NC STATE FOOTBALL
Joe Giglio (N&O)
Smith, Payton held out of second scrimmage
Veteran receivers Rashard Smith and Quintin Payton were held out of Friday’s scrimmage at Carter-Finley Stadium as a precaution.
“Rashard is just beat up and we kind of know what he is and I don’t need to put him out there and get him hurt,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said.
“Quintin pulled a muscle and it’s just taking awhile to heal,” Doeren said. “They’re saying he’ll be back for Game 1.”
Dave Doeren moved up N.C. Stateâ€™s second scrimmage of training camp to Friday morning. Donâ€™t expect Doeren to move up his decision about the starting quarterback.
Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas remain in competition to be the starter for the opener against Louisiana Tech. Doeren said he will have a better idea about the rest of his depth chart after the second scrimmage but he did not anticipate a resolution at quarterback.
â€œThey are really competing right now and I like that,â€ Doeren said.
Thomas had control of the job after spring practice but that was before Mitchell, a graduate transfer from Arkansas, joined the program in July.
Thereâ€™s also the question about who will be the third-string quarterback. Doeren said sophomore Manny Stocker and freshmen Bryant Shirreffs and Josh Taylor are vying for that spot but thereâ€™s also a possibility that all three quarterbacks could be redshirted this season.
Stocker burned through a season of eligibility last year despite only taking a handful of relatively meaningless snaps.
Garrett Leatham, a sophomore walk-on from Apex, would probably handle third-string duties if Stocker, Shirreffs and Taylor redshirt this season.
Matt Carter (TheWolfpacker.com)
Dave Doeren reflects on scrimmage, depth chart
How do you think you stand with running the football?
“Today was the first day we made our quarterbacks where we could hit them. It was fun to see that and to see the finish of some of those plays cause normally we blow it really fast. So we were able to add that into our packages today, and it helped our offense I thought at times.
“Aside from the fumble, impressed with what Matt Dayes has given us in the backfield. I think Shad’s a lot better, but obviously with our suspension game one we’re trying to find out who our depth is going to be at tailback besides Creecy, and Matt Dayes has shown he can do that.
“I think the puzzle that we are moving around on the offensive line with [Quinton] Schooley being here now, gives us that competition where if he wins the center job we can maybe move [Joe] Thuney out to a guard and get us our best five out on the field that way. That’s something that we saw.
“I just like the way the guys fought today, finishing on the goal line. There was some good contact there at the end. The run game to me is the only way you can be a successful team in the fourth quarter, to be able to run the football and hopefully we can get better at it.”
How do you evaluate the quarterbacks today?
“I need to see everything on film. It looks like Brandon [Mitchell] had pretty good command of the offense today. Some of the fumbles that took place were with Pete [Thomas] was in there. I got to see if it were the backs or him before I tell you, but both of them are throwing the ball better. That’s the one thing you do see.”
Defensively, were do you think you standing in developing depth on the depth chart?
“I feel a lot better than I did in the spring at linebacker. I really feel like we got six guys when [Brandon] Pittman, he didn’t play today, but when he’s back. We have him and M.J. [Salahuddin] at Will. D.J. [Green] and Rodman [Noel] at Sam and [Zach] Gentry and [Robert] Caldwell at Mike, I like what’s going on there.
“At safety I think Byrd being out there helps a lot, having that senior safety with Hakim [Jones]. The backup safety position, [Tim] Buckley and [Josh] Stanley are probably ahead of the freshmen right now just because of experience.
“I really like the corner position, there’s a lot of depth. Sean Paul wasn’t able to do a lot today, but Jack Tocho is really playing well as a freshman.”
There’s some competition at defensive end, how is Mike Rose doing and some of the depth being developed there?
“On the d-line we’ll play a lot of guys. That’s just kind of Coach [Ryan] Nielsen’s philosophy. We do have good depth at end. We have [Art] Norman playing at a high level, you have [Darryl Cato-Bishop] who does everything you tell him to do. Mike Rose is a quick twitch guy that can do some things off the edge. Forrest West was out for a while but he’s back today so it’s good to see him running around, too.”
R. Cory Smith (N&O)
Doeren counting on D-line to carry Wolfpack
N.C. State is counting on a different group of defenders to make plays this season.
