We have a Robert Caldwell sighting! Talking 2013 linebackers

As we roll closer to football season we will pick up the pace on some topical conversations related to the 2013 edition of NC State Football.

Today, I thought we would talk a little defensive news coming out of practice, particularly related to our linebackers. The linebacker position is particularly interesting to me this year because, quite frankly, our performance at the position last year was so friggin abysmal. Linebacking was EASILY NC State’s weakest spot on defense and we HAVE to find some improvement at the position in light of the significant losses we experienced in the secondary.

‘Last year’ didn’t start off on the right foot as the Pack lost starter, DJ Green, prior to the season to suspension for using a banned substance. But, Green is back this year and should serve to anchor one of the outside linebacker slots.

So, turning the page to this season with that in mind, we highlighted in May that Coach Doeren and the staff were very excited about what they had seen at the middle linebacker spot from sophomore MJ Salahuddin. (Link to an entry from May) Salahuddin was just one of five true freshmen to see live game action for the Wolfpack last season, playing in twelve games on special teams and actually seeing action at linebacker in the embarrassing home loss to Virginia.

Ok. So, Green (SLB) and Salahuddin (MLB) gives us two linebacker spots nailed down.

Or so we thought. It may not be exactly clear.

This week Coach Doeren had some interesting comments that are in now way surprising, but that I thought deserved a little deeper look. From Pack Pride:

“They are playing downhill. Zach Gentry has put together a good first week of camp. I’m really impressed with his demeanor, consistency, and toughness. Robert Caldwell has come on. I feel like we have two good middle linebackers. We’ve moved M.J. from the middle to the weakside and he’s playing both now, he has the ability to play weakside and the middle. D.J. had his best day yesterday. I think he’s trying to get back into football shape so that was good to see for him.”

First, for anyone who knows the Gentry family then you know it isn’t a surprise that Zach Gentry is coming on. In fact, it looks like Gentry might be solidifying the middle linebacker spot while Salahuddin has been moved to the outside with Green. Nice. Presto!! Could we have three solid starting linebackers!?

What might be just as interesting and exciting to me is that Doeren referenced Robert Caldwell by name. As I wrote in May:

For me, one specific mystery at linebacker remains for some discussion – Robert Caldwell. You may recall that Caldwell signed with NC State in 2012 as junior college linebacker from California. He chose the Pack over Iowa and some other FBS programs. When he signed in 2012 Caldwell still had three years of eligibility to play two years, but he played extensively on special teams last year and now has two years available to play one. At 6’3 and 250 pounds and with NC State’s quality & depth issues at the position a lot of fans expected Caldwell to be more competitive for time at linebacker.

So, if Drew Davis (WLB) and strongside linebackers Brandon Pittman and Rodman Noel (SLB) have simply improved at a rate that would be ‘average’ for any college football player, NC State may actually have decent depth sitting behind a solid group of starters at a very important position that was our weakest link in 2012.

Only time will tell. Two and half weeks away!!!

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15 Responses to We have a Robert Caldwell sighting! Talking 2013 linebackers

  1. wolffpride 08/14/2013 at 9:20 AM #

    Yeah I expected to see production from Caldwell last year but he never caught on. We could have a very good line backing unit this year if we can stay healthy. I am excited about Salahuddin, we could have him and Noel at Mike and Sam in 2014, giving us a great starting base and then we add in the depth.

  2. DC_wolf 08/14/2013 at 10:31 AM #

    Great discussion, SFN; I’m actually quite optimistic about the defense heading into the 1st game(s) – only wish I could feel the same about the O.

    Another nice discussion by Rivals that currently have NCSU ranked #23 in recruiting w/ eight top 35 in-state recruits (next closest is UNC w/4):


    Future is looking bright

  3. packalum44 08/14/2013 at 10:39 AM #

    In 3-5 years I hope we are discussing NFL talent at the 2-deep. An embarrassment of riches.

    We had it with Amato on defense, though the momentum stopped when recruits realized he sucked as a coach. UNC had it with Butch on both sides of the ball, and they appear to be getting back their now even under recruiting restrictions/probation. Yes Butch cheated. However, even now the fact is they are recruiting at a level you would suspect a team to recruit with sufficient resources in a demographic hotbed of talent (which is about 15-20th).

