NC STATE FOOTBALL
Jacey Zembal (TheWolfpacker.com)
Offensive line passes first test
NC State’s offensive line didn’t give up a sack or a quarterback hurry, and its top two running backs averaged 4.8 yards per carry against Tennessee in the season opening loss last Friday in Atlanta.
Is there room for improvement? Of course, but it was a good start for a reshuffled unit that had three players playing positions that were different from years past.
NC State coach Tom O’Brien pointed out that the move of fifth-year senior R.J. Mattes to left guard worked out well, and in turn junior Robert Crisp switched to left tackle and fifth-year senior Andrew Wallace made his debut at right tackle. Senior center Camden Wentz and fifth-year senior right guard Zach Allen are starting for the third straight year at their respective positions.
“I think moving Mattes to guard on the offensive line seemed to be something we can build on and something that looks like it’s going to work,” O’Brien said. “We had two tailbacks [Mustafa Greene, Tony Creecy] rush for 4.8 yards a carry and when you combine them they had over 100 yards rushing, so those are all positives that we can take out of it.”
Wallace started at left guard in 2010 before injuring his knee leading up to the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl. He essentially didn’t play last year, recording eight snaps in two contests.
“I think Andrew did exactly what we expected him to do in that position,” O’Brien said. “He will be better because it’s the first time he’s been out there and played in a game at that position. We solidified the middle of the line by moving Mattes inside so there wasn’t as much push back in Mike’s face.”
Ryan Tice (TheWolfpacker.com)
Q&A: Tom O’Brien sees resilient team
This rookie class that you put into the NFL is pretty impressive. All six draft picks made final rosters and two guys are opening-day starters, can you talk about that group?
It’s exciting – we got to watch the game last night, even though our guys lost. I think we had three State guys and I had three Boston College guys playing last night for the Giants. When you put six guys in the NFL, and they all make NFL opening day rosters, I think that says a lot about the coaches’ evaluations and recruiting the right kids.
Are you surprised by the transition of J.R. Sweezy from college defensive tackle to starting offensive guard, or did you see those traits in him?
To tell you the truth, as we went through this, we told [the NFL] that both J.R. and Markus Kuhn were probably NFL offensive linemen, even though they were college defensive tackles. It’s ironic because R.J.’s dad, Ron, played defensive tackle for us at Virginia then went out and played 8-10 years in Seattle as an offensive lineman. It’s d? vu all over again, with a guy that I know going out to Seattle and playing offensive line.
J.R. has worked so hard, it’s really important to him. He has great leadership abilities, and you know that you can count on him in there. I can see where he can be a good offensive lineman going forward.
Thursday Football Notebook
PACK HEADS NORTH
For the first time since the 1997 season, NC State is playing its first two games away from home. After opening the season against Tennessee in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta, the Wolfpack is heading to Connecticut to take on the Huskies.
The meeting marks only the second between NC State and the Big East school, with the Pack winning the 2003 contest, 31-24.
Tom O’Brien has faced Connecticut four times, winning all four contests, while Huskies coach Paul Pasqualoni is 0-2 against the Pack – losing in 1997 and 1998 as the head coach at Syracuse.
O’Brien is also very familiar with the Big East, as he was the head coach at Boston College for 10 seasons, eight of which the Eagles spent in that league. His 2004 squad earned a share of the Big East title.
O’Brien holds a 27-19 career record against Big East teams. Since coming to NC State in 2007, O’Brien is 4-4 against teams from the Big East, but has won three of the last four matchups, including back-to-back bowl wins against Big East foes West Virginia and Louisville.
….. SOMETHING NEW
Ten players saw their first collegiate action for the Pack in the opener with Tennessee, including eight red-shirt freshmen and one true freshman. Redshirts Juston Burris (CB), Hakeem Flowers (WR), Carlos Gray (DT), Hakim Jones (S), Dave Mann (DT), Maurice Morgan (WR) and Mike Rose (DT) all saw action from scrimmage, with Burris getting in for a rookie-high 63 snaps. Tight end Benson Browne saw action on special teams, while walk-on Josh Stanley also played in the kicking game.
True freshman Charlie Hegedus was in for 20 snaps at wide receiver, catching one pass for seven yards. Hegedus, whose hometown of Marietta was just 30 miles from the Georgia Dome, played his first collegiate contest on the same field where he played his last prep game. His alma mater, Lassiiter High School, fell in the 5A state semifinals in the Dome in 2011.
