It’s finally here. Game Day. It has taken 5 loooonnng months but we’ve finally “arroved” fellow Wolfpackers to what we’ve been waiting for…NC State Football!!!! Enjoy the headlines and feel free to use this as your open thread until kickoff.
NC STATE FOOTBALL
Sizing up State and Tennessee
The wait is finally over.
Officially, NC State has waited 73 years to play Tennessee in football. The last time the schools squared off against each other, “Gone with the Wind” was a new release and The Great Depression was still gripping the United States economy.
On September 29, 1939, Tennessee came to Raleigh and silenced a homecoming crowd of 13,000 by posting a 13-0 victory over State.
And while current Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon hasn’t waited 73 years to face Tennessee, his eagerness to play this game has made the often tedious offseason seem longer than usual.
“I think the entire offseason it gave us something to work towards,” said the Pack’s 6-6 redshirt senior. “It’s an SEC opponent, in the Georgia Dome in a national spotlight game. It’s the reason you play big-time college football. This whole offseason we had our minds set on that. It amps it up knowing we have a big named opponent from the get go.”
If there’s a big opening night mystery for NC State, it will be the Tennessee defense. During the offseason, Dooley went out and brought in a brand new defensive staff, led by new coordinator Sal Sunseri, who joins the Vols after spending the last three years as assistant head coach and linebackers coach at Alabama. The Tide has successfully employed an attacking 3-4 defensive scheme that led to a pair of national titles in 2009 and last year. Tennessee will also be switching to a 3-4 look, but it remains to be seen how quickly their players will adjust.
“You take the background that their coaches come from, you put it together and you try to find common threads,” State offensive coordinator Dana Bible said when asked about the challenge of preparing for a new defensive staff. “The reason most of the time that a staff comes together is because they come from some backgrounds that might be similar. We approach it that way and try to cover our bases.”
Thursday Football Notebook
THE SECOND NOEL
Wolfpack sophomore linebacker Rodman Noel is a talented young player who has battled for a starters job at strong side linebacker throughout the preseason. Noel may not end up getting the nod in the season opener, but if pedigree is any indication, he will have a long and successful career on the gridiron.
The Pack’s Noel is the second of the three sons of Haitian immigrants Yonel and Dorcina Noel. His older brother, Jim, is a senior at Boston College this season, where he is projected to start at strong safety for the third straight season. While Jim and Rodman have earned their stripes on the gridiron, their younger brother, Nerlens, has gained stardom on the hardwood. One of the most highly-recruited prep basketball players in the country last year, he is currently a freshman for reigning national champion Kentucky.
BEYOND THEIR YEARS
Just over a year ago, the Wolfpack’s starting unit at placekicker, punter and long snapper were all attending their high school proms. This season, the trio of Nik Sade, Wil Baumann and Scott Thompson all have a season of collegiate playing time under their belts.
NC State was the only school in the FBS ranks with a true freshman handling placekicking and punting duties in 2011. All three turned in solid, relatively mistake-free performances, despite their lack of experience last year. Add a spring practice to that full season and the unit should be one of the team’s strong points for the upcoming season.
Sade kicked 46 extra points last season – the second-best mark in school history. He connected at a .979 clip on extra points and was 11-16 on field goals. He has made 42 consecutive PATs.
Baumann averaged 37.5 yards on 67 punts last season, but forced 31 fair catches and placed 21 inside the opponent’s 20 yardline.
Thompson was a steady performer at long snapper and a top defender on the return teams.
Sammy Batten (FayObserver.com)
N.C. State set for football opener against Tennessee
An opportunity to gain national attention for its program and respect for its league awaits N.C. State in Atlanta.
The Wolfpack kicks off the 2012 season today at the Georgia Dome in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff against a Tennessee program that’s struggled recently, but is still perceived as a traditional power in most of the country.
The Volunteers are coming off a 5-7 finish last season and a 6-7 record in 2010, both under head coach Derek Dooley. Those aren’t the kind of results expected from a program that’s won four national titles and numerous Southeastern Conference championships through the years.
But for N.C. State and the Atlantic Coast Conference, a win, even against a slipping Tennessee team, would be a big deal.
“I don’t think there’s any question that the SEC has had bragging rights for the last couple of years, and deservedly so as many national championships as they’ve won,” N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien said. “Certainly, we haven’t had much success going into this Chick-fil-A game against the SEC. It’s important for us to start winning some football games. We know we’re underdogs and we’re not getting much respect out of the Tennessee people. I guess you can be that way when you win all the time.”
Holt to deliver Chick-fil-A Kickoff game ball
Former ACC Player of the Year Torry Holt will deliver the game ball for the NC State Wolfpack. The wide receiver was named a consensus All-American in 1998, his senior season in which he also broke the ACC records for receptions (88) and receiving yards (1,604). After being drafted sixth overall, Holt went on to an 11-year career in the NFL, in which he was named to the Pro Bowl seven times and won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams in his rookie season.
Wilson and Holt will ride together in a KIA Soul – provided by official vehicle sponsor KIA Motors – to midfield just prior to the coin flip to present the officiating crew with a pair of game balls from the two teams.
CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
NC State’s plans for big year start with Tennessee
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said Wolff, Amerson and Wilson give N.C. State “probably one of the best secondaries in college football.”
“You have a first-rounder and probably three or four NFL draft guys back there,” Dooley said. “They make you pay for an inaccurate throw. They make you pay for a mistake. And they set you up. They can recover and make a play on a ball that most people can’t. It is going to require some patience from (Bray).”
Bray said N.C. State’s defense has size and speed.
“I wouldn’t say they’re LSU or Alabama, but they can compare to some of the teams in the SEC,” Bray said.
Tennessee defensive end Darrington Sentimore gave a lukewarm review of N.C. State.
“They’re a great team, but we’re a great team also,” Sentimore said.
“They have a great offensive line, they’ve got a good offensive line. That’s pretty much it. The quarterback, average. The receivers, average. But the offensive line is pretty good.”
JP GIGLIO (N&O)
Pack prefers consistent ride to 2011 roller coaster
“There’s really not a team on our schedule we feel like we can’t beat,” Glennon said. “If we play good, every game, I don’t see why we can’t accomplish our goals.”
Glennon, who threw for 3,054 yards and 31 touchdowns in his first year as the starter, put an emphasis on the word “every” because consistency has been a problem for the Wolfpack. N.C. State was as predictable as a Plinko chip in an 8-5 season.
For every zig — the big wins over Clemson and North Carolina — there was a zag — uninspired losses to Florida State or Boston College.
Then both versions of N.C. State, the good and the bad, showed up in the regular-season finale, a 56-41 comeback win over Maryland, which sent the Wolfpack to the Belk Bowl, where it beat Louisville.
For a man whose coaching career has been built on organization and a militaristic discipline, the inconsistencies particularly vex O’Brien, 33-30 in five seasons at State.
“You can’t ride the roller coaster and be so high one week and so low the next,” O’Brien said.
Luke Decock (N&O)
ACC tries to close SEC football gap
On the list of Tom O’Brien’s priorities, defending the honor of the ACC ranks behind university, student body, faculty, and fans.
“And then the ACC falls into line after that,” the N.C. State coach said Monday.
O’Brien may be concerned about his team, and his team alone, but the rest of the ACC will be watching closely as the conference measures itself against the SEC this weekend.
Shawn Krest (CBSSports.com)
Preview: Tennessee Vols vs. NC State Wolfpack
You going? Ranking the road trip: The game is the opening act for an ACC vs. SEC weekend doubleheader in Atlanta. Clemson and Auburn play on Saturday night. Looking for something to do between games besides tailgating? Atlanta is also host to Dragon*Con, the largest science fiction and fantasy gaming convention in the universe, this weekend. Or you can try the Speakeasy Cocktail Festival, which combines the best music of the 1920s with favorite Prohibition-era mixed drinks.
Magic number for NC State: 11. NC State coach Tom O’Brien has 11 senior starters on this year’s team. That’s double the number he had in any of his previous five years as the Wolfpack head coach.
Prediction: NC State 31, Tennessee 24
Mike Strange (govolsxtra.com)
Tennessee vs. N.C. State: 5 Big Things
2. Real Men Run: Tennessee fans are weary of staring at the floor when other schools talk smack about their running game. No. 116 in the nation (out of 120)? Really? The Vols need to show signs tonight the nightmare is over.
5.Press the Kicking Game: For that’s where the breaks are made, right? The Vols haven’t set the world on fire making or getting breaks lately, especially in the kicking game. Consistent kicking from Michael Palardy and Matt Darr and a field-flipping return or two might help the Vols break the Georgia Dome jinx.
Evan Woodbery (govolsxtra.com)
Breaking down the personnel for Tennessee and North Carolina State.
If Tyler Bray can repeat the start he had last year, when he threw for 698 yards in two games, he’ll quickly regain his place among the nation’s top quarterbacks. N.C. State’s Mike Glennon is a smart, experienced quarterback who manages the offense effectively. Edge: Vols
Tennessee’s offensive line is better than it showed last year, and the group will be among of the league’s most experienced in 2012. The same could be said of the Wolfpack’s line of course, which did a poor job of protecting Glennon last year but has several returning starters. Edge: Vols.
This is a promising group for the Vols, but remember that Darrington Sentimore and Daniel McCullers are fresh from junior college and Maurice Couch is playing a new position. N.C. State returns D. Cato-Bishop and Brian Slay, who has a great name for a defensive end. Edge: Even
Tom O’Brien hasn’t been able to elevate the Wolfpack to the top of the ACC, but some season previews have suggested this could be his most talented squad in years. Tennessee will be breaking in seven new coaches, including a defensive coordinator taking the helm for the first time in 13 years. Edge: N.C. State
Tennessee 27, N.C. State 24
Brad Shepard (rockytoptalk.com)
RTT’s Locks & Keys 2012 Week 1: It Starts
FIVE KEYS FOR TENNESSEE
* Get the Worries Out of the Way. Let’s say the Vols come out and run the ball three times on the first series and wind up having to punt. Are you demoralized? Nah, that’s football. It happens. You just come back with Bray and the Gang and mix in some runs later. Now, what if you come out and get a couple of first downs? Here comes the swagger back. There’s some belief you can actually get it done this year. I say run the ball early, and if you have success and build momentum, it may not be just for that game but for the season. Rajion Neal is ready. The offensive line is ready. Let them prove it.