    Just because State and UNC have set the bar low over the past decades in football does not mean consistently recruiting top 25 classes is an absurd possibility.

    I think the state of NC and surrounding area has the high school depth for us to surprise the national pundits in several years, assuming DD and staff recruit at an optimal level and build on recruiting by winning games.


  4. ryebread 08/14/2013 at 10:57 AM #

    packalum: Just win and the recruits will come. Boise has shown that, regardless of the awful winter weather and ugly Smurf Turf.

    On topic, I expect the LBs to be better. We were really thin at that position last year, so there’s not a lot of ways to go but up.

    I still contend that DL is the most important position on the defense. I think ours will be pretty good, so I’m less worried about the D than the O (where we have question marks at the two most important positions — OL and QB).

  5. packalum44 08/14/2013 at 1:12 PM #

    ^ Well chicken or the egg? How can we win when our 2-3 deep wouldn’t make Fl State’s 3rd team special teams unit?

    You need both and we can all agree they certainly build off each other.

    Those that think we have “talent” are Pollyannish. Most of our guys are not that talented and we are especially thin. Our saving grace is our schedule is the king of cupcakes – it would make Herb Sendek blush. So even with a Wake Forestish team (ok maybe not that bad), we won’t face many teams with a significant advantage this year.

    Also our offensive scheme is meant, in part, to mitigate talent discrepancies, assuming it is run well. Doesn’t mean it won’t work even better with talent (see Oregon).

    ^ It is important to emphasize that our last scheme was pro-style and was not designed to mitigate talent discrepancies. There is hope but don’t misplace it in all-around talent. A few of our skill guys are above average and could help us overachieve offensively if we can learn to execute the offense.

  6. tjfoose1 08/14/2013 at 4:10 PM #

    “Just win and the recruits will come. Boise has shown that, regardless of the awful winter weather and ugly Smurf Turf.”

    Hear the sentiment, but bad example. Boise’s ace in the hole (other than the highly successful blue turf marketing gimmick) that helped them get where they are today, is the ummm… well, their not so lofty academic standards for admittance.

    It’s not a complete coincidence that Miami’s fall from the elite coincided with their entry into the ACC.

    Likewise, it’s not a coincidence u*nc’s jump in talent coincided with their complete disregard for academic standards. I haven’t seen it discussed here, but even before Marvin’s famous tweet (a year or two before, if I remember correctly), they had changed their own official classifications and how they referenced academic exemptions and partial qualifiers so they could do an end run around academic scrutiny and ACC standards and restrictions.

    A rose by any other name may still be a rose, but u*nc simply changed what they called them so theirs would be judged by weed standards.

    Anyway, not saying higher standards make it impossible, but lower academic standards certainly make it a heckuvalot easier to ascend and maintain.

  7. tjfoose1 08/14/2013 at 4:18 PM #

    I’m seeing solid depth at LB, but we need one or two to be better than just solid. We need at least one dynamic playmaker a la Irving, or to a lesser extent, Manning.

    Green has the potential. Maybe Salahuddin. Love that name, btw. Today’s climate is probably too PC to do anything with it, but that name certainly lends itself to all kinds of fun in the nicknames and play-on-words departments…

    Maybe it’s a good thing Elon is not on the schedule and still known as the Fighting Christians.

  8. Greywolf 08/14/2013 at 5:36 PM #

    What’s happening at LB demonstrates the coaches commitment to get the best 11 players on the field. With hot weather and high humidity that expands to best 22 players. Moving Sally to back up Pittman isn’t a demotion. More probably it puts quality on the field with Rodman when he relieves Green.

    Our coaches are getting the job done. Not only at the LB positions but in every area. packalum44 says it well: our offense does not require an all conference OL to work. It does require guys like Copeland and Smith to create pressure on the sweep and to open up running lanes in the middle. (Take a look at the Wisconsin/Nebraska video to see what’s possible.)

    It’s easy to say that CTC ‘sucks’ as a coach. Simplifies the fault finding and obscures the real blame. Question: How many of us would turn down $25 to $100 thousand a year to move to a better job? That’s right. Damn few.