Matt Rybaltowski (CBSSports.com)
Preview: NC State Wolfpack at Connecticut Huskies
Who could steal the show: UConn: Trevardo Williams. Expect Pasqualoni to give Williams the green light against a Wolfpack offensive line that finished 98th in FBS last season in sacks allowed per game. In high school, Williams defeated former Huskies running back Jordan Todman in the 100-meter dash at the New England Open. Williams will need to utilize his speed rush against N.C. State. The Huskies can’t allow Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon to hold onto the ball and spread it to a talented stable of receivers. NC State: David Amerson. The All-American cornerback must have a short memory of his performance in the opener, when he was burned three times on touchdowns of 40 yards or more. Amerson (6-3, 194) bit on a fake by Tyler Bray on a 41-yard touchdown catch by Cordarrelle Patterson and expected safety help on a 72-yard touchdown reception by Zach Rogers. Still, Pasqualoni is wary of Amerson’s length and ability to make plays on the ball. Amerson is able to plant his foot in the ground and drive on the ball as well as anyone Pasqualoni has seen in recent seasons. With Wolfpack cornerback C.J. Wilson suspended for four games, Amerson must step up.
Magic number for NC State: 3. Glennon passed for three touchdowns or more in seven games last season — six of the seven resulted in wins for the Wolfpack. In five losses, Glennon had seven touchdowns and seven interceptions combined. In the opener vs. the Vols, Glennon was intercepted four times and had just one touchdown pass.
The game comes down to: The Huskies ability to pressure Glennon. UConn ranks first in FBS in total defense after allowing just 59 yards last week. If Glennon gets off to a hot start it could take McCombs out of the game.
Prediction: NC State 31, UConn 20
DESMOND CONNER (The Hartford Courant)
UConn Will Have Hands Full With N.C. State’s Huge Offensive Line
UConn senior linebacker Jory Johnson, like many of his teammates, tuned in to the Tennessee-N.C. State game Friday night.
And like many of his teammates, the game left him feeling two ways: impressed, but still confident. Impressed that N.C. State’s offense rolled up 407 yards in a 35-21 loss to the Vols. Confident the UConn defense can pitch a fit on N.C. State, as it did to UMass in a 37-0 victory. UConn held UMass to 59 yards, so N.C. State (0-1) will be facing the nation’s No.1 defense Saturday at Rentschler Field.
But N.C. State ain’t UMass.
Johnson’s scouting report: “I was impressed with [6-foot-6 quarterback Mike] Glennon. He has a great arm, puts the ball in great spots. What I saw from Tennessee’s defense is that they wound up pressuring him a lot and that’s what we do, so I feel real good about this week. I think we’ll have a good game plan. Glennon is a great quarterback, they’ve got a great offensive line, great receivers, a trio of backs they can get the ball to at any time so obviously, the tempo and competition is going to get higher. But our defense is confident that we executed very well [against UMass] and I think we feel we can play well against anybody no matter the team if we just execute like we did on Thursday night.”
Andrea Adelson (ESPN.com)
UConn defense starts strong
Only one game has been played, and it was against a program that is in its infancy on the FBS level.
But there were some excellent signs from the UConn defense last week.
The linebacker group played very well, confirming what many thought would be the case with three returning starters. Yawin Smallwood was honored as Big East Defensive Player of the Week after he recorded seven tackles — including a sack and 3.5 for loss.
The defensive line dominated up front, and the secondary looked vastly improved. And UConn was one of five schools in the entire country to post a shutout. Not only that, the Huskies are currently ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense, having given up only 59 yards.
Yes, it is early, but it’s still something for the Huskies to be proud of because clearly they have made significant strides.
PAT EATON-ROBB (AP)
UConn’s Williams likes comparisons to Welker
Connecticut wideout Nick Williams is small, speedy, gutsy and lines up in the slot, inviting inevitable comparisons to another receiver who plays in New England — Wes Welker of the Patriots.
‘‘(Welker)’s like a hero of mine, everything he does,’’ said the Huskies’ 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior. ‘‘He’s so involved in their offense. I think the comparisons are a little lofty. He’s got a couple hundred catches in the NFL and I’ve got like 15 in college.’’