* Aggressive vs. Reckless. The Vols’ defense wasn’t bad last year, but it never made any plays in Justin Wilcox’s two seasons. New coordinator Sal Sunseri says UT’s switch to the 3-4 will be characterized by a more aggressive nature in which the Vols blitz more and play more man coverage in the secondary. UT isn’t good enough in the secondary to gamble and lose too much. Those will go for touchdowns, especially against good quarterbacks. So, the Vols have got to find a way to be aggressive without giving up too many scoreboard plays. Also, it would be nice to see that aggressiveness pay off in some turnovers for a change. Mike Glennon is a savvy senior, though, so that’s going to be very difficult.
* Find Da’Rick’s Replacement. Quickly. All this week, I’ve had two prevailing thoughts: No. 1, the biggest concern I have in replacing Da’Rick Rogers comes on third downs. Who is going to be the go-to guy to get the tough yards on a third-and-6? That’s where the big, physical Rogers was so good. Then the second thought is Hunter went down with his season-ending injury on third-and-8 last year. So, while that isn’t such a great second thought, it is at least encouraging to remember that Hunter was effective in those situations as well. Tyler Bray has to find a guy he can depend on to sustain drives. Will it be Hunter? Will it be another physical-looking receiver in Patterson? Will it be senior tight end Mychal Rivera? Will it be all three or someone else? It’s an answer UT needs to find in a hurry.
* Take Advantage Where the Advantage Is. Last season, NC State had a ton of blitz packages, and when the Wolfpack’s defense was effective, it was because those packages were. While UT needs to pick those up, the Vols also have just the type of running backs who can make them pay dearly. I think UT needs to run a bunch of swing passes, screens, etc., to the running backs. Also, running draws will put an end to that, too. The Vols don’t have a true bruiser running back, but they don’t need one in this game. Rivera can put an end to those blitzes, too. That comes pre-snap, and with all the talk about how much Bray has improved in that area, he needs to show that immediately. State does a lot of disguising, so it’s going to be interesting to see how Jim Chaney — and Bray pre-snap read — handles it.
* Get An Early Lead. It’s simple, but it’s perhaps the most important thing that can happen in this game. Put last season behind you in a hurry. If we get down, the team may get down. You can’t rebuild a psyche overnight. This team needs to come out like gangbusters and leave no doubt.
Chris Pendley (rockytoptalk.com)
In Which Tennessee and NC State Get to Basics
Beyond that, though? Let’s just hope they look good, period. And let’s hope they’re exciting, because ain’t no way a Tom O’Brien coached team will be exciting. (You thought you were going to go all week without hearing how boring Tom O’Brien coached teams were, didn’t you? Admit it.)
Don’t Fall Asleep
Okay, it’s not quite that bad. (Then again, one of the rumors behindRussell Wilson’s transfer to Wisconsin was that he wasn’t learning anything new and was getting bored, so …well, perhaps? Maybe? Just a bit?) Still, reputations are earned in part because of what you do on the field, and if you serve as a cure for insomnia with and without the ball, that counts.
Don’t fall asleep* on this team, though. You get a reputation by being boring in part because you practice the same stuff all the time. That in turn means you’re probably not half-bad at it, and with an experienced Mike Glennon at QB, that looks like an interesting challenge against a pass defense getting its first real run at pattern-matching coverage. Fortunately, none of NC State’s receivers are anything to write home about, but expect a few of them to get open. Let’s just hope it’s the underneath routes instead of the deep ones.
*sorry. Had to keep up my Hackwriting Extraordinaire Continuing Education Credits.
On the defensive side of the ball, that would also imply discipline. DC Jon Tenuta has a challenge on his hands with a depleted LB corps (underneath routes ahoy!) and the suspension of CJ Wilson was a nice compliment to Da’Rick Da’Ricking himself all the way to Tennessee Tech. And yes, you better believe that we’re in for a fun David Amerson-Justin Hunter matchup; if Hunter wins that consistently, feel free to remove all limits on the passing attack. Cordarelle Patterson is going to have to prove himself in a hurry (which, among other things, Da’Rick imploding kind of proves the coaching staff’s confidence implicitly, but that’s neither here nor there). More importantly, Tennessee will have a third option available – Mychal Rivera will be able to make hay against a depleted linebacking corps.
Expect no shortage of blitzes and rushes from all directions, which should play into Tennessee’s hands, at least in theory; all the throwing the freshmen into the fire in 2010 should pay off at some point, we’d hope. That should leave holes, which Bray is good at finding and exploiting properly. And sure, I guess the run game has to show up just a little bit as well now. Maybe.
Bottom line: don’t expect anything too fancy tomorrow night. Even the basics should be enough, though.