O’Brien Goes Against Conventional Wisdom With 2-Deep Chart For Wolfpack Opener

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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  Hopefully, Haynes will avoid the same fate.

“We moved Dean to tailback. Gave him the opportunity to be the starting tailback,” O’Brien said.  “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.  Greene could be  [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.  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.  Kuhn, who is coming off of a redshirt year, may still have some learning to do at this level of football.  In his home country, the word “football” implies teams in the Bundesliga, the higher ranks of German soccer.  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.  The charges were eventually dropped, but the coaching staff’s disciplinary system are obviously completely independent.  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 Sophomore  Kick Return specialist.  Hopefully, TJ make the most of his extra year returning kicks and improve his NFL draft position.

'10 Football Tom O'Brien

31 Responses to O’Brien Goes Against Conventional Wisdom With 2-Deep Chart For Wolfpack Opener

  1. greatballsoffire 08/31/2010 at 11:19 AM #

    Great post (and NCSU related!). I’m anxious to see 1) how good Haynes is and 2) how quickly we resort to Underwood/Washington in the second half. I really, really hope we are indeed that deep at running back.

  2. NCStatePride 08/31/2010 at 11:20 AM #

    Having Western Carolina as an opener really makes things interesting. It gives NC State an opportunity to slowly get into the water rather than diving in, which seems to lead towards us getting whipped each year in our season opener. I’d be curious to see whether O’Brien sticks with some of his more questionable player assignments after the season opener is completed or if things will look more like “what we expected”. Great article, Alpha!

  3. mafpack 08/31/2010 at 11:25 AM #

    Hey Alpha, I think you meant to say James Washington when you’ve mentioned Greene a few times in this article.


    Nevermind, you fixed it 🙂

    Alpha: thanks, I noticed my blunder and edited it quickly.

  4. Bowlpack 08/31/2010 at 11:25 AM #

    Since, Haynes was originally projected to make the 2-deep in the secondary, does this mean that O’Brien has a little more confidence in this unit? I hope that is the case in any capacity. With 3 true freshman listed, I can only speculate that they’re either good enough to compete at this level or that we’re doomed to another season of who can prevail in a big play shootout.

    Mustafa Greene has received some pre-season accolades and I think it was mentioned that he would be one of a few freshman to crack the lineup this season and could be surprise in the ACC.

    Is there a timetable on Mattes return?

  5. 89BSBA 08/31/2010 at 11:30 AM #

    Kuhn/Sweezy were 2 of the 4 … who hit the news this summer. Oddly, the other two, Vermiglio and Bryan are listed as starters.

    Perhaps they just didn’t quite overcome the necessary “mea culpas” to get the start?

  6. Alpha Wolf 08/31/2010 at 11:32 AM #

    I think Mattes may be back now, Bowlpack. I heard that somewhere, perhaps one of the other boards, but I didn’t have enough solid info to put it into the article. We’ll see Saturday.

    Also, guys, I just added this:

    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 Sophomore Kick Return specialist. Hopefully, TJ make the most of his extra year returning kicks and improve his NFL draft position.

  7. newt 08/31/2010 at 11:34 AM #

    Kuhn and Sweezy were charged with marijuana-related offenses this Summer and now aren’t starters.

  8. Lunatic Fringe 08/31/2010 at 11:38 AM #

    It just feels like Greene is poised to be the next NC State ACC ROY. I hope Dean does well, but I am excited to see Greene.

  9. Alpha Wolf 08/31/2010 at 11:41 AM #

    Good point, Newt. They may still be in the O’Brien Doghouse. He’ll never say that, however, but I think you are on to something.

    I did hear, however, that Kuhn still needs to work on some recognition and other tactical aspects of his game, but that otherwise he is a beast to fear.

  10. Bowlpack 08/31/2010 at 11:42 AM #

    Alpha, would it be a safe assumption that O’Brien wants to ease him (Mattes) back in so he’s going to practice a little more before being deemed game-ready?

    My interest is peaked as I do recall that TOB mentioned that the success of the line would hinge significantly on the return of Mattes to the lineup (or something to that extent).

  11. primacyone 08/31/2010 at 11:43 AM #

    They also have Corey Tedder listed as teh long snapper and holder. I predict he also gets a chance at QB and become the ACC player of the year.

    On a positive note for special teams, with Corey playing two positions at the same time, that should allow for another player somewhere on the field to help with blocking, etc. . . .

    [quote]LS 59 Corey Tedder 6-1 220 *Jr.
    57 Michael Maurer 5-11 225 *Gr.
    H 59 Corey Tedder 6-1 220 *Jr.[/quote]

  12. choppack1 08/31/2010 at 11:44 AM #

    In another post yesterday, I wondered if Haynes was a better blocker than Greene.

    I’ve had some confirmation that Haynes is a “heady ball-player” and that right now, he’s probably one of the best blocking options they have.