But Williams, like Welker, has turned himself from a role player into a focal point of the offense.
A running back and defensive back in high school, Williams first gained notice at UConn on special teams. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns as a sophomore and earned all-conference honors as a return specialist, a label he says angered him.
‘‘I just knew that as a player I had more to offer and bring to the team and help the team win than just being the kick returner,’’ he said. ‘‘I used that as motivation in every season since I’ve been here to just become a better player, a more well-rounded player. I want to be more of an impact player on offense than just special teams.’’
Pasqualoni also gave his new QB Chandler Whitmer a passing grade in his Husky debut.
“I thought Chandler played good,” the coach said. “Without giving away the keys to the car. I thought he was pretty good in the pocket, his ball security was excellent. I thought he pushed up and made some plays. He can put a little juice on the ball when he wants to. I thought he made some throws with some velocity on them during the game. So, in his first game, I thought it was good and now he has to go and get better.”
INJURY UPDATE: The defensive line will continue to be thin as both Ted Jennings (knee) and Shamar Stephens (knee) will miss the N.C. State game.
“I would say Shamar is out for this week. The evaluation over the weekend was not realistic,” Pasqualoni said. “I could say that he’s questionable, but I’m telling you my sense is he’s going to be out for this week. Also, losing Teddy is a big deal for us. He’s one of three guys in the rotation out there. He’s a senior, played a lot of football and he’s good out there.”
DESMOND CONNER (The Hartford Courant)
UConn QB Chandler Whitmer Knows What To Say…But He’s Honest Anyway
UConn sophomore quarterback Chandler Whitmer is here to play against Division I A level competition.
There’s no mistaking that.
Last week, he got a little taste of it against a program that was playing in its first Division I A game and he didn’t do too badly, completing 15 of 25 for 219 yards, no TDs, two interceptions, including that freakish first quarter pick that landed on SportsCenter, naturally.
(“That’s not the way I wanted to make the SportsCenter Top 10,” Whitmer jokes)
Anyway, Whitmer – UConn, too – will see a serious upgrade in competition when the N.C. State Wolfpack come in here for a noon tilt Saturday. The Pack come in off a 35-21 loss at Tennessee last Friday.
Given that how anxious are you to be facing an all-american defensive back in David Amerson? Will you try him?
“I can’t really get caught up in all that,” Whitmer said. “I just have to stay within my progression and recognize his strengths, know what he does well, try to avoid making mistakes based off the way he plays. Really, it’s just staying within myself and doing what I’m coached to do.”
LAURA KEELEY (N&O)
Warning: Road Hazards ahead for NC football schools
It’s not a myth: It is tougher to win football games on the road.
Nationally, since 1996, there has only been one year in which home teams have won fewer than 60 percent of games. Last season, home teams posted a .644 winning percentage, according to the NCAA, the second-best percentage in 46 years.
Historically, the road has not been kind to the three ACC schools. Since 2006, North Carolina has had the most “success” with a 13-22 record (.371). Duke has struggled the most, going 8-25 (.242), and N.C. State falls in the middle at 10-24 (.294).
The Wolfpack will travel to Connecticut, but coach Tom O’Brien downplayed the idea that the 80-minute flight north would have any impact on the team’s preparations.
But he offered the unsolicited opinion that Duke had a tough trip.
“Looking at the trip that Duke has to take, I did that at Boston College and had to go to Stanford,” said O’Brien, whose Eagles team lost 38-22 in 2001. “That makes a difference when you cross time zones.”
The data suggests Fedora and O’Brien are correct. Over the past five years, Pac-12 teams have won 75 percent of home games against opponents from the Eastern Time Zone.
“They got us when we went out there, but then they came back East (in 2002), we made them play at 12 o’clock, so it was 9 in the morning, so we won that one,” O’Brien said. “It kind of evened out.”
HANK KURZ Jr. (AP)
ACC coaching preferences run the gamut on kickoffs
Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe is hoping for a steady dose of touchbacks.
‘‘Last year we didn’t kick off very well and we had several kicks returned against us out to around the 35 yard line,’’ Grobe said.
North Carolina State coach Tom O’Brien feels Grobe’s pain.