Over the years, the linebacking corps has been the strength, thanks to current NFL players Nate Irving, Audie Cole and Terrell Manning. Last season, the secondary was counted on more heavily as David Amerson and Earl Wolff were expected to lead the defense.
This season, more responsibility falls on the defensive line.
â€œWeâ€™ve always believed that we lead the team,â€ defensive end Art Norman said. â€œI feel like we set the tone in practice and even more so in games. We had a lot of talent behind us the last few seasons, but we set up a lot of things for those guys.
â€œI think the team is feeding off us right now, so we know we need to set the tone in every game.â€
The Wolfpack return three players in Thomas Teal, T.Y. McGill and Darryl Cato-Bishop. Teal and Cato-Bishop started all 13 games in 2012, while McGill started 10. Their biggest loss was Brian Slay, who had six tackles for loss and two sacks.
Along with those pieces, Norman, Colorado transfer Forrest West and sophomore Mike Rose will play vital roles. McGill, who will start at tackle along with Teal, believes that stability has helped the line improve in the offseason.
The excitement surrounding NC State football has translated into rapid ticket sales, as the Wolfpack has sold its entire allotment of season tickets for 2013. State has sold over 800 more season tickets to date than in 2012.
Fans eager to see the team play under first-year head coach Dave Doeren have also snatched up all available five-game Mini-Packs, which sold out in just two weeks.
The Wolfpack football squad has elected its Leadership Council for the 2013 season, head coach Dave Doeren announced today. Each position unit voted and selected its representatives to the vital group that will provide guidance for the Wolfpack during the upcoming campaign.
The Council provides input for Doeren and the coaching staff on certain decisions, and it also gives the players a voice if they have an issue that they want brought before the coaches.
â€œIt is the greatest compliment when your peers select you as a leader,â€ said Doeren. â€œThis group of men has earned that respect. I look forward to seeing our team grow under their leadership.â€
Comprised of players from all classes, the 2013 Leadership Council boasts 12 seniors or graduate students, seven juniors and three sophomores. The freshman class also elected four representatives: running back Matt Dayes, cornerback Sean Paul, cornerback Jack Tocho and wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Ryan Tice (TheWolfpacker.com)
Q&A: Doeren talks feisty practice, depth chart and more
NC State head coach Dave Doeren met with the media following todayâ€™s practice. He discussed several things, including what he called a feisty practice, the depth chart and went in-depth on special teams.
How were things out there today?
It was feisty, a little too much at times, but the guys had a lot of energy. We did some good move the ball segments, we started kind of normal down and distance then went red zone and finished with two-minute drill with a field goal to win. We did some situational football today and we start school Wednesday, so today was really our last full day that we had where we can do some walk-throughs, have longer meetings and I think we got a lot out of it.
Did anything change with the quarterback battle, has anybody separated themselves?
It depends on what day, I think I’ve said that before. I’m not going to rush into it. Brandon [Mitchell] has taken more reps with the ones at times, then Pete [Thomas] is back in there, and it’s a back and forth. It’s a long season. I think we need both of those guys to be ready to play and we haven’t made a firm decision yet.
How do you think the kickers are doing right now?
It was good right there [today]. They both kicked the field goal to win and made it in a hurry situation, so that was good to see. I love the height that Nik [Sade] kicks the football with, he gets it up really quick. We’ve done a ton of pooch punt work here in the last couple of days and Wil [Baumann] has been able to down the ball inside the 10 several times, so those are positive things.
You said after the scrimmage you would have a better idea on a lot of position battles, did a lot of that happen as you expected?
In some ways it did and in others it didn’t because we had to hold some guys out that were banged up. At receiver, we played all of our young guys. [Quintin Payton] has been out the whole camp and we held out Smith, but he’s back in action now. I think the one thing we found is that we are going to have to play a lot of guys on offense because of the pace we’re playing at and the fact that we haven’t been up-tempo here before. You can’t just play three receivers and hope you’re going to make it, you have to play seven, eight, nine guys. I think that’s the one thing. There will be one definite guy that comes out on the field to start the game, but you’re going to see a lot of different legs running around.
