Recruiting Drama Revisited

With 2011 Signing Day just a day away, Pack Pride looks back at some of the pleasant and not so pleasant surprises of the last five years when it comes to football recruiting.


Wolfpack Signee: Audi Augustin
What Happened:
Spring practices and jamborees are a big deal in Florida and one of the real advantages that college coaches enjoy when recruiting the Sunshine State. That early practice paid off when then Wolfpack defensive line coach Todd Stroud spotted Audi Augustin during a spring workout.

As the story goes, Stroud was so impressed with Augustin while viewing him at a Northeast HS practice, he called Amato, who was viewing a workout in Miami, and informed him that he had found the best defensive lineman he's seen in Florida. Amato jumps in his car and makes the hour-long drive from Miami to Oakland Park to catch the tail-end of the practice... Amato made it in just under 45 minutes. Following the practice, Amato and the Wolfpack offered Augustin a scholarship and he became a major priority.

"It was just the
players at NC State."

While Augustin continued to entertain interest from schools like South Carolina, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Michigan State, what they didn't know was that the Pack had all but sewed Augustin up late in 2005.

He sported NC State wallpaper on his cell phone and his parents were solidly in the Pack's corner. His parents would limit contact from other schools as they were all for him signing with NC State.

"I think my parents still feel like they want me to go to NC State," said Augustin. "I don't think my mom cares as much, just as long as I get an education, but my dad wants me to go to NC State. He thinks it is too cold up at Pitt. I don't think it's too cold though, I thought it was nice up there."

Ultimately Augustin would make an official visit to Pittsburgh but would make his commitment to the Wolfpack public at a signing day press conference at his high school.

"I probably made my decision around 3 am on Signing Day," said Augustin. "It was just the players at NC State. That helped me make my decision because they made me feel good about the school. I felt real comfortable with the players, coaching staff... everybody."

"I think [the NC State coaches] kind of had an idea," he added. "I think it was the way I acted on my visit. I believe I gave them the vibe that I was going there, but they didn't know for sure until I called them after my press conference.

"They were excited when I told them. I could tell they were happy."

After redshirting his freshman year, Augustin played in 11 games as a redshirt freshman and recorded four tackles. He finished out his career as a reserve defensive end and graduated from NC State.

Wolfpack Target: Brent Schaeffer
What Happened:
The Brent Schaeffer saga dominated the NC State recruiting scene in 2006, and rightfully so, as most considered him a can't-miss talent at quarterback. Originally inking with Tennessee over the Wolfpack in 2004, Schaeffer would spend one year in Knoxville before taking his game to College of the Sequoias Junior College in California. Schaeffer reportedly wanted to transfer directly to NC State from Tennessee, but the move was blocked by the Vols as NC State loomed on their future schedule.

NC State was considered the favorite to land Schaeffer the second time around. Wolfpack assistant Todd Stroud headlined the recruitment, and the Pack had plenty of playing time to offer. A five-star prospect, Schaeffer was considered the top player in junior college and a must-get for a variety of schools.

"They have a quarterback."

After narrowing his list to Ole Miss, NC State, and Wisconsin, Schaeffer visited all three programs before announcing his decision to attend Ole Miss in mid-January. "That was a big part of the decision, going back and playing in the SEC," said Schaeffer. "I enjoyed playing in the SEC. I enjoyed the atmosphere every Saturday. Each SEC game is real intense."

The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder left-hander said his final decision came down to Mississippi and North Carolina State. The presence of then-sophomore quarterback Marcus Stone - who led the Wolfpack to wins in five of their last six games after taking over as the starter - factored against NC State.

"I liked [the Wolfpack] coming out of high school, before Tennessee," Schaeffer said. "But they have a quarterback coming back and that was a big factor."

The Wolfpack inked Justin Burke in the class and never looked back. Schaeffer had an up-and-down career at Ole Miss, but mostly down as he never living up to all of the hype. As a junior,he completed 47% of his passes with 10 interceptions and only nine touchdowns for 1,442 yards. He was sacked 29 times in 12 games.

In 2007, his final season in Oxford, he lost his starting job and finished the year completing 35-of-92 passes for 578 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions.


