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For those of us who have been pretending to be algae eaters, sucking on the glass of our TVs trying to consume any traces of football that mayÂ exist, this Saturday is well overdue.Â Liberty isn’t exactly… let’s say… the most ferocious program in the world, but this game will be a good sandbox for what to look out for and where we will be heading this season as the talent level slowly ramps up.
First, a Little About Liberty
Their mascot is “the flames”, for those who didn’t know.Â Discuss clever quips amongst yourselves.
The Flames only lost three games last season in their admittedly weak conference, finishing first in the Big South conference.Â They only lost two games in 2009.Â Their losses include Robert Morris who tied for first in the NEC, JMU right after dismantling VT, and Coastal Carolina in a pretty high-scoring 45-31 defeat.Â Alright, so maybe they aren’t the ’72 Dolphins, but they’ve done “alright” and better teams have been surprised by worse teams in the past 10 years.Â No reason to worry, but… you know… it’s a football game.Â Be ready.
The Flames finished last season ranked #19 in the FCS and are #18 pre-season in the coaches’ FCS poll.Â Be it good, bad, or indifferent, they have a fairly tough September schedule.Â They play our beloved Wolfpack, but then have to square up against defending NEC champsÂ Robert Morris, regularly surprising James Madison, and will be going on the road against well-respected Lehigh.Â I guess what I’m getting at is that Liberty does have an emotional initiative to gain some momentum moving into their next series of games, starting with NC State.Â Unfortunately, emotion only gets so far when you have Tenuta overloading your pocket every-single-f’ing-play.
The real tools of Liberty will be a returning QB, Mike Brown.Â Brown ranked #1 in his division in total offense, #7 in passing efficiency, and #8 in passing yards per game.Â He’s also the first QB in his conference’s history to pass for more than 200 yards in every game of the season.Â Mid-major school or not, that’s nothing to take too lightly.Â What you have behind center in Brown is a QB that could prove surprising for any team with a weak or unpreparedÂ secondary.
What To Watch Out For
For this game, let’s just focus on our team.Â Yesterday, NC State released their opening game depth chart.Â For the most part, freshmen are limited to either the two-deep position or special team starting positions.Â Everyone should be atleast somewhat experienced on the field.Â Despite that, some positions are still fairly untested and areas of concern, at least until we see the results on the field.
It’s worth noting that all we have heard from the staff and the team is that everyone feels confident in how solid the team operates, even the ‘untested positions’.Â Regardless, given the good ole NC State karma, color me unimpressed until the results are on full display on the field.
Cornerback is going to be a position worth paying attention to due to the loss of injury proneÂ Jarvis Byrd, marked to be replaced by CJ Wilson.Â Â Wilson is a player that started as a redshirt freshmen in the 2009 season, played in all 12 games of that season, and started every game last season running in two picks for touchdowns against Central Florida and Boston College.Â Wilson will be filling in for Byrd, opposite of DavidÂ Amerison.Â Amerson had big starts against FSU and WVU last season, but is still young.Â With only one season under his belt and already starting in the secondary, it will be interesting to see how he fits into the defense schema.
Special Teams is going to be hairy.Â With three inexperienced players starting at punter(P – Wil Baumann), place kicker(PK – Niklas Sade), and long snapper (LS – Scott Thompson), we’ll just have to see what shows up on the field.Â As happens with most of these FCS games, expect O’Brien to play his two-deeps later in the game which may give us an opportunity to see our punter and long snapper in action.
Obviously, the elephant in the room is how rookie quarterback Mike Glennon will perform.Â It’s important to note that Glennon isn’t as much of a wildcard as a redshirt freshmen or sophomore rookie.Â Glennon arrived at NC State in 2008, was redshirted his first year, and has spent the last two years riding theÂ bench behind Russell Wilson.Â I guess the point is that he’s been “in training” for a pretty long time.Â The benefit Glennon has over Russell is his physical size.Â Russell Wilson, listed as 5-11 and 210lbs according to GoPack.com when he was at NC State, is over half a foot shorter than the 6-6 and 232lb Glennon.Â With that comes a longer stature and an arm to match.Â Still, what made Russell special was his ability to draw the play out, extend the clock, and think on the fly.Â These are completely untested metrics for Mike Glennon and are what we can be paying attention to during this Liberty game.Â
Hopefully, if everything is executed appropriately, we won’t have an opportunity to see how Glennon does under pressure.Â Word from the practice field is that the O-line is much more solid than it was last season.Â Given the nature of this Saturday’s game, it will be a fairly low-threat exercise in O-line effectiveness.
Why To Watch
This is valid for every powder-puff game, but what we are looking for in this early contest against a fairly soft opponent is execution.Â When we set out to run a play, does the play actually unfold how we expect it to?Â Does everyone on offense make their routes?Â Does everyone on defense cover their men?Â It’s just about how smoothly the machine works in an ideal situation.Â IF NC State appears to operate with a smooth rythm and Glennon is able to hit all his receivers, then we can move on to asking ourselves how things will change with some slightly harder competition in Winston-Salem the following Saturday.
Regardless, luckily NC State has a decent three-game stretch (Liberty, @Wake Forest, South Alabama) to work out any kinks in the execution.