Scott Haynes (The Sports Network)
NCAA Football Preview â€“ NC State Wolfpack
OUTLOOK: Doeren is in the big leagues now and must make the transition in a hurry to keep the NC State faithful at bay.
Doeren is looking forward to getting to work.
“It’s exciting. This is the fourth BCS conference I’ve been a part of and to be a head coach here at a place of such rich tradition amd great fans, it’s exciting.”
The Wolfpack do get all four of their non-conference games at home this year, with Louisiana Tech, Richmond, Central Michigan and East Carolina all coming to Raleigh.
The team gets its first four games of the season in the friendly confines of Carter-Finley Stadium, although during that span, Doeren will get a harsh lesson in ACC football by conference favorite Clemson. Other league games at home for NC State include Syracuse, North Carolina and Maryland. NC State only travels four times this season, all in conference, against Wake Forest, Florida State, Duke and Boston College.
Working the kind of magic he did at NIU isn’t expected right from the get-go in Raleigh. The Wolfpack will struggle at times, especially until they have a proven commodity under center and a defense that can counter-punch the kind of offensive proficiency that the ACC elite are capable of.
Wolfpack Ready For 1st Run Under New Coach Doeren
North Carolina State is hoping new coach Dave Doeren can provide a jolt to a program struggling to sustain momentum in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The school hired Doeren away from Northern Illinois after firing Tom Oâ€™Brien. N.C. State went to four bowls in six years under Oâ€™Brien and nearly reached the ACC title game in 2010, yet the on-field results often fell short of expectations – including last yearâ€™s 7-6 season that began with hopes of contending for the league title.
Now itâ€™s up to the 41-year-old coach, who went 23-4 in two seasons at Northern Illinois, to change things in 2013 and beyond.
â€œHeâ€™s never rattled,â€ receiver Rashard Smith said. â€œHeâ€™s the upbeat, smiling guy. Heâ€™s ready for any situation. With Coach Doeren, you can tell heâ€™s ready for anything to happen.â€
The day he was hired, Doeren said he thought he could make a difference for a program that seemed â€œvery close to getting to the next step.â€ His staff has installed a no-huddle offense that Doeren said blends elements from Wisconsin – where Doeren spent five seasons as an assistant – and Oregon. The defense stayed with a 4-3 scheme, but the coaches have pushed both units to work at a faster pace.
â€œI feel like thereâ€™s a lot of bright eyes,â€ Doeren said. â€œThereâ€™s good energy. â€¦ The up-tempo offense and the up-tempo practice style we have requires a certain mindset and the guys are working through that really well.â€
Here are five things to watch with the Wolfpack this season:
2. PROTECTION UP FRONT: N.C. State lost R.J. Mattes, Zach Allen and Cam Wentz – who had a combined 113 career starts – from the interior of the offensive line. Tackle Rob Crisp is back to lead this yearâ€™s group, but itâ€™s going to take time for the new unit to build chemistry.
5. DEFENSIVE STOPPERS: N.C. State has lost its top four tacklers, including safeties Earl Wolff and Brendan Bishop, so itâ€™s looking for reliable stoppers. Linebacker D.J. Green is back after missing last season after testing positive for using a banned substance, while Doeren has praised Zach Gentry and M.J. Salahuddin at the position early in training camp. â€œWeâ€™re swarming to the ball,â€ Green said. â€œItâ€™s tough to tell whoâ€™s getting there first. Thatâ€™s how much weâ€™re swarming to the ball.â€
Jacey Zembal (TheWolfpacker.com)
Matt Canada emphasizing competition throughout offense
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada has never been married to doing things in a rigid manner.
Canada has built his offensive attacks around a variety of players and quarterbacks over the years at Indiana, Northern Illinois and Wisconsin. Now, he might prefer a certain way of doing things at NC State, but is also realistic that they’ll have to recruit the kinds of players to make that happen.
The power running principles of Wisconsin and the out in space, hurry-up style of Oregon doesn’t happen overnight. Canada has had drop-back quarterbacks at Indiana and Wisconsin, and also mobile run-pass dual threat players at the position with the Hoosiers and Northern Illinois.