Wolfpack Signee: Jay Smith
What Happened:
You can understand and forgive the former NC State coaching staff if they wanted to keep Jay Smith a secret. They had watched him develop over the years at their summer camps and prior to his junior season, he came away rated as the top overall receiver at their 2005 camp.

He was extended an offer on September 1st of his junior season, the first day that colleges can officially offer a prospect.

No one on the recruiting scene talked about him... he was virtually an unknown. Not a peep was heard about Smith until he exploded on the scene at the combine held in Durham, North Carolina. He recorded a tremendous 40-yard dash time of 4.4-seconds on a notoriously slow surface, and Smith was unanimously recognized as the top receiver, with the likes of Greg Little, Dwight Jones, and Mark Barnes among others also in attendance. His performance in the events and during one-on-ones earned him overall combine MVP honors, and with that, the cat was out of the bag.

"I have the opportunity
to be a Wolfpacker."

Early on State led the way and nearly landed a commitment from Smith in the summer of 2006. He wanted to commit to the Pack during an unofficial visit but ended up deciding against it after talking with his father. Ironically, Smith's father brought a former UNC football player, Amos Lawrence, with them on the visit.

As time passed, Miami seemingly became the main competition for Smith with one report (erroneous as it turned out) having the Canes on the cusp of landing his commitment.

However, the fact was Smith had always intended on playing for the Wolfpack, and he verbaled at a press conference in mid-November of his senior year. Despite owning 52 scholarship offers, it turns out NC State was never really threatened by another school.

"After careful consideration and guidance, I presently plan to play college football at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina," Smith stated at his press conference. "Coach Chuck Amato and his staff have been apart of my life as I've grown up. Now I have the opportunity to be a Wolfpacker and help them on their quest to the ACC championship. I plan to pursue a five-year degree program in Architecture."

Amato was fired a couple of weeks after Smith's announcement but his commitment to NC State never wavered... he always wanted to wear the Red and White. He inked with the Wolfpack and redshirted in 2007. Smith has been a reserve wideout his first three seasons but is expected to start as a senior in 2010.

Wolfpack Target: Linwan Euwell
What Happened:
Linwan Euwell was one of NC State's first commitments in the 2007 class, verbaling to the Wolfpack in May of 2006 following an unofficial visit. "I thought about it long and hard last night, and I decided to go ahead and make a commitment to NC State," Euwell stated. "I committed to coach Cignetti and coach Amato up at NC State today. They were excited, they were just like I was when they offered me.

"I liked their defense, the coaching staff, and the facilities. They always have a great defense and defense wins games, defense wins championships. I always liked them growing up, and State has been my favorite for a long time."

"So [NC State] withdrew
their scholarship offer."

A Wolfpack fan on the gridiron (but a UNC basketball fan), his commitment seemed solid, but eyebrows raised when he attended a summer camp at North Carolina. An unknown from the eastern part of the state, Euwell camped with the Heels after his head coach paid for the camp, and a strong performance led to an offer from the Tar Heels. "The State coaches just told me to go up there and don't get caught up in all the hype. I'm still committed to NC State," he said. "Their defense attracted me to them... I'm still firm right now."

UNC assistant Ken Browning never backed off and the crack he was looking for opened when NC State head coach Chuck Amato was fired. UNC's John Bunting was fired as well, but the Heels retained Browning while Curt Cignetti, NC State's assistant in charge of recruiting Euwell, was let go. Euwell continued to maintain that he was solidly committed to NC State, despite taking an unofficial to UNC for a basketball game in early January and an official visit. Euwell's statements started to differ a bit following those trips.

"I don't want to say right now," he stated after his visit to UNC. "I want to think things through and I don't want things out there [to the public]. "[My commitment] is still there," said Euwell. "I'm just keeping my options open – that's it."

Word started to circulate that Euwell was planning a Signing Day switch to North Carolina and he was holding on to his commitment hoping the Wolfpack would offer a scholarship to teammate Sam Battle. NC State caught wind of the rumors and gave Euwell an ultimatum. He didn't give them the answer they were looking for, and the Wolfpack pulled his scholarship offer.

