NC State kicks off its 2010 football campaign this Saturday evening at Carter-Finley Stadium and there will be some new and to some, some surprising starters and first reserves will be manning key positions for the Pack:
To much surprise, running backs Curtis Underwood Jr. and James Washington were nowhere to be found on the updated chart. Leading the charge in the Wolfpack rushing attack will be redshirt freshmen Dean Haynes and Mustafa Greene.
Haynes’ experience with the Wolfpack hasn’t just been on the offensive side of the ball. He was pegged to be a contributor in the secondary until that group was “solidified”, as O’Brien put it.
That leads one to believe that NC State head coach Tom O’Brien was underwhelmed with Underwood or Washington’s summer practice performance and has demoted them to at least third-string.Â Mustafa Greene, who many expected not only to be on the two-deep but also to vie with Underwoods for the starting role itself is listed as second on O’Brien’s “organizational chart.
Perhaps O’Brien and offensive coordinator Dana Bible are sending their players a message – that the Wolfpack is indeed a “performance based organization” — a statement that O’Brien has made a few times in the past.Â By not letting the two previously projected starters carry the ball in the season and home opener, he might be saying to them to shape up and work harder — something that will only make them better players if indeed they get their coach’s message and respond positively to it.Â O’Brien may also be telling them that the word “assume” only leads towards “making an ass of you and me.” O’Brien made his feelings clearer to this p0int earlier this week when he said on his first radio show that “after the third [fall practice] scrimmage, I don’t think any of us were satisfied with the production we were getting out of our tailback spot.”
In other words, Underwood and Washington didn’t exactly make O’Brien salivate in anticipation, or for that matter, very happy at all with the work they were doing.
Or, maybe, Dean Haynes is that good, which would be a very unexpected but welcome surprise. O’Brien has also commented recently that Haynes had shown a lot of skill in his previous roll on NC State’s scout team.Â Haynes had played on both sides of the ball on that practice unit, but had widely been thought of as a defensive back moreso than a tailback.Â Wolfpack fans might remember a few years back when Greg Golden moved from the defensive backfield to the tailback role under then-coach Chuck Amato, eventually returning back to the defense where he became a star-crossed hard-luck player who was never quite as effective as before.Â Hopefully, Haynes will avoid the same fate.
“We moved Dean to tailback. Gave him the opportunity to be the starting tailback,” O’Brien said.Â “He took the challenge and certainly earned his position.”
Mark Armstrong, the sports anchor at local station WTVD commented on Twitter recently that “[he was] told that Haynes starting at RB for #NCSU is NOT an injury related move.Â Greene could beÂ [the] starter sooner [rather] than later.”
Pack fans won’t have long to wait to literally read between the lines on this somewhat curious choice — the sidelines, that is, as State is a mere four days away from kicking off against lightly regarded Western Carolina.Â If things follow to form, not only will the two deep see some action, but also the third and fourth choices, so O’Brien may well be taking this battle for the ball in the backfield away from the practice field and into the friendly confines of Carter-Finley.
Surprise picks and new faces are on the defensive side of the ball as well. Sophomore Brian Slay and senior Natanu Mageo are listed as starters at defensive tackle. JR Sweezy and Markus Kuhn, the two that conventional wisdom held as the likely starters, are listed as back-ups.Â Kuhn, who is coming off of a redshirt year, may still have some learning to do at this level of football.Â In his home country, the word “football” implies teams in the Bundesliga, the higher ranks of German soccer.Â Kuhn played club and semi-pro (as an amateur) American football in Germany before coming to the US to play for NC State, but undoubtedly there is a huge leap in the talent level here even in the college ranks as compared to Germany, a place where football is hardly a blip on the sporting map.
Or, as reader Newt suggests below, Kuhn and Sweezy still aren’t in their coach’s good graces thanks to their being brought up on marijuana possession charges earlier this year.Â The charges were eventually dropped, but the coaching staff’s disciplinary system are obviously completely independent.Â A “guilty” verdict from the judge with the corner office in the Murphy Center may well have been handed down and Sweezy and Kuhn’s not being on top of the depth chart might be part of the sentence the two face.
Additional notes: our crack Sports Information Staff has struck once again, as on the official chart, TJ Graham listed as JR Wide Receiver and also as a SophomoreÂ Kick Return specialist.Â Hopefully, TJ make the most of his extra year returning kicks and improve his NFL draft position.