“We aren’t like Oregon’s offense in certain things they do, but we are going to mold to our talent level and always play our best players,” Canada said. “We are going to run the ball period. Whatever you want to call it, we are going to run the ball. Then we’ll try to have some tempo and things when it fits us.”
The meshing of his offensive system could lead to play-calling being different depending on if fifth-year senior quarterback Brandon Mitchell or redshirt junior Pete Thomas wins the job for the season opener against Louisiana Tech on Aug. 31 at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“Brandon is a smart football player and he makes plays, and is athletic with a very strong arm,” Canada said. “I’ve been pleased with Brandon.
“I’ve been pleased with Pete too. He is an unbelievable leader. He has done everything you have asked him to do. They are competing very well.”
Canada said Thomas has been night and day different compared to spring practices.
“Pete is playing with more confidence [since the spring] and understands what we want to do,” Canada said. “The terminology is different and how we want to do it is different. I think he is playing well.”
Joe Giglio (N&O)
NC State, UNC, Duke look for defensive stoppers
North Carolina finished the season with eight wins, N.C. State with seven and Duke with six. How many more games would the trio have won with one defensive stop in the fourth quarter?
UNC lost to both Duke and Wake Forest because it couldnâ€™t come up with a late stop. Dukeâ€™s Belk Bowl fortunes turned when its defense gave up an 83-yard touchdown pass with 44 seconds left. N.C. State gave up a 62-yard touchdown pass to Miami with 19 seconds left in their 44-37 loss.
If the Wolfpack, Tar Heels and Blue Devils are going to improve on their relative success from the 2012 season, it has to come from the defensive side of the football.
UNCâ€™s rushing defense, 40th in the NCAA, was the only defensive category (out of rushing, passing, total and scoring) to rank in the top 50 nationally.
Compare that to other side of the ball. UNC ranked in the top 35 in total, scoring, rushing and passing; N.C. State ranked 18th in passing and Duke ranked 31st in passing.
In order for the defenses to step up and make the stops when necessary, these three players will be key:
Dontae Johnson, CB, N.C. State
Senior cornerback Dontae Johnson has been in the middle of N.C. Stateâ€™s two biggest wins the past two seasons.
Johnson had six tackles and a sack in last yearâ€™s 17-16 win over No. 3 Florida State. In 2011, he made his first career start in N.C. Stateâ€™s 37-13 upset of No. 7 Clemson.
N.C. Stateâ€™s defense will change with a new coordinator and new parts to its secondary but Johnsonâ€™s role and importance wonâ€™t. His versatility to move inside and play the nickel back â€“ with the ability to rush the passer or cover inside routes â€“ will be key to the Wolfpackâ€™s early success.
â€œWherever Iâ€™m needed, thatâ€™s what Iâ€™ll do,â€ Johnson said.
N.C. State opens with Louisiana Tech and Clemson in the first three weeks of the season, a pair of up-tempo, spread teams who both finished the 2012 season finished in the top 10 in total offense.
Johnson, who finished the 2012 season with 80 tackles and a sack, is looking forward to the challenge of facing the spread teams.
â€œYou get more opportunities to make plays,â€ Johnson said.
With safety Earl Wolff, who led last yearâ€™s team in tackles, and cornerback David Amerson, who led the ACC in interceptions, off to the NFL, Johnson has embraced his role as a leader on the defense.
But donâ€™t expect Johnson to get up in anyoneâ€™s face and start screaming, said coach Dave Doeren.
â€œHeâ€™s a guy that shows up and does his job and does it really well,â€ Doeren said. â€œEverything you want a player to be like, is what he does.â€
Johnson and defensive end Daryl Cato-Bishop are the only two players back on N.C. Stateâ€™s defense who started all 13 games last season. The Pack struggled to defend against the pass, even with an abundance of experience in the secondary.
The Wolfpack ranked 83rd in the NCAA last season against the pass and was gutted for big yards and touchdowns in losses to Tennessee, Miami and Clemson.
Doeren is counting on Johnson to lead the Wolfpackâ€™s improvement, despite the personnel turnover in the secondary.