"On Sunday he told both NC State and North Carolina that he would make a decision in a few days, and he wanted a little more time [from Sunday]," said Euwell's coach Raymond Cobb. "Last night I think NC State decided they need a definite answer from Linwan during their in-home visit because they needed to know either they were getting him or that they needed to go in another direction.

"In talking with Linwan, he said that last night he told [coach Willis] that he wasn't ready to make a decision, so [NC State] withdrew their scholarship offer. I think they wanted an answer last night, and I think he wanted through this weekend to make a final decision."

A day later he verbally committed to North Carolina and signed with the Tar Heels. Euwell redshirted in 2007, as he is making the move from defensive end to linebacker. He suffered a torn ACL during the season. He has spent his career as a backup defensive end for the Tar Heels.


Wolfpack Signee: R.J. Mattes
What Happened:
NC State made R.J. Mattes a priority early in the recruiting process, and it was all about relationships.

R.J.'s dad, Ron, played offensive tackle at Virginia in the early 1980s before spending seven seasons in the National Football League. At that time, Tom O'Brien was the offensive line coach for the Cavaliers. O'Brien and the elder Mattes remain close, and that bond was critical as O'Brien had began to recruit Mattes while still at Boston College.

However, there was stiff competition for the consensus top-five in-state prospect. Regarded as the top offensive lineman in the Carolinas and the No. 11 offensive tackle in the country according to, garnered dozens of offers but narrowed his focus to NC State, Clemson, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina fairly early.

NC State made a strategic move by pushing to land the first official visit for Mattes, a questionable move given he had stated he would take all five trips.

"I went with my gut feeling."

He tripped to NC State the weekend the Wolfpack defeated in-state rival North Carolina, a thrilling win that left Carter-Finley Stadium in a frenzy. It sounds like that first trip set the bar for the other trips Mattes would take.

"It definitely set the bar, and I never forgot about that experience," said Mattes. "I just remember how crazy that atmosphere was and how great of an experience I had.

"It was an awesome visit. The College Inn, where I'll be staying, is amazing and my host, J.R. Sweezy, he showed me a good time. I had a blast on my visit."

As his decision drew near, Mattes hosted all five head coaches for in-home visits, and O'Brien stressed the success he had in putting offensive linemen in the NFL, which played a role in R.J.'s final decision.

"I kind of started really getting that feeling after my in-home visit with O'Brien," said Mattes. "It was a great in-home... it was really great. He came in and stayed a few hours an he gave me the numbers on how many linemen he has put in the NFL... that will catch any offensive lineman's attention.

"Plus being with him and seeing him interact with my dad... that strong relationship they have, it all felt good."

Still most believe Mattes was headed to Clemson. Even he heard the rumors as the day of his announcement arrived.

I kept hearing all kinds of rumors," Mattes said when he picked NC State. "To be honest with you, I never had a clue where I was going... I didn't know for sure until here recently. It surprised me that some people had me going to this school or that school.

"Everyone would bug me about it, but I was telling them the truth when I said I had no idea and I had no leaders."

"I went with my gut feeling," he added. "It was a hard decision because a lot of great schools were looking at me. A lot of them wanted me. I feel I did a good job of evaluating all of my options, and it finally clicked that NC State was the best place for me. That is why I chose the Wolfpack.

"My dad was all pumped up. He has a great relationship with coach O'Brien and it's close to home. Plus, we have a lot of friends back home that are NC State fans... I know they all will be coming up to Raleigh and tailgating with my dad."

Wolfpack Target: Eddie "E.J." Whitley
What Happened:
Pack fans still talk about it "what if" every time Eddie Whitley makes a big play for Virginia Tech.

NC State's in-state recruiting was smoking in the spring and summer of 2007. The Pack landed commitments from top 10 prospects Dwayne Maddox and Brandon Barnes, and led for linebacker Terrell Manning, the state's top player, near the end of the summer.

Also on State's radar was Whitley. A standout defensive back at Matthews (NC) Butler High School, Whitley received an early offer from NC State and held over a dozen before cutting his list to NC State and Virginia Tech.

A knee injury prevented him from working out at the Wolfpack's camp, but he held an offer and still made the drive up to talk with the Wolfpack coaches and hang out with potential recruits. He had also developed a strong relationship with defensive backs coach Mike Reed.

"I really did favor NC State."

