2008 North Carolina State Preview - Offense
NC State RB Andre Brown
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - North Carolina State Wolfpack Offense
Preview 2008 - Offense
2008 CFN NC State
2008 NC State
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What you need to know:
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.
Passing: Daniel Evans
194-339, 2,030 yds, 12 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Jamelle Eugene
172 carries, 667 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Donald Bowens
41 catches, 598 yds, 3 TD
Junior RB Jamelle Eugene
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
Player who has to step up and become a star:
Junior C Ted Larsen
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore G Jake
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 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.
Outlook: 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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
Strength: 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
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