Saturday, July 31, 2010

NC State Preview: Can The Wolfpack Finally Break Through Under Tom O'Brien?

NC State fans were hoping for more success under Tom O’Brien than they have had in three seasons. But with one of the best QBs in the conference returning are results going to finally meet expectations?

I contacted Backing the Pack to get more info on the Wolfpack for the upcoming season.

Q: How much progress has Tom O'Brien made in three years? Is it enough?

A: To a certain extent it's tough to tell because of the ridiculous number of injuries to key players we've endured throughout his tenure. Seems like O'Brien is lucky if he has 70% of the roster at his disposal.

Looking at the program more generally, from a recruiting standpoint, from a coaching decision-making standpoint, I'm not sure there's much progress I can point to.

From a results standpoint, obviously, we're treading water. Going from 6-6 and a bowl game in 2008 to 5-7 in 2009 is not an encouraging sign. And that's definitely not enough.

The honeymoon's over here, and I suspect that if we fall short of a bowl game in 2010, Tom O'Brien is going to be feeling quite a bit of heat and frustration heading into 2011. 2011 may be his last chance to prove he and his staff can get it done here.

Q: What is QB Russell Wilson's status for next season? If he does not return how much confidence do State fans have in Mike Glennon?

A: Although Russell Wilson has signed a contract with the Colorado Rockies and is spending his summer in short-season A-ball, he maintains that he'll be back in August for football. He's never wavered on this issue and I've no reason to doubt him.

If for whatever reason he doesn't come back--or, yikes, gets hurt playing baseball--it will obviously be a disappointment, but I think most folks are confident that Glennon is good enough to avert disaster.

He's well positioned for success having gotten all of the work with the first team offense this spring.

Q: Who is the primary ball carrier going to be after the top two rushers from last year departed?

A: Curtis Underwood and Brandon Barnes were one and two on the depth chart heading into the spring, but both ended up missing the spring game with injuries. Barnes dislocated an ankle, which could prevent him from playing this season. Underwood (I think) will be fine and is probably the favorite at this point. But who knows.

There is sophomore James Washington, who got the first-team carries in the spring game being the only healthy scholarship RB. There is walk-on Travis Leggett, who had a huge spring game and could factor in somewhere. There is incoming juco athlete Tobais Palmer, who could end up at RB.

Q: Why do you think State does not have a difference making offensive line after O'Brien did so well with the unit at BC?

A: I think the main thing is that Chuck Amato left an enormous mess behind. The situation was so bad that Tom O'Brien once said he thought it might take five years to get the line where he wanted it.

We've seen progress here, though we're certainly far from the goal, but the reclamation project has been hampered by injuries (Which you could also say about the program in general).

I think the staff has turned a corner here, and while this year's line is going to take its lumps because it's young, I think we could turn another next season. Talents like RJ Mattes and Robert Crisp, luxuries we've not had in recent memory, should prove an excellent core around which to build.

Q: Are NC State fans excited about the arrival of Jon Tenuta as LB coach or his luster gone after the stint at Notre Dame?

A: The hire was well-received. It's probably led to folks daydreaming about defensive coordinator Mike Archer being shown the door and Tenuta being appointed his replacement.

Q: Who is going to step up on a defensive line that lost all four starters from a year ago?

A: Keep an eye on Michael Lemon at end and JR Sweezy at tackle.

Q: Explain the difference in having a healthy Nate Irving at LB.

A: If he's healthy? Huge. But he probably won't be able to get back to where he was before the accident.

Even so, his experience, his nose for the football, his sure tackling are going to help the defense. His ability to recognize what other teams are doing will put the other linebackers in successful spots more often and make them better players.

Q: What is going to be different about the secondary this year that was 9th in pass defense last season?

A: Ninth in the ACC? Hmm. Better than I thought. Right, uh...let's see. If the secondary is going to improve, having Rashard Smith's services for a full season is important. Earl Wolff, CJ Wilson, and Brandon Bishop were thrown into the fire in '09 and hopefully got the kind of experience that fast-forwards their development a bit.
Jarvis Byrd could provide a bigger impact assuming he's healthy. Everett Proctor and Tobais Palmer are wild cards. Palmer may not even end up on the defensive side of the ball.

Q: Who are some of the freshman that could see significant action this season?

A: Robert Crisp could be an immediate factor at offensive line. Denzelle Good and Sam Jones as well. Everett Proctor at safety, perhaps. There are a lot of opportunities on the defensive side making the shakedown hard to figure.

Q: What has it meant to State fans to beat Carolina three years in a row? How much does it make up for just one bowl bid?

A: That's always going to mean a lot to folks, even when the wins are marginalized by sub-.500 seasons. The wins in 2007 and 2008 were critical for post-season bids, though we came up short of that goal in '07.

Last year's win was anticlimactic because we were already out of bowl consideration, and it didn't do much for me under the circumstances.

How much does it make up for one bowl bid? As far as I'm concerned, not much. The wins haven't been meaningful in the grand scheme, and ultimately that's what I care about. I would've traded 2009s with Carolina in a heartbeat.

Q: Describe a successful season this year. Describe a disappointing one.

A: Considering there is only one game on the schedule I feel certain we'll win, I'd say that seven wins--O'Brien's first winning season here--would be a great success.

O'Brien really needs a winning season, something concrete he can point to and say, "the program is coming together and we're moving in the right direction."

A four or five win season would be a disappointment--it would hurt to squander another year of Russell Wilson like that--but not much of a surprise. Five wins is just more of the same old crap.

Four wins or less and it's liable to get really ugly in Raleigh.

Q: What is your prediction for the season?

Win for sure: Western Carolina
Scary but probable Wins: at Central Florida, at East Carolina, Wake Forest
???: Boston College, at Maryland, Florida State
Aw Nuts: Cincinnati, at Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, at Clemson, at UNC

I'll say...5-7 (2-6). Prove me wrong, kids. Prove me wrong.

My take on NC State…
You can call me surprised at how much O’Brien has struggled at NC State, a program you thought it would be easier to win at than BC based on recruiting area.

I am beginning to think he is just not a good fit in Raleigh being a Midwestern guy who has coach in the Northeast.

I agree with Backing the Pack that State has to get more out of talent they have at QB.

They draw a tough schedule from the Coastal facing Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina this season so it is hard to see a huge improvement on their win total.

For once, I am going to agree exactly with a blogger.

5-7, 6th in Atlantic Division

Thanks again to Backing The Pack for their answers.

Previous Previews:
Boston College


  1. I think Tom O'Brien has been given more than enough leeway at NC State. I'm surprised he isn't under more heat.

    Frankly if he doesn't produce a winning record this season, if I'm the NC State AD I'm looking for someone new.

  2. I would agree. I can see the new AD wanting to bring in their own person if real progress is not made this season.

  3. Unless they're waiting to see what Lowe does. Can State afford two buyouts? It's looking like that's the road we're headed down, Staties.

  4. You are right. State has an identity crisis. They used to be a basketball school, but Amato's success and lack there of in basketball has cluttered it in my opinion.

  5. TruthBKnown Returns10:23 AM

    "Unless they're waiting to see what Lowe does. Can State afford two buyouts? It's looking like that's the road we're headed down, Staties."

    I disagree. I don't think Sid is in any danger whatsoever. Not this year, anyway.


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