O’Brien said giving the opponent the ball at the 25 would be an improvement over what the Wolfpack was able to do last year. But just as kicking the ball in play has risks, so does banking on being able to eliminate returns. The Wolfpack heads to the northeast this week to play Connecticut.
‘‘I don’t know if it’ll be windy up there or not, but I think the wind will come into play in the future,’’ he said.
O’Brien, apparently, also will gladly accept starting a drive at the 25.
‘‘Pretty much, if the ball’s kicked into the end zone, I was told to just down it,’’ NC State kickoff return man Tobias Palmer said of the Wolfpack’s approach. He said knows the rule is safety-oriented, but doesn’t like it.
In the Wolfpack’s game against Tennessee, the Vols kicked off seven times and got three touchbacks. Palmer had three of the four NC State returns, including one he took back 43 yards.
‘‘There were times last week when we played Tennessee where I just wanted to run. But I had to wait, be patient, and when I actually had a chance to actually run a kickoff return out, I made the best of it and almost returned it for a touchdown,’’ the wide receiver said. ‘‘Hopefully, I’ll get more of those.’’
If he gets too many more, that could set the opponents strategy for them.
NC STATE BASKETBALL
Bret Strelow (FayObserver.com)
Ricky Ledo ruling means Providence would be without its two top-25 recruits if it faces N.C. State
If the Friars meet up with N.C. State, they’d likely be without the two players who helped give coach Ed Cooley the nation’s No. 6 recruiting class. Ledo, a shooting guard, was ranked the No. 21 player in his class, right behind Purvis and one spot ahead of North Carolina’s Marcus Paige, by ESPN.com. The other Providence freshman of note, point guard Kris Dunn, was ranked the No. 23 player in his class. He is recovering from a torn labrum and isn’t expected to return before January.
Bret Strelow (FayObserver.com)
Chris Jones, a JUCO point guard, doesn’t include N.C. State on list of six schools
A few of N.C. State’s top perimeter targets have eliminated the Wolfpack from consideration.
The latest example is JUCO point guard Chris Jones, who averaged 18.0 points, 4.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds last season at Northwest Florida State College. According to Adam Zagoria, Jones has narrowed his list of schools to Baylor, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Florida State, Kansas and Memphis.
In late July, with coaches filling gyms at the Nike Peach Jam, N.C. State was very interested in a number of guards, including Jones, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Anthony “Cat” Barber and Sam Singer. Rathan-Mayes didn’t include the Wolfpack when he cut his list to 10 schools, and a visit from Barber is likely after he has completed trips to Kansas (Sept. 1 weekend) and Louisville (this weekend). Alabama is his other finalist.
Bret Strelow (FayObserver.com)
Top college basketball recruits pick finalists, set up campus visits
According to blogger Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv, 165-pound point guard Anthony “Cat” Barber of Hampton, Va., plans to visit N.C. State in mid-September before he goes to Alabama and after he’s been to Kansas and Louisville.
The most significant snub involves Canadian shooting guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who named 10 finalists at the beginning of August and on Friday reduced the number to five. N.C. State, which watched him closely at the Nike Peach Jam event in mid-July, wasn’t listed either time. Instead, he’s down to Baylor, Florida State, Connecticut, Illinois and Texas.
The fall signing period begins Nov. 14, eight days after the general election, but many of the top prospects will still be months away from a decision.
Yahoo! Sports Radio
Tom O’Brien – Playing Smarter & Making Strides
NC State University Football Head Coach, Tom O’Brien, explains how they can play smarter and better after turning the ball over five times against Tennessee in Week One.
New NC State TV Show Begins Saturday
In addition to its coaches shows and ‘Wolfpack Lookback,’ the Wolfpack Sports Network is adding a new TV show to its programming lineup this season. ‘Inside Wolfpack Sports’ will premiere this weekend on two regional sports networks and on Gopack.com.
Join co-hosts Tony Haynes and Mark Thomas each Saturday morning as they preview the upcoming football game with analysis and comments from Wolfpack players and coaches.
Inside Wolfpack Sports will also include special features along with updates on NC State’s other sports teams.
The show is scheduled to air every Saturday morning at 8:30 on Fox Sports South and MASN. MASN is carried by a number of cable systems and satellite providers. Here’s their distribution list.
Online streaming of the show will also be available for free on the official website of NC State athletics, GoPack.com.