An Offseason Look: N.C. State

So much has changed with the Wolfpack. <BR><BR> For starters, there's a new quarterback. But who is it? Jay Davis, Chris Moore, or Marcus Stone? Nobody will know for sure until late August.

The defense has a new coach, Reggie Herring, who was hired by head coach Chuck Amato to be the first defensive coordinator. During the previous four seasons, Amato chose to arrange a staff without a defensive coordinator. But after seeing his defense struggle, he turned to the former Clemson defensive coordinator.

Their relationship extends back to Florida State, where Herring graduated and formerly starred as a linebacker. After a rough experience at Clemson, Herring went to the NFL's Houston Texans.

"Hopefully, I'm a little wiser," Herring said. "I did pick up some things in the NFL that could help us."

Off the field, there have been some behavior issues with players. As for the fans, they are required to pony up $2,000 to secure their season tickets for the future. It's a college version of a seat license, and N.C. State needs the money to pay for a mega-million football facility, as well as additional seating in Carter-Finley Stadium.

What's certain, however, is life without Philip Rivers, the only quarterback Amato needed the past four years, won't be a smooth sail. Rivers started 51 games and led N.C. State to some of its biggest wins in school history. He can't be replaced.

Davis and Stone, who missed the spring game with an injury, are the likely candidates to try and fill a giant void.

"They both learned a lot from Philip ... presence in the huddle, leadership, poise," Amato said. "They're both competing like mad."

But the difference was evident in the spring game when the first and second-team offense failed to score. Amato wasn't ready to give all the credit to his improving defense.

"We still have a long way to go on defense," he said. "But we're getting pretty fast defensively. The secondary has covered better this spring than any time since I've been here."

Preseason Predictions: Running backs ranked first in ACC by Athlon. T.A. McLendon rated No. 10 nationally among running backs by Lindy's. Mario Williams No. 17 at defensive end by Lindy's.

Key Game: Oct 23 vs. Miami -- After a road game at Maryland, the Wolfpack returns home to prepare for the first-ever visit by the Hurricanes. This game will greatly affect the conference race. N.C. State has a terrific home schedule, featuring Ohio State, Miami, Georgia Tech and Florida State. The Pack will need to win at least one of these games, probably two, in order to have a good season.

The Mindset: After spreading the field and throwing to set up the run, the opposite will become the norm this season. N.C. State will retool its offense and build around tailback T.A. McLendon. In four years, Chuck Amato has raised the profile of this program. But N.C. State has still never finished better than third in the league and with increased demand on fans to spend more money, there will be pressure to deliver better results.

Big Shoes to Fill: QB Philip Rivers. No team in the ACC faces a more difficult task to replace a position player. Rivers was a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback, who mixed a competitive edge with a friendliness among teammates.

Quote to Note: "The intensity level, the noise level, was a lot higher. Coach (Reggie) Herring was working so hard, I thought he would blow a lung out. Our attitude has definitely changed." -- N.C. State LB Stephen Tulloch on the impact of newly-hired defensive coordinator Reggie Herring.

Offensive Stars: TB T.A. McLendon -- He has the potential to be the ACC's top running back. At issue is whether he can stay healthy, something that has not happened his first two seasons.

WR Tramaine Hall -- Only two receivers in school history had more receptions than Hall's 69 catches last season. Both were consensus All-Americans, Torry Holt and departed senior Jerricho Cotchery. Hall caught three TDs in a game against Duke. He is also very dangerous as a kickoff return specialist.

Defensive Stars: DE Mario Williams -- As a true freshman last season, Williams showed flashes of why he was so highly rated as a pass-rusher. He had five sacks and 13 tackles for lost yardage.

CB Marcus Hudson -- After sitting out last season, mandated by the school after his involvement in a credit-card fraud scam, Hudson returned in the spring and showed his potential. A very vocal player.

Injury Update: During the final week of spring practice, QB Marcus Stone injured the middle finger of his throwing hand when hitting a defensive teammate's helmet. The dislocated finger kept him out of the spring game.

Senior TB Josh Brown did not participate in drills due to recovery from abdominal surgery. The same was true for OT Chris Colmer, who is still trying to come back from a nerve injury that prevented him from playing last year.

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