More concern than hope (Updated 7/7)

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 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.

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14 Responses to More concern than hope (Updated 7/7)

  1. LKNpackfan 07/06/2009 at 9:55 AM #

    A lot of coaches would have swept it under the rug, but with TOB discipline is non-negotiable. At the same time, he cuts Ellis a break with the “transfer” classification. So while its always disappointing to lose a starter, this whole thing really reinforces my respect and admiration of TOB the man.

  2. Sw0rdf1sh 07/06/2009 at 9:57 AM #

    We as Pack fans should have our concern on standby for injuries as soon as the Spring Game is over. Unfortunately, I’m sure we will see a few more before 9/3.

    Ellis transfering is a blow, and I was shocked to hear it based on his past play and opportunity for this year. As TOB runs a performance based program, there really was not promise that he would have been the starter other than his past experience….and I wonder if that had anything to do with the transfer. He had been in the system for a few years now so he had to understand and accept the way things “are” and how business is done.

    I’m thinking Jarvis Byrd might have a window of opportunity opened up for him, but we have other guys that might step up like CJ Wilson, etc. to take the spot.

    Hate to see the 3 freshman go to Prep, but hopefully they will be here by Jan to start getting ready for next year.

  3. Scooter 07/06/2009 at 10:33 AM #

    It seems at this point, our biggest concerns should be focused on the health of Nate Irving, a healthy knee for Russell Wilson, and the return of a galvanized offensive line. Of the three that are going to prep, they were probably a year or two away from having impact-player potential, but we need to get them back in red next spring.

    Nate Irving’s accident aside, there haven’t been any huge negative surprises. On the other hand, we’ve gotten some big surprises on the recruiting trail. I think it is fair to say that, unlike going into the past two seasons, we can have some (very) cautious optimism for 2009. The dark horse chatter is concerning, though. I would hate for a jinx.

  4. choppack1 07/06/2009 at 10:54 AM #

    “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.”

    Don’t rise to the bait – you guys do a good job of not printing a lot of rumor or stuff that could damage the program. Keep on focusing on the tangible data. Obviously, all we need to know in a situation like this is that Ellis is no longer w/ the program.

    I hate to see us lose another potential starter in area we can’t afford to lose one.

    I’ve definitely downgraded my optimism that I had earlier. I still think we can be a bowl team, even, if we start getting some good breaks – a bowl eligible one.

  5. Greywolf 07/06/2009 at 10:55 AM #

    Ellis was not a starter – yet – so he won’t be “missed” as such. For all we know at this time,the depth chart is the only hit. The 3 going to prep school is not a biggy unless special significance is put on the Scout Squad. All this does is highlight the lack of quality depth that all “rising” programs go through.

    This is football and EVERY team takes hits of this sort. It’s part of the game. Good programs with depth often become better when quality young players get elevated.

    Thankfully, the games are played on the field.

  6. StateFans 07/06/2009 at 11:14 AM #

    ^ Do you just like to argue about ANYTHING? OF COURSE Ellis was going to be the starter. If he wasn’t, then our secondary was gonig to be worse than anyone previously expected.

  7. LKNpackfan 07/06/2009 at 12:10 PM #

    Ellis was listed on the depth chart (prior version, its already been updated) as starting at CB, and he played with the 1st team defense in the Spring Game.

    Edit:I love google – depth chart, as of 3/16/09

  8. choppack1 07/06/2009 at 2:22 PM #

    It bears repeating that this loss occurs in an area where we had the least amount of depth on defense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Byers play some CB. He seemed to make plays last year at times, but he certainly wasn’t as big or as talented as Clem (whom, IMHO, was VERY effective in the limited time that he saw.)

    The bottom line is that we won’t really know what we’re missing…we only know that we missed a guy who apparently won the starting job this spring – and that’s not good when you probably just lost your stud LB.

  9. ChiefJoJo 07/06/2009 at 8:34 PM #

    Ellis might have been our best corner and I feel pretty confident he would have started opposite Morgan. Apparently, there were some discipline issues, so he was asked to leave. CB was never a strong point and now it *really* is a weakness.

  10. Alpha Wolf 07/06/2009 at 9:31 PM #

    What Dinich dances around is the lack of depth that TOB and staff have had to work with for the last two years. I’m sure that they wished that Harrison Beck had been a serviceable backup last year, but he wasn’t. Nor was Dan Evans really cut out to run their offense, though he gave it every possible effort. Put Evans brain in Beck’s body, and you’d have had something. But truth is each had their weaknesses and neither were effective coming off of the bench.

    This year it will probably be different. Glennon has shown signs of understanding what he needs to do and he has the physical skills to boot. The staff will need to get him some quality game reps as early as possible, in order for him to be prepared for the inevitable call.

    That quality depth issue dogged the Pack in other depth areas last year too, O Line, WR, LB and DL. The bad news is that it hurt last year. The good news is that we have some seasoned reserves that aren’t going to go into a game starry eyed when they get the call.

    As for Ellis, that’s a shame, but he brought it on himself one way or the other. TOB and his staff are fair but tough, and it is either do or do not do with them. Cross a certain line and you aren’t NC State material.

    Me, I would rather the player that sees time on the field be the one who did all the things the coaches asked him to do, as opposed to the loose cannon you cannot depend on.

  11. McPete 07/07/2009 at 10:24 AM #

    so i came across this article about Irving’s release from the hospital last friday:

    “Irving had been taken to the WakeMed Trauma Center in Raleigh after suffering a fractured leg and a collapsed lung in a one-car wreck before dawn on June 28.”

    So was it really just a fractured bone and not a break/shatter, or just a typo? “fractured leg” sounds pretty generic.

  12. dbo2874 07/07/2009 at 12:03 PM #

    fracture = break

  13. bradleyb123 07/07/2009 at 2:03 PM #

    ^ “fracture = break”

    Yes, but a fracture has less healing to do than a bone that has snapped in two. I was wondering what the degree of “break” was, too. It worried me because he had to have surgery. Hopefully that was just for his lung puncture and not to put pins in his leg or something.

  14. howlie 07/08/2009 at 7:46 AM #

    After all my fractures, the docs told me a fracture is often worse than a clean break [to heal].
    Sounds like the collapsed lung is MORE the challenge in recovery.
    Then there’s the ‘getting back into game shape.’

    ‘Just doesn’t sound like Nate will play until the Spring…

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