Spring Update: N.C. State

It's been nothing short of a total facelift at N.C. State this offseason. Everything from style to substance- the Wolfpack are indeed becoming a different kind of football program.

In contrast to the oft-bombastic Chuck Amato, the new Wolfpack coach, Tom O'Brien, has been described as "laid-back" by players and yet more of a stickler for details.

O'Brien has done everything from inviting former players back en masse to requiring his team to volunteer at a homeless shelter with him.

And so far, he seems to be pushing the right buttons with his team.

"I'm excited about the changes," said receiver John Dunlap. "Coach O'Brien is laid back. He doesn't say much, but when he does, you know he means it. We really respect him. I think we're going to really play hard for him."

In contrast to Amato, it's never been O'Brien's style to draw attention to himself with flashy clothes or stunts like driving a motorcycle into a press conference for effect.

In return, O'Brien has enjoyed living in a more passionate college sports state, coaching at a school where the support is several times larger than at Boston College.

"I have to prove myself to the people at N.C. State," he said. "But I accept that."

The people at N.C. State accepted his team's performance in the spring game, an entertaining 35-31 game.

"I have to prove myself to the people at N.C. State," he said. "But I accept that."
"It was a good ending," said O'Brien, who observed from both sidelines. "If we compete the way we competed at the end, we're going to win some football games."

The biggest issue is whether returning starter Daniel Evans or one of his challengers will be the No. 1 quarterback in preseason drills.

"I'm not ready to name any starters," O'Brien reiterated. "The quarterbacks competed well. Whoever makes the best decisions will be the starting quarterback."

Keep in mind whoever it is that takes over as State's starting signal caller will have the luxury of handing off to two of the more talented backs in the league in Toney Baker and Andre Brown.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: There is a wealth of talent in the backfield, which is this team's strength. That's fine with N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien who prefers a two-back set and running the football. It will mirror the same type of teams he had a Boston College, except N.C. State has more speed in the receiver corps, if the offensive line can protect and the quarterback can deliver.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: DeMario Pressley leads the way up front, but the Wolfpack must replace run-stuffer Tank Tyler, who was drafted in the third round of this year's draft by Kansas City. The linebacker corp is stout, led by LeRue Rumph, younger brother of the former Miami Hurricanes star now in the NFL.

SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: The return game should be explosive but the Wolfpack must replace punter/kicker John Deraney, who has graduated.

SPRING UPDATES: TB Jamelle Eugene -- He led all rushers in the spring game and gave notice that he will push top tailbacks Toney Baker and Andre Brown for playing time. O'Brien even joked that his performance would tempt the Wolfpack to "go to the wishbone offense." Yeah right, coach.

S Jimmaul Simmons -- He had a 100-yard interception return in the spring game and made several other big plays during spring.

TE Anthony Hill -- Though he didn't catch a TD pass last season, Hill nearly totalled 500 yards in receptions and should fit right into new coach Tom O'Brien's style.

WORTH NOTING: After a series of postseason snubs since joining the ACC, O'Brien has made a number of comments about his former program since leaving for N.C. State, including, "At BC, nine or 10 wins a year was about as good as you could do. The sky is the limit here [at N.C. State]. We're not here to win nine or 10 a year. We're here to win more." Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how his former team responds when the Wolfpack travels to Chestnut Hill, Mass. for the second game of the 2007 season.

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