Luke DeCock (N&O)
Spread offenses send defenses down different recruiting trail
No team gave N.C. State coach Dave Doeren more trouble as a defensive coordinator than Texas Christian, which narrowly defeated Wisconsin in the 2011 Rose Bowl immediately before Doeren became the head coach at Northern Illinois. He showed up for his first day at work at NIU with an entirely new offensive philosophy.
â€œDefending their offense, you could tell the head coach was a defensive coach that made their offense do everything that defensive coaches hate to defend,â€ Doeren said.
Much of what TCU did was isolate Wisconsin players in one-on-one situations all over the field, giving the Horned Frogs big play after big play. Itâ€™s a basic principle of the spread-offense concepts that have swept football, and itâ€™s something Doeren plans to bring to N.C. State.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, Doerenâ€™s side of the ball, defenses are scrambling to adapt. And if the history of football teaches us anything, itâ€™s that defenses always adapt. They adapted to the wishbone, they adapted to the Green Bay power sweep, they adapted to the run-and-shoot, they adapted to the West Coast offense, and theyâ€™ll adapt to the spread â€“ in part by changing the players they recruit.
With offenses trying to create more one-on-one match-ups across the field, defensive coaches are now looking for players who are better equipped to win those battles. That may mean less straight-line speed and more agility, or less size and more explosiveness.
â€œIt will evolve. Defenses will catch up. And then offenses will always try and stay one step ahead,â€ Fedora said. â€œOne thing youâ€™re seeing is more athletes on the field. Youâ€™re not playing in a phone booth any more, where itâ€™s run between the tackles, 3 yards and a cloud of dust.â€
Itâ€™s the Moneyball theory, applied to college football â€“ find attributes that contribute to winning that are undervalued by the competition, and focus on those instead. For the Oakland Aâ€™s of the book, that meant things like on-base percentage and statistical scouting. College football coaches havenâ€™t found that edge yet, but theyâ€™re looking.
Bill Connelly (SBNation)
2013 NC State football’s 10 things to know: Perfect mediocrity and a light home schedule
1. Perfectly average, Part II
I may have been a little quick on the trigger in naming Washington the most perfectly average team in the country.
In the Adj. Points measure I use below, the idea is to take a team’s performance in a given week and gauge what would have happened if that team had played a perfectly average opponent that week instead of whoever it played. It is an attempt to adjust for schedule and look at a team’s in-season trends. But really, it could also be titled “WashingtonScore.” because Washington has spent most of the last eight seasons as an almost perfectly average team.
Now, to be sure, Washington has been amazingly average, ranking between 50th and 78th in seven of the last eight seasons. But if you take out NC State’s random 2010 peak (22nd and 9-4), the Wolfpack have ranked 65th, 64th, 50th, 64th, 58th, and 63rd from 2006-12. That’s … well, that’s average.
In six years under Tom O’Brien, NC State went 40-35, building at least a little bit of momentum (16-21 first three years, 24-14 next three) but evidently not enough to buy O’Brien a seventh year. Averaging an 8-5 record, as the Wolfpack did over the previous three years, is certainly not bad for a program that hasn’t been a consistent top-25 presence for quite a while.
But it’s not necessarily something you aspire to; neither is “average,” and almost everything about O’Brien’s tenure was average.
2. MACtion road show
So now State starts fresh with a MAC transplant. Dave Doeren has taken the fast track to success; 13 years ago, Doeren was Montana’s defensive backs coach. Just six years later, he was named Bret Bielema’s defensive co-coordinator at Wisconsin. Five years later, he was named head coach at Northern Illinois. And two years later, at age 41, he’s a BCS head coach. His last two Wisconsin defenses ranked in the Def. F/+ top-30, and in inheriting an 11-win conference runner-up from Jerry Kill at NIU, he didn’t do much to change the program’s trajectory. He went 22-6, won two conference titles, reached the MAC’s first BCS bowl, and in 2012, fielded a legitimately strong, top-35 team.
We don’t know Dave Doeren’s ceiling yet because he hasn’t reached it. He grew into previous jobs, and he didn’t take long to do the same in his first head coaching position. He is tasked with taking NC State somewhere it really hasn’t been in a while. The Wolfpack have had randomly good seasons — 9-4 in 2010, 11-3 in 2002, 34-14-1 from 1991-94 — but haven’t been consistently strong for a while. He inherits a roster that is intriguing but thin, and it’s conceivable that, before successfully bringing MACtion-level excitement and wins to Raleigh, he’s in for another growing-into-the-job experience.