"Coach Reed pushes everybody to the limit," said Whitley. "I feel like he will get the best out of you. He's a real cool guy.

"He was telling me that he's going to push me as hard as he can, but he would never try and get me to do something he can't do. He told me that I'm their guy at defensive back."

Most felt State was in terrific shape, and actually led for Whitley, but he took a trip to Virginia Tech days before announcing his decision and the Hokies made their push.

"I really did favor NC State," Whitley said at the time. "I came back from a visit there, and I really liked it a lot. But I had never gotten to tour the Virginia Tech campus. The last time I visited Tech was for football camp, and I just toured the football facilities. I didn't go on campus and talk to people. When I finally did that, I really saw a difference between Virginia Tech and N.C. State, in how genuine the people are.

"My mom and my coach really pushed me to make one more visit before I made my decision. I really wanted to get the recruiting process over with, but I think I wanted to visit Virginia Tech one more time."

That visit sold Whitley on Virginia Tech, and also yielded a memorable story that fans of both programs often joke about even today.

"Like for example, this one dude had butter on the back of his pants," Whitley said, referring to an incident on his Tech trip. "And somebody else told him, 'Man, you got butter on your pants.' I just don't feel like that kind of thing would have happened at N.C. State. They just would have let him keep walking around."

Days later he picked Virginia Tech on ESPNU. He is now a starting safety for the Hokies.


Wolfpack Signee: Asa Watson
What Happened:
Watson, largely an unknown for much of the process, ended up being arguably the highest-rated recruit in NC State's 2009 recruiting class.

The Rock Hill (SC) standout was on the Wolfpack's radar early, but State and other programs hoped he would stay below the radar and not emerge as a national recruit. His father, Ken Watson, played football at Maryland and his brother, Ben Watson, played football collegiately at Georgia and plays tight end for the Cleveland Browns.

Asa had the pedigree and production. He landed offers from NC State, Maryland, Duke, and Boston College among others, but the in-state programs didn't pursue.

"It just seemed
like everything was right."

In the spring and summer few media outlets were able to reach him, but State tight ends coach Jim Bridge was all over him. He vigorously recruited Watson and let him know that he was the top priority at tight end for the Wolfpack.

Watson, who carried a 4.2-grade point average in the classroom, had a huge senior season and performed well in the Shrine Bowl. He ended up being ranked the No. 10 tight end nationally, and a four-star recruit, and after the Shrine Bowl he turned his attention to recruiting.

Watson visited Duke, Maryland, and NC State before selecting the Wolfpack in mid-January.

"It just seemed like everything was right," said Watson. "I talked to the players and really had a good time. Russell (Wilson) was great and he was just a great guy. Sterling Lucas was cool too and they just told me how they made their decisions. I went home and prayed about it and talked to my parents. That's the best place for me and that's where I'm going.

"My little brother actually knew I was going to pick State. I told him how much I liked it and everything so he knew I was going to go to NC State so he was really excited. But my parents, they liked it and everybody enjoyed it."

Wolfpack Target: Donte Moss
What Happened:
We caught our first glimpse of Jacksonville (NC) Northside defensive end Donte Moss at the Elite 8 Combine in Snow Hill, North Carolina in March 2007 when he was just a high school sophomore.

Because he is just a rising junior, a lot of folks didn't know about Moss, but he burst on the scene at the Elite 8 Combine.

Checking in at 6-foot-4 and 226 pounds, Moss finished first overall in the 225+-pound weight class, despite being just a rising junior. He recorded a 4.63 and a 4.82 in the 40-yard dash, 17 reps of 185 on the bench, a 4.53 pro shuttle, and a 33-inch vertical jump, showcasing his outstanding athleticism.

"I felt I did good," Moss stated after claiming his trophy. "I couldn't do my best because of the weather, but I feel I did good."

Fielding questions while wearing a bright red NC State jacket, Moss admitted at the time that he was leaning to NC State.

"I want to go to State," said Moss. "I just grew up liking State. They've got a good engineering program, and the facilities there are nice. Man, those are nice. I went up there one time with the school, and it's just nice."

"If they offered me, I'd take it."

He even went so far as to say he would accept an offer from NC State once the Wolfpack could officially offer, which couldn't be until later that fall.

