ESPN’s Heather Dinich has been running a series on the ACC teams called “Hope and Concern”. She penned her entry on the Wolfpack on June 30th and it can be seen by clickling here.
Biggest reason for hope — Quarterbacks
Unlike coach Tom O’Brien’s first two seasons in Raleigh, there’s no question who the starting quarterback is — Russell Wilson. He also happens to be the best quarterback in the ACC, and he finally has a backup who isn’t a liability in Mike Glennon. Both of them are going to play, and they bring different strengths to the offense that will keep opposing defenses alert. Wilson is one of the most accurate passers in the conference, and Glennon has already drawn comparisons to Matt Ryan.
Biggest reason for concern — Injuries
It might have been the program’s biggest weakness over the past two seasons. We saw how good a football team NC State had in the second half of 2008 when everyone was healthy, and we also saw it fall apart in the second half of the Papajohns.com Bowl after Wilson hurt his knee. Strength and conditioning coach Todd Rice is slowing rebuilding the Pack’s philosophy and approach to training, and in turn there should be fewer injuries this fall. NC State will fall out of the Atlantic Division race again if players like Nate Irving and Alan-Michael Cash don’t stay on the field.
I think HD should have used a broader term than “injuries”. How about “attrition”? After the following announcement from late last week, the Wolfpack has now lost two of our eleven defensive starters before practice has even begun:
Four players who were expected to be on N.C. State’s 2009 football roster will not be with the team, the school announced Thursday.
Coach Tom O’Brien announced that sophomore cornerback Dominique Ellis is transferring. Three players who signed with N.C. State in February – Tyson Chandler, Raynard Randolph and Bryan Underwood – will not enroll in the fall.
Ellis played in all 13 games last season. Although he played mainly on special teams, he was considered a promising prospect.
Chandler is an offensive lineman who was one of the top prospects in New Jersey. Underwood was supposed to add speed at wide receiver, and Randolph plays defensive tackle.
Honestly, the three freshmen don’t bother me at all this season. None of them were expected to contribute in 2009 and I don’t think their status is a surprise to the coaching staff. Usually, these types of players end up in Raleigh by the time they are ready to contribute on the field.
Dominique Ellis is another story; I think the loss of Ellis is a big one. He played in all 13 games at cornerback in 2008 and was slated to start at one corner in our very young and inexperienced defensive backfield.
R-Junior, DeAndre Morgan is expected to nail down one starting cornerback position; but I guess the primary candidate to lay claim to Ellis’ spot is R-Freshman, Jarvis Byrd. Additionally, it wouldn’t surprise me to see one of our safeties ultimately moved to corner. With Clem Johnson and Javon Walker potentially comprising the best safety tandem in the ACC – and Justin Byers receiving significant playing time and experience last season – then perhaps the ability exists to move a body or two from the safety depth chart to cornerback.
There is no reason to share the ‘personal reasons’ Ellis is leaving the program. But, the next time some from West Raleigh chooses to attack or criticize us because we are ‘negative’ and ‘hurt the programs’ then maybe we should start sharing this kind of stuff just to give them what they want.
Looking for a hopeful note on which to end this entry? How about the fact that Nate Irving got out of the hospital on Thursday.
July 7th Update: –
Ran across this NC State Football preview in some old links that I thought was a relevant addition to this entry. Take a look at this
Biggest Question Mark Heading Into 2009 – Can this team defend against the pass? NC State ranked 97th nationally and last in the ACC, allowing 248.7 yards per game through the air last season. Though veterans Jeremy Gray and J.C. Neal are gone, there is reason for optimism. Jimmual Simmons and Justin Byers were forced to play considerably as freshmen last season. Both are now experienced sophomores ready for more consistent play. Talented corner DeAndre Morgan is now an upperclassmen and is ready for a leadership role. Talented true freshman corner Jarvis Byrd is ready to play now too. Morgan and Byrd have the typical speed and athleticism combination many elite state of Florida prospects have. Super linebacker Nate Irving is one of the ACC’s best at his position in coverage. In general, the front seven will be full of experience and quite good. The defensive line and linebackers should put a lot of pressure on the line of scrimmage, only helping the young secondary.