points coming out of spring practice, there are bound to be some growing pains for Bedics and Larsen as they transition from the defensive side of the ball.
: Girth in the trenches. The Wolfpack is not lacking in big, powerful bodies, averaging almost 310 pounds across the two-deep. If everyone stays healthy, there’s no reason this unit shouldn’t be winning more battles at the line of scrimmage.
Weakness: Athleticism. Plain and simple, the Pack linemen are slow, one of the main reasons they allowed too many sacks last fall. Size matters up front, but it can also become a liability when opposing ends are able to zip around the edge and get free shots on the quarterback.
Outlook: Tom O’Brien’s staff traditionally does a fine job of coaching up linemen, but they’re not magicians. The Wolfpack is short on talent here, and if the recurring theme of injuries and inconsistency continues, a repeat of last year’s dismal results will be unavoidable.
Rating: 6