5. Finding a running game
Between Doeren and Canada, the odds are good that NC State will look to run the ball as much as it is able to do. Unfortunately, the Wolfpack weren’t that able in 2012; they ranked just 100th in Rushing S&P+, with minimal ability to either break off a big play or keep Mike Glennon out of obvious passing situations. If there’s quality to be found here, Doeren and Canada will probably unearth it, but it’s hard to get too excited about anything regarding this running game.
Shadrach Thornton (suspended for the season opener) and Tony Creecy showed next to no explosiveness on the rare opportunity that they got to the second level of the defense, and the line is now tasked with replacing four two-year (or more) starters who combined for 137 career starts. Now, because of injuries and shuffling, NC State still returns four players with starting experience (41 career starts), including former five-star recruit Rob Crisp.
But this line was average at best last year, and there’s nothing saying it will be any better this time around, especially since new offensive line coach Mike Uremovich is in his first year of coaching the offensive line. Sometimes you can just assume certain coaches are going to have quality lines; we have no data for assuming anything, good or bad, of Uremovich.
6. So can they pass then?
So if running is an issue, will State have the pieces to pass in 2013? Both Mitchell and Thomas are probably more adept than their previous passing experience would suggest — Mitchell was tossed into an awful experience at Arkansas last year, throwing a few passes while spending most of the year as a receiver, while Thomas just had no weapons whatsoever in 2011 at CSU — but what about the receiving corps? It might be rather underrated, actually.
The Wolfpack didn’t have amazing depth at receiver, but the pieces they did have were pretty strong; they weren’t strong enough to prevent Glennon from throwing 17 interceptions, often into coverage (and since interceptions don’t have target data attached to them, the picks make these players’ catch rates look a bit better than they were), but in Quintin Payton, State returns a No. 1 receiver who averaged a healthy 9.3 yards per target. Bryan Underwood averaged a decent 7.5, and reserve Rashard Smith averaged 9.5. The O’Brien offense saw a ton of dump-offs to the running back, and those passes tended to go nowhere last year (Creecy and Thornton combined to average just 4.7 yards per target), but the receivers themselves were relatively impressive.
Still, you have to avoid passing downs to pass consistently and effectively, and this run game might put Mitchell, Thomas, or whoever into quite a few second- or third-and-longs.
10. Bowl eligibility from home games alone
There are a lot of pretty good teams in the ACC. NC State misses a lot of them. With winnable road trips to Wake Forest, Duke, and Boston College, along with less-than-intimidating visits from Maryland and North Carolina, a pretty good NC State team could rack up a pretty gaudy win total this year. But even with another average team, the home slate, which also includes visits from Richmond, Central Michigan, East Carolina, and Louisiana Tech, could make sure the Wolfpack at least get back to a bowl.
I don’t really trust this team very much. I liked the Doeren hire, and we’ll see what he may be able to come up with down the line, but the running game was a shambles last year, and I’m not sure how much stock to put into a defense that returns experience at potentially the wrong places and is inexperienced where it used to be strong. Tom O’Brien didn’t leave the cupboard bare, but he didn’t leave it well-stocked in the right places either.
But the schedule should assure that NC State is once again floating around seven or so wins, with some more average ratings overall. That’s not an amazing starting point, but it could be worse.
Ryan Tice (TheWolfpacker.com)
Asa Watson looking at positives from spring injury
It’s no secret that redshirt senior tight end Asa Watson missed the spring with a torn hamstring. It’s also no secret that after a year in which he started five games and hauled in 24 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown that he is expected to be the starting tight end when NC State opens the season against Louisiana Tech on Aug. 31.
“This is my second year of significant playing time so I’m really excited about getting back on the field,” he said. “This is my last season and I’m just really excited to hopefully finish up strong. I’ve been preparing all summer and I’m just ready to go.”
Going down with an injury right after a new coach is hired and before a player is about to enter his final year of eligibility is tough, but Watson, who redshirted the 2011 season after he underwent two heart surgeries, refuses to dwell on the negative.
