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2009 NC State Preview - Offense
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What you need to know:
Now that Tom O’Brien has his
quarterbacks of the future, he and his staff must
surround Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon with an
appropriate level of talent. Wilson was the surprise of
the ACC last season, beginning the year on the bench and
ending it on the all-conference first team. He needs
more help, however, specifically from an offensive line
that’s prone to getting bullied at the line of
scrimmage. When the blockers aren’t doing their jobs, RB
Jamelle Eugene can’t maneuver into space and Wilson is
flushed from the pocket way too often. Eugene is hoping
to get help from Toney Baker, the power portion of the
ground game, who’s missed the last two seasons with knee
problems. Although the receiving corps needs to tighten
things up, junior wideouts Owen Spencer and Jarvis
Williams, and sophomore TE George Bryan might all
develop into all-stars before they’re through. Wilson is
special, but he can’t produce miracles without some
the offense: Sophomore QB Russell Wilson
Passing: Russell Wilson
150-275, 1,955 yds, 17 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jamelle Eugene
95 carries, 442 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Owen Spencer
catches, 691 yds, 5 TD
Player who has to step up and become a star:
Junior LT Jake Vermiglio
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore TE
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Jeraill McCuller
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wilson,
20 WR Owen Spencer, 3) C Ted Larsen
Strength of the offense: Quarterback,
Protecting The Ball
Weakness of the offense: Line, Scoring
At this time last year, the Wolfpack quarterback
situation was a complete mess marked by zero reliable
hurlers. Today, the program boasts one of the most
stable situations in the conference. Naturally, most of
the credit belongs to 5-11, 208-pound sophomore
the first freshman to ever be named first team All-ACC
at the position. A multi-sport athlete, with dual-threat
ability, he’s laid the groundwork toward becoming the
league’s second-coming of Charlie Ward. In his debut, he
coolly went 150-of-275 for 1,955 yards, 18 touchdowns,
and one interception, adding 388 yards and four
scores on the ground. And like Ward, he has exceptional
poise under pressure, especially for such a young
Projected Top Reserves:
Mike Glennon isn’t just the backup quarterback. He’s also the most
decorated passer to ever sign with North Carolina State.
A 6-6, 211-pound drop-back passer, who can already make
all of the throws, he was pursued by the likes of Miami
and Florida State before deciding on the Pack. Of
course, he’s yet to play a live game, but if the spring
is any indication, he’s ready to contribute as early as
Watch Out For ...
Glennon to be used in more than just blowouts. Tom
O’Brien is confident in the abilities of his second-year
freshman and wants to be sure that he’s prepared in the
event of an injury. Plus, he has a longer arm than
Wilson, which could mean opportunities when the deep
ball is required.
The future. Hey, the present isn’t bad at all
either, but how excited is the Wolfpack that it’s likely
set at the position through the 2012 season? Wilson and
Glennon should complement each other nicely, while
making sure that neither gets complacent.
Durability. The single biggest concern at quarterback,
if not the entire program, is that Wilson won’t get up
after taking a big hit and will be lost for an extended
period of time. That’s not just pessimism since he isn’t
very big, spends considerable time outside the pocket,
and is coming back from a knee injury.
No position encapsulates the enthusiasm surrounding the
program more than at quarterback. You just get the
feeling that Wilson is the type of dynamic player and
mature individual, who’ll someday bring a title to
Raleigh. And if Glennon continues to develop in his
shadow, NC State will be in great hands under center for
the foreseeable future.
If the backs can remain healthy, they’ll form a solid
unit. Unfortunately, that’s happened infrequently over
the past few seasons. The departure of Andre Brown means
that 5-10, 195-pound senior
takes over as the feature back. He never got on track
after missing most of September with an ankle injury,
finishing with just 95 carries for 442 yards and two
touchdowns in a reserve role. A shifty, cutback runner,
he’s a high-energy guy and has the best hands out of the
backfield, catching 68 passes over the last two years
alone. The Pack hopes he can regain his sophomore form,
when he was named the team MVP.
returns to reprise his role as the fullback and lead
blocker in the running game. A 6-2, 224-pound former
walk-on, he impressed as a true freshman, playing in
every game, starting a pair, and catching seven balls
for 72 yards. He won’t be asked to do too much other
than hit people, which is his best asset.