    Coaches don’t ever – if they want to coach again – run down their employers and Chuck didn’t say that the money wasn’t made available to keep the good coaches we lost to other schools. The real culprits behind our ‘lack of interest’ in athletic success are our chancellors in the past, the UNC heavy legislature and the BOT and BOG.

    Randy Woodson and Debbie Yow are as responsible for creating an environment for success and an aggressive attitude for athletic success. Without that environment and attitude Dave Doeren would not be here making hot recruiting news.

  9. TheCOWDOG 08/14/2013 at 7:03 PM #

    What Mr. Grey said.

  10. wolffpride 08/14/2013 at 9:35 PM #

    I don’t think Sally will be backing up Pittman, it’s the other way around. Regardless, we should have some quality depth with the linebackers this year.

    Have to love the fans who think we don’t have talent. Let’s get to the halfway point of the season and discuss then. We will let the roster speak for itself.

  11. choppack1 08/14/2013 at 10:56 PM #

    “our offense does not require an all conference OL to work. … Take a look at the Wisconsin/Nebraska video to see what’s possible.”

    Grey – I’m sorry. I have to take issue with this sentence. Wisconsin has produced some of the best OL’s in football the last 2 decades. This is a little like saying, “Overplaying man to man doesn’t require all-conference talent o work….just look at Duke/North Carolina game to see what’s possible.”

    Regarding CTC – I know he loves NC State. However, he missed his opportunity here. IMHO, he didn’t embrace discipline enough and obviously he was a bit of a micromanage. I think the wheels fell off for him in year 5 and he couldn’t get his mojo back in Raleigh.

    However, I think given a little more varied experience, he would have been more successful in Raleigh.

  12. Classof89 08/15/2013 at 9:54 AM #

    Regarding CTC and not talking about money being an issue in staff turnover. Sure, that explains losing Doc Holliday. But that can’t be the whole story. Buddy Green(e) leaving for the same job at Navy? Friggin NAVY? That wasn’t a “money for assistants” issue…

  13. db321 08/15/2013 at 10:30 AM #

    I hate to rain on the parade but logically speaking we are looking at an average linebacking crew. I hope I am wrong but the fact that we have several still battling for the starting spots screams that nobody is stepping up and standing out. You hope that some of the 2 and 3 star LBers we recruited will step up and become “difference makers” but that doesn’t always happen. Even more unlikely that they are all stepping up and we have multiple beasts fighting it out. With all that said, an average crew would be an improvement over last year.

  14. Greywolf 08/15/2013 at 11:03 AM #

    “I don’t think Sally will be backing up Pittman, it’s the other way around.”

    wolffpride , You are right at this point for sure.

    Classof89, It wasn’t just Doc Holliday who left for more money. We couldn’t keep Norm Chow, Manny Diaz, Reggie Herring and others who left for better paying (and more prestigious) jobs. Buddy Green going to Navy was an exception to, not the rule. I don’t mean to argue for CTC being coach of the year or the most brilliant HC ever at NCSU, just that his inability to pay for top rated coaching talent had as much to do with the fall off of our success as his coaching abilities. BTW I believe that other traits cost him his job as much as his record.

  15. Greywolf 08/15/2013 at 12:38 PM #

    choppack1, I’m not sure what point you are arguing. If it’s to say that Wisconsin has a proven record of good offensive lines/linemen, you’ll get no argument from me.

    My reference to the Wisconsin/Nebraska game was due to Wisconsin’s going to the Jet Sweep type offense for that ONE game and scoring DOUBLE it’s scoring average for the year. There’s an article and associated video ‘somewhere’ on the internet that points to the confusion and various errors that this offense created for a very good Nebraska defense. Our OC was Wisconsin’s OC and should give a very good idea of offense we might expect the Pack to run this year — assuming of course we can uncover a QB and some receivers who can run it.

    It is unfortunate that my comment about the offense being successful without a great OL got put together with the comment about that video and interpreted as meaning Wisconsin didn’t have a great OL. While I can’t cite them, there are multiple opinions on the net that validate lack of needing a great OL assertion.

    Packalum44 says it well: “Also our offensive scheme is meant, in part, to mitigate talent discrepancies, assuming it is run well.” I’m counting on our coaches and team to “run it well”. I’m also counting on our coaches designing blocking schemes that give our “mediocre” OL its best chance for success — something Bible’s pro-set offense did not do.

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