“It was hard at first because getting an injury is the feeling of not being in control of what’s going on,” the 6-foot-3, 237-pounder said. “It takes a lot of patience that I wasn’t used to. I think in the end, it allowed a lot of the younger guys to get a lot of experience that they needed. I had to grow in a leadership role even though I wasn’t on the field, so I really think it worked out well in the end.
“I saw a lot of growth. [Tyler] Purvis, usually he’s the pass catching guy, but he got way more physical. IÆ’’m not taking any of the credit for that, but he turned into a pretty good blocker. Benson [Browne] got better with his hands and everything. [Walk-on Devin] O’Connor did a great job and they all got a lot of experience in the spring.”
In addition to serving as a leader for his positional group, Watson also emerged as a leader for the entire squad and was elected to serve on the team’s Leadership Council, which the tight end praised the coaching staff for creating. Thanks to the new program, he was also able to grow this spring and summer.
Jacey Zembal (TheWolfpacker.com)
Rodman Noel pursuing own dreams
Rodman Noel had a front row seat at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., to watch his younger brother Nerlens Noel slide a little bit down to No. 6 overall to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Nerlens won’t be healthy enough to start the season for the 76ers. The former Kentucky star suffered an ACL tear in his left knee Feb. 12 against Florida. The 6-foot-10 shot-blocker is expected to miss half the season, but the 76ers do come down to Charlotte for an exhibition game Oct. 17, and then Dec. 6 and April 12. Nerlens should be back for the latter and perhaps Rodman will have a free Saturday night during spring practices to attend the game.
“I was just so excited for him,” Rodman Noel said. “Ever since we were little kids, we have always had dreams of making it in a pro league. To be in New York City in front of a bunch of people, it was amazing. I’m proud of my little brother.”
Rodman’s other brother, Jim Noel, was hoping to make the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent out of Boston College. Jim Noel also got injured this spring, which will delay his hopes of making an NFL team.
Rodman Noel’s goals on the college level are much simpler than what his brothers are going through. He is hoping to challenge for playing time at strongside linebacker, where he is currently second string behind senior D.J. Green.
Both Green and Noel started their NC State careers at strong safety, but eventually made the move to outside linebacker. Noel said having one year under his belt at his new position has made a big difference this fall camp.
“We are at the same spot and competing, and fighting every day,” Noel said. “We’ll see who has it by the 31st. I’ve known D.J. since my freshman year. We’ve always been good teammates and good friends off the field. On the field, we have to compete.”
The rangy 6-4, 221-pounder from Everett, Mass., started five out of 13 games last year and accumulated 38 tackles, seven tackles for loss and one sack. He had a career-high nine tackles and two tackles for loss in the wild shootout against Miami last year.
“I’m just competing right now just to get a spot,” Noel said. “I like how the defense is playing together. After camp, the whole team can gel together and we’ll be fine for the first game.”
Jacey Zembal (TheWolfpacker.com)
A.J. Ferguson excited about his last year
Fifth-year senior defensive tackle A.J. Ferguson has worked himself into being a valued cog in the defensive line rotation, playing at least 21 snaps in five different games last year.
The 6-foot-2, 301-pounder from Southport, N.C., finished with 11 tackles, one sack and four quarterback hurries in 194 plays over 11 contests. Ferguson easily eclipsed his numbers from previous seasons in carving out a steady role.
“I think, with the talent we have now, we can be one of the best in the ACC, let alone the country,” Ferguson said. “We are staying humble and continuing to work hard.”
Ferguson called the 17-16 win over Florida State last year his favorite game, even if he only played a pair of snaps in the upset.
“Our backs were against the wall, and it was on ESPN,” Ferguson said. “We had no shot. Even guys on the team had given up on us. We just came through and overcame adversity. That was a great night.”
Ferguson originally signed with NC State in the class of 2009, but needed an extra year of academics at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy. His career has gone by quickly, and he’s adjusted well to new head coach Dave Doeren and defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen.
“It’s been real exciting and team oriented,” Ferguson said. “They care, just like the old staff, but are more hands-on and personal. I actually got a text from Coach D telling me how I needed to step it up in one class. He cares and wants to see me succeed.”