Projected Top Reserves: Is this the year that
Baker finally gets back on the field. Everyone is
cautiously optimistic. The snake-bitten 5-10, 225-pound
returned to practice this spring after missing the last
two seasons to knee injuries. Before the injuries, he
was a power back, with the quick feet to dance away from
would-be tacklers. In his first two seasons, he rushed
for 1,234 yards and 11 touchdowns, a testament to his
ability. He plans to petition the NCAA for a sixth year
of eligibility, which means he might be back in 2010.
Battling Baker for the No. 2 job is 5-11, 216-pound
junior Curtis Underwood, a backup and special teams performer for the last
two seasons. A year ago, he finished with 116 yards on
32 carries and four receptions, showing flashes of the
between-the-tackles running that first attracted the
program to the New York native.
Pack is very excited about the future of 6-0, 200-pound
Brandon Barnes, one of the gems of the 2008
recruiting class. A tough inside runner, he has the
vision and instincts to get through the hole in a hurry.
If the defensive backfield doesn’t get its paws on him,
he could be pushing for a starting nod next summer.
Watch Out For ... Baker’s continued recovery.
Although there are a few layers of rust to be shaken
off, he was moving well in March and April, which is
promising news for the offense. If he’s truly healthy,
it could provide an interesting complement to the
Pass-catching. The Wolfpack backs are quality runners,
but they really excel as receivers out of the backfield.
Eugene and Baker, in particular, have displayed soft
hands in the past, providing a reliable safety valve for
Durability. Evaluating this unit is next to impossible
without first talking to the trainer and team physician.
Eugene is coming back from shoulder surgery. Baker has
had multiple knee surgeries. How well they bounce back
after going under the knife will dictate just how
productive this backfield is this fall.
There’s talent in the backfield, which was obvious when
Brown was drafted by the New York Giants in April.
However, injuries and average blocking have kept the
ground game from flourishing up to that talent level.
Ideally, Baker and Eugene will give the offense a dose
of thunder and lightning that’s been missing for the
past few seasons. If those nagging health problems creep
up, however, the running game will again reside in the
ACC’s second division.
All of last year’s top wide receivers return, yet the
Wolfpack will be looking for far more consistency from
the group. The primary threat at “Z”, especially on deep
routes, is 6-3, 180-pound junior
who began taking flight in his
first season as the starter. Averaging a whopping 22
yards a reception, he turned 31 catches into 691 yards
and five touchdowns. He has the speed and long stride to
get separation, but needs to cut down on his drops.
Over at “X” receiver will be 6-4, 205-pound junior
Jarvis Williams, another returning starter, who only scratched the
surface of his potential last fall. A big and physical
presence, he used his size advantage to pull down a
career-high 26 balls for 432 yards and four scores. An
unselfish player and terrific downfield blocker, he
needs to become a little demanding and productive as a
With Anthony Hill off to the NFL,
6-5, 270-pound sophomore
George Bryan is set to take over at tight end. Very impressive in
his debut, he started seven games and caught 18 balls
for 201 yards and four touchdowns. Particularly for his
size, he shows outstanding balance, agility, and foot
speed. If he keeps growing the offensive line is liable
to recruit to be the team’s next left tackle.
Projected Top Reserves: Injuries have opened
the door for 6-2, 197-pound sophomore
Jay Smith to
get the offseason reps needed to impress the coaching
staff. After catching just seven passes for 78 yards
last season, he’s made good on the opportunity, playing
with aggressiveness and moving to the spot behind
Williams at “X”.
Providing depth at “Z” will be
6-0, 180-pound sophomore
T.J. Graham, who exploded on to the scene in his rookie year. A
starter in six games and one of the league’s more
dangerous return men, he caught 16 balls for 251 yards.
The fastest and most slippery of the receivers, he needs
to get more chances to wreak havoc in space.
While Bryan will be the primary pass-catcher among the
tight ends, senior
will do the dirty work as a de facto third guard. At 6-4
and 285 pounds, he’ll catch the occasional pass, but is
far more valuable as a road-grader, who can create
downfield daylight for the running backs.
Watch Out For ... the health of
6-3, 206-pound junior
While the Pack would love to him back in time for the
opener, it’s more likely that he’ll miss the first month
recovering from a knee injury. Too bad, too, because
before missing 2008 with a back injury, he was beginning
to look like the program’s most dangerous wideout.
Strength: Size. The program likes
its receivers to be big enough to create match up
problems, which is exactly what this group is capable of
doing. Aside from Graham, who can hurt you with his
jets, all of the primary wideouts are at least 6-2.
Spencer and Williams are 6-3 and 6-4, respectively,
which is a handful for every secondary in the ACC.
