ACC 2012 Season Preview: NC State Wolfpack

Mike Glennon Directly Controls the Fate of an NC State Offensive Looking for Other Playmakers to Step Up

Team: NC State Woflpack

2011 W-L: 8-5 (4-4)

Head Coach: Tom O’Brien (33-30; five seasons)

Returning Starters: 14 (7 Offense, 7 Defense)

At the end of October last year, it appeared to be the end of the line for NC State coach Tom O’Brien. The Woflpack were 4-4, were just blown out 34-0 by Florida State, and had to win three of their final four games to make a bowl game. It would have been the third of his five seasons the team failed to reach the postseason — unacceptable for a school that does prioritize football (or virtually any school for that matter). But then, something clicked. O’Brien’s team went on a tear that would include a shutout of cross-state rival North Carolina, a shocking upset vs. Clemson and an enormous comeback against Maryland to close out the regular season. Now, O’Brien’s job is not only safe (for now), but his team is thinking much bigger than they had before.

On offense, the group is fueled by breakout QB Mike Glennon. The mastermind behind the late 2011 run, Glennon threw for 823 yards and 11 touchdowns over the final three games. Most notably, a six-TD performance (five passing, one rushing) to come back from 41-14 down to the Terps. This year, however, he’ll be missing top target T.J. Graham, so replacing him becomes one of the top priorities for fall practice. Luckily, he’ll have two seniors at his disposal — Tobais Palmer and Quintin Payton — both of whom played for the team last year, though in most-limited roles. Glennon is going to be looking to establish trust with these guys early, especially considering the question marks at running back. Senior James Washington still must prove he can step up into a leading role, while the status of the beleaguered Mustafa Greene is in flux again. For this offense to be at its best, it’ll demand a lot more out of the running game. Last year’s 104 yards-per-game (109th in FBS) won’t cut it, so someone obviously has to step up and make a severe course-correction.

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2012 NFL Draft Preview: NC State

NC State’s T.J. Graham Is Hoping His Breakaway Speed Gets Him Chosen Earlier Than Expected On Draft Day

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 43 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 26 and 28.

Playmakers on both sides of the ball departed NC State this offseason, yet the departures followed long, productive careers with the Woflpack. Of course the team will miss every key contributor named below, but the team is as prepared to move on without them as the players are ready to get to the NFL.

Audie Cole, LB, Senior

Cole’s got great size to be an NFL linebacker — 6’4″, 246 pounds, he’s got an athletic, solid build with experience manning both the inside and outside linebacker positions. While his numbers have read spotty at the Combine, those who’ve seen him in game action are far more complimentary and see him as an instinctive talent. As a standout tackler, he was one of several anchors for a Woflpack defense that truly came on come the end of the 2011 season. If we’re going on smarts and his ability to learn an NFL system quickly, Cole could be drafted in the third or fourth round by a team employing a 3-4 scheme.

Terrell Manning, LB, Junior

Manning was a machine at NC State, ranking among the league’s best tacklers these past couple seasons. Instinctive, quick and incredibly aggressive, scouts are torn on whether those intangibles can make up for a highly undersized 6’3″, 224-pound frame. Should he add muscle weight in the lead-up to the Draft, it would likely please the naysayers, especially with his high scores already in terms of strength. As much as some see his shorter arms as a potential issue translating to the pro game, Manning’s never shown it to be an issue getting involved in pass- or run-defense. His mainstream evaluation is flawed however, so he may fall as far as the fifth round before being selected. Continue reading

ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: NC State Wolfpack

NC State's David Amerson Must Pick Up the Slack For a Defense Lacking Linebacker Depth

As spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing what needs to happen for the teams and players of the ACC, culminating with notes on all 14 spring games.

Today’s featured team: NC State Wolfpack

NC State’s passing game — while very good in 2011 — was downright inconsistent overall. And the same could be said for the rest of the Wolfpack’s offense. If they hope to live up to their early top-25 billing in 2012 though, all of that will have to change. While they didn’t have a ton of trouble scoring points last season, putting up over 28 per game, the Pack’s averages largely came as a result of streaky play as well. Seven times they scored more than 30 points (6-1 record), but they also manged to score 14 or less four times, too (1-3 record). Much of this was a result of the run game’s inability to ever truly get going. The team racked up just under 105 yards on the ground per game — “good” for 109th in the FBS. Rising-senior running back James Washington will take the brunt of this burden, as he looks to improve up on the 897 yards he put up last year as the starter. Though Washington averaged four yards per carry, and was active in the passing game, his steady production out of the backfield still left something to be desired. With more games totaling under 50 yards (five) than those he topped 100 yards (three), it’ll be Washington’s that’s called upon to up his game this spring. As good as quarterback Mike Glennon is, few teams can function one-dimensionally in the long-run. Washington has to be a dependable option in the backfield, be it the first quarter of the first game, or the fourth quarter of the final one. Continue reading

Top 15 ACC Players at the 2012 NFL Draft Combine

Boston College LB Luke Kuechly Leads a Strong Crop of ACC Players to the NFL Draft Combine

Another crop of players leaves the college ranks this spring to take part in one of my favorite events growing up (that is, until Roger Goodell ruined it): the NFL Draft. In preparation for their selections come April, the league released its official Combine invite list, and there are plenty of ACC players in attendance. In total, the 14 teams had 51 selections, with Miami scoring the most (eight). No surprise with the questions still looming over that program.

Below, we’ll list the top 15 prospects invited to the Combine, followed by a quick team-by-team list based on total numbers.

Top 15 ACC Players at the 2012 NFL Draft Combine

1. Luke Kuechly, LB/Boston College

2. David Wilson, RB/Virginia Tech

3. Andre Branch, DE/Clemson

4. Lamar Miller, RB/Miami

5. Dwight Jones, WR/North Carolina

6. T.J. Graham, WR/NC State

7. Sean Spence, LB/Miami

8. Chris Givens, WR/Wake Forest Continue reading