Ryan Tice (TheWolfpacker.com)
D.J. Green ready to return to game field
Senior linebacker D.J. Green willingly answers questions about last year, when he lost a year of eligibility after he tested positive for using a banned substance, but it is clear that he’s looking forwards and not backwards. Even when he is faced with a question about last year, he can’t help but talk about 2013.
“I was upset during the time that everything happened, but I learned from being out, I matured and I’m just excited to be back out here,” he said. “I’m excited to be back out there in the mix of things, knowing that my senior year is upcoming, we have a new coaching staff, new defense, new scheme and I’m just real excited about everything. It’s been pretty fun with this new coaching staff and being back with everybody.
“I feel like I have to do my best in anything I do, and this is what I really love to do. I’m very excited about my senior year.”
Green admitted it was tough to watch games last season, especially when he felt he could’ve been a difference maker. Instead, he played with the scout team all year and had to vent his frustrations by channeling them into extra workouts with then-strength and conditioning coach Corey Edmond.
“That made the whole year a lot easier,” he said. “It was frustrating, especially knowing that I could contribute. When I was watching some games, I’d be saying, ‘I could’ve made that play and that would’ve been the difference in the game.’ Maybe, maybe not, but it could have been.”
Matt Carter (TheWolfpacker.com)
Robert Caldwell trying to work his way onto depth chart
Linebacker Robert Caldwell is a senior trying to make up for lost time, and based on some of head coach Dave Doeren’s preseason comments, Caldwell may be doing just that.
Caldwell signed with NC State in the spring of 2012 after two productive seasons at College of the Desert in Palm Desert, Calif. He had a team-high 93 tackles as a sophomore, including 19.5 for loss and 5.5 sacks, after making 41 hits his freshman year.
Iowa recruited Caldwell aggressively, but as a defensive end. NC State, searching for depth at linebacker after Terrell Manning’s surprising decision to turn pro following the 2011 season, began recruiting Caldwell late. The fact that Caldwell was born in Spartanburg, S.C., and still had relatives in the area helped the Pack ink him.
But the combination of summer classes and clearing NC State admissions proved to be time-consuming. He did not get out onto the practice fields until after preseason camp had started, and thus was behind from the get-go, something Caldwell acknowledged in hindsight.
“I think it did, but you can’t really do anything about it,” Caldwell noted. “It happened, and you got to move forward.”
Caldwell was signed with the expectation of helping to replace some of the lost depth at linebacker. Instead, he played scout team during the week and special teams on weekends.
“At first it was hard,” Caldwell said. “It was hard transitioning because you come from playing. It was a real humbling experience.”
Position Preview: Defensive Line
Throughout preseason camp, GoPack.com will feature each of the Pack’s position groups with a behind-the-scenes look from practice. In this episode, we look at the defensive line during the Pack’s recent scrimmage and hear from T.Y. McGill and Art Norman.
Position Preview: Tight Ends
Throughout preseason camp, GoPack.com will feature each of the Pack’s position groups with a behind-the-scenes look from practice. In this episode, we follow the tight ends during a recent practice.
Position Preview: Defensive Backs
Throughout preseason camp, GoPack.com will feature each of the Pack’s position groups with a behind-the-scenes look from practice. In this episode, we follow the cornerbacks and safeties during a recent practice, with Jarvis Byrd and Juston Burris filling in the fans on the development of the defensive backs.
Opening Statement – Episode 4
Each installment of this series will cover the development of different players as they fight for a spot on the depth chart leading up to the Pack’s season opener against Louisiana Tech. In today’s episode, our cameras followed tight end David J. Grinnage during a recent Pack practice.
Doeren: Both QBs are throwing the ball better
North Carolina State head coach Dave Doeren was pleased with both of his quarterback prospects after Friday’s second scrimmage of the preseason camp.
Thomas: We need to be a little more urgent
North Carolina State quarterback Pete Thomas says with 15 days before the season opener, the Pack needs to pick up the pace.
Mitchell: I’d give us a “C” grade
At about the midway point of the preseason, North Carolina State quarterback Brandon Mitchell gives his assessment of the Wolfpack, so far.