    Greene is probably the most talented of the backs that we have – and it wouldn’t surprise me if wins the job, but go figure, as a true freshman, he’s got a lot to learn.

  13. Alpha Wolf 08/31/2010 at 11:47 AM #

    Good points, Chop, but keep in mind that RB is perhaps the easiest skilled position on the field for a true freshman to prosper.

    Mattes, yes, I would think that he will be eased into the chart as he progresses. I hope it is fast, as I think he will make a very positive impact (yes, pun was intended) when he is back to near 100%.

  14. primacyone 08/31/2010 at 11:59 AM #

    I’m okay with Haynes at RB if he did indeed earn the spot. However, it does really concern me that the defensivie backfield as three freshman on the two deep plus the freshmen crew from last year. That’s very scary on paper.

  15. tasteagall 08/31/2010 at 11:59 AM #

    Just wanted to point out that WE have one National championship this year. You guys may want to have a main posting about Logan Scarborough who just won the Collegiate National Championship in Timber Sports. Follow the link:

  16. old13 08/31/2010 at 12:14 PM #

    primacyone, although that does look funny on the chart, it is my understanding that Tedder snaps for punts, and Maurer snaps for fieldgoals with Tedder holding.

  17. Packfan28 08/31/2010 at 12:22 PM #

    Some things:

    1)As long as its not Tony Haynes, the move works for me.

    2)Mattes is projected to return somewhere between the middle and end of September. I have a feeling his first action will be against Cinci.

    3) Hopefully Earl stays the hell out of here. He won’t be good for football or anything else.

    4) I love the misery that is happening down I-40, but thank you for returning the front page of SFN to Wolfpack sports.

  18. packalum44 08/31/2010 at 12:27 PM #

    I’m very concerned about the freshmen on the two deep in our secondary. However, we will be better on defense simply because our linebackers will be better. Everyone overlooked the serious talent/experience handicap we had at those 3 positions simply because our secondary was so awful.

    I also expect to be better on offense so hopefully we can put up 30+ every game its our only hope at a winning season.

  19. newt 08/31/2010 at 12:52 PM #

    Vermiglio was also involved with Mary Jane and is first string. So there’s a standard to be met for first string that Kuhn and Sweezy have not achieved. That bar may be higher because of their Summer of Love or maybe the new guys are just performing better (perhaps cause they can breathe) and that would be a good sign.

    Since he’s been here, O’Brien seemingly is one who uses the depth chart to send messages.

    The defensive parts are so interrelated, you can have the same crappy secondary playing much better because the other elements of the D are doing things better. The tone is definitely that the D overall is better; that’s what matters.

  20. hball57 08/31/2010 at 1:32 PM #

    Why do we insist on finding some hidden meaning to all of this? We will play and rotate 4 DTs and 4 DEs. So it is not a big deal if someone is listed at 1st team or 2nd team. Just as with the RBs. Dean Haynes must have shown a great ability at the RB position to get to be 1st team.

    Here is a prediction – our secondary will be miles better. Our “D” as a whole will be better, but our secondary will be better as well. One thing our fans should have learned over their time of watching football – if you recruit good players, they will improve from year to year.

  21. baxter 08/31/2010 at 1:59 PM #

    I think as far as Vermiglio is concerned, I don’t think you can risk putting that line out there without his experience. Also, rememeber JR was involved in another incident this offseason. Might be a cumulative effect there, and as has been pointed out, Kuhn may still need some tactical work.

    However, they are going to be rotating that defensive front A lot.

    What about Creecy and Palmer, have we confirmed they are RS this season?

  22. choppack1 08/31/2010 at 2:47 PM #

    “but keep in mind that RB is perhaps the easiest skilled position on the field for a true freshman to prosper.”

    That’s definitely true and I am hoping that Greene can capitalize on that. However, I think given TOB and Bible’s old school nature – they want to make sure Greene is doing the little things right.

    And aside from holding onto the damn ball – that blocking thing is probably the second most important thing a running back does in our current offense.

  23. Lunatic Fringe 08/31/2010 at 2:49 PM #


    I said that a bit tongue in cheek based on our history with ROYs. Ever notice that NC State tends to have ROY pop up when we basically are desperate at a particular position.

    Our lack of depth tends to press kids, though talented, into playing early in their careers.

    Ray Rob
    K Rob
    R Wilson

    5 ACC ROYs in 12 years from one school in a major conference is just odd.

  24. tjfoose1 08/31/2010 at 3:22 PM #

    “So it is not a big deal if someone is listed at 1st team or 2nd team.”

    It is to the players, so it is a factor.

    But I agree, all 8 will get plenty of playing time. “Check” too, on your second paragraph.

  25. Alpha Wolf 08/31/2010 at 3:31 PM #

    I think Terry Harvey was 3rd string when he took over due to injuries?

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