Consistency. The receivers and tight ends are physically
gifted, but they’re also rather young, which brings its
own set of obstacles. The wideouts, in particular,
dropped too many passes last season and need to run
better routes in order to solidify the passing attack.
Outlook: While the raw materials are
in place for the Wolfpack to have a dangerous set of
receivers for Russell Wilson, they still need to be
molded into complete players, who show up every single
Saturday. Spencer is the poster child. He has a star’s
ceiling, but to reach it, he’ll have to fine-tune the
little things in his game.
If there’s one area of the offense that needs to be
improved, it’s up front, where NC State struggled
throughout the 2008 season. Even worse, the unit has
failed to show considerable progress in the offseason.
The line will be built around 6-2, 300-pound senior
an unlikely anchor at center. A defensive tackle in the
beginning of his career, he switched sides of the ball
in 2008 and went on to be named Outstanding Lineman of
the Year. While it took some time before he was
comfortable with the snaps, he eventually found his
groove, showing good quickness and burst off the ball.
After Larsen, the Pack’s most consistent blocker is
massive senior Jerrail McCuller,
the starter at right tackle. At 6-7 and 335 pounds, he
has the large frame and long arms to prevent edge
rushers from getting pressure on the quarterbacks. A
starter in the last 17 games, he’s allowed just four
sacks over that time and has gotten progressively better
with his technique. With a strong final year, he could
sneak into the latter stages of the NFL Draft.
left tackle for a third consecutive season is 6-5,
who continues to improve with the more reps that he
gets. He allowed just three sacks as an eight-game
starter in 2008, making strides with his footwork and
the use of his hands. Even more progress is needed,
however, in order to keep the quarterbacks from getting
The biggest concern for line coach Don
Horton is at guard, where injuries and inconsistency
have been most evident. The veteran on the left side is
6-5, 311-pound senior
who is being shifted inside after starting 14 games at
tackle over the last two seasons. A quality, veteran
blocker, with good leg drive, he’s had problems staying
healthy, and was dinged up again at the end of spring.
The Pack needs him to be 100% in order to avoid digging
deeper into the depth chart.
On the right side
will be another relocator, 6-3, 310-pound senior
who has spent his entire life playing center. A backup
over the last two seasons, he’s a steady,
fundamentally-sound blocker, yet isn’t going to wow
anyone in one particular area. He’ll be looking to lock
down the job in the summer, while shutting the door on
some of the rising underclassmen.
Projected Top Reserves: Hope for the future
up front can be found in some of the redshirt freshmen,
like 6-5, 282-pound LT
6-3, 320-pound LG
Zach Allen, and 6-6, 313-pound RG
The cornerstones of the 2008 recruiting class—and the
Wolfpack second unit—all three will push for playing
time this fall.
Wallace has the size, quickness,
and footwork to challenge for a starting job in 2010.
He’s added weight since arriving at 260 pounds, yet
still does a nice job of getting out of his stance and
walling off the edge.
Allen is a physical,
road-grader type, drive blocking his man until the
whistle and generally doing a nice job as a run blocker.
Considering his size and overall strength, he’s
relatively light on his feet and able to engage well
beyond the line of scrimmage.
Of the three,
Mattes was the most highly-regarded coming out of high
school, getting offers from the majority of ACC schools.
Built more like a tackle, he’ll begin his career on the
inside, where his inexperience his less likely to show.
Watch Out For ... the shuffling to
continue up front, specifically at guard. Horton would
like to believe that he has settled on his starting
five, but that just wasn’t the case coming out of
spring. Barbee still needs to prove that he belongs in
the regular lineup and Williams has to show that he’s
physically capable of holding up for an entire year.
Strength: First-unit experience. If all
goes as planned, the Wolfpack starting unit will be
comprised of four seniors and a junior. If nothing else,
this group has seen everything and has thorough of the
offense and their assignments.
Run blocking. The Pack’s problems on the ground in
recent years are directly attributable to the
performance of the offensive line. Rarely are the backs
given much room to run or make things happen. At the
point of attack, North Carolina State must win more
battles, or else the talents of Jamelle Eugene and Toney
Baker will be somewhat wasted.
If State fails to reach all of its goals in 2009, the
offensive line will undoubtedly share some of the blame.
It’s a marginal unit without any anchor or sure-thing
all-stars to consistently run behind. Tom O’Brien and
his staff traditionally do a great job of coaching up
linemen, but they’re not illusionists. Until those
recruits from 2008 start to win jobs, the line will