"If they offered me, I'd take it," said Moss. "I'd take it."

NC State was actually the first school to officially offer Moss a scholarship, but he didn't commit.

"He went to visit NC State's campus when they played Wofford, and they sent us an official offer for him," said Jacksonville (NC) Northside head coach Bob Eason. "He's a young kid, and I know he was extremely happy to get that first offer.

"The main thing I told him was to sit down and see what other offers are out there for him. I know he enjoyed the atmosphere up at State, and I think State has a great program. I'm sure it is a very big offer for him. It's close to home, and he's a big State fan so it's probably a great fit for him."

It was obvious that he was going to be one of the elite recruits in the 2009 recruiting class, but his recruitment didn't develop into much of a recruitment at all. In fact, Moss was singing a different tune by mid-February of his junior year.

I'm more open-minded now, than I was last year," Moss told Inside Carolina. "So I'm really open to State and Carolina equally now. It's not like State is higher than Carolina; it's more like State and Carolina are equal."

UNC made a big move at their Junior Day, which Moss attended with his mother, who would play a major role in his college decision.

"The thing that really stands out about Carolina is that I have family there at the school and I know people that are on the team," Moss said at the time. "That will really help me out, because they already been through what I'm about to go through. Whenever I get lost, I can go to them and they'll help me out. That's why Carolina is really standing out right now."

When the time come to make his final decision, just a couple of weeks after North Carolina's Junior Day, Moss wasn't even considering NC State. He committed to the Tar Heels on March 10, 2008.

"Today I talked to the [UNC] coaches about how I'm pretty sure I want to come to Carolina," Moss told Inside Carolina, "because [Maryland] was really the only other school that I had in mind."

He would emerge as a five-star prospect and the No. 1 defensive end prospect in the country according to A rising junior for the Tar Heels, Moss now starts at defensive end.


Wolfpack Signee: David Amerson
What Happened:
Capable of playing any position in the defensive backfield, also fully qualified and a terrific student, there was never any doubt that David Amerson was going to be a hot commodity on the recruiting trail.

As a junior, Amerson tallied 60 tackles and nine interceptions while helping Dudley to a perfect 16-0 record and state championship. It was his first season playing football on the high school level, as he played just basketball his first two years at Dudley.

"I loved the atmosphere."

He landed scholarship offers from programs such as NC State, Notre Dame, Clemson, LSU, Wake Forest, UNC, Virginia Tech, Virginia, and Texas Tech among others, but by mid-Spring it was shaping up as a two-horse race.

Sure, Amerson still listed Clemson, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech, but most knew Notre Dame and NC State led the Pack. In fact, following a string of unofficial visits to Raleigh, Amerson named NC State his leader in early July.

"I could say State is my favorite right now," he said. "It's just the connection I have with them... the coaches and the players. It's really everything about them."

The Pack continued to lead for the next couple of months but knew Amerson's official visit to Notre Dame would be the stumbling block. He visited the Fighting Irish in October while they played Michigan State and left with a new leader.

"Notre Dame is probably in the lead right now," Amerson said. "I told the coaches I liked everything about Notre Dame, but before I pull the trigger I want to be 100 percent sure about everything and have no doubts in my mind."

Luckily for NC State he didn't commit and he followed through with his November official to Raleigh. He committed to the Wolfpack following the visit.

"I got that feeling. I enjoyed being around the players, and I loved the atmosphere. I had been leaning to them for a long time and it basically came down to State and Notre Dame.

"I just got that feeling and know that's where I want to go."

A consensus top-10 prospect in the state, Amerson gave the Wolfpack their fourth top-10 verbal, joining Robert Crisp, Tony Creecy, Fre'Shad Hunter. He solidified his ranking with a strong showing at the 2009 Shrine Bowl, and signed with State that February.

Amerson contributed right away as a true freshman, initially on special teams before breaking in as a starter at cornerback midway through the season. In 13 games he totaled 57 tackles and a forced fumble.

Wolfpack Target: Reggie Wilkins
What Happened:
Because NC State landed Crisp, Amerson, Creecy, and Hunter relatively early, there wasn't much late recruiting drama in the 2010 class.

However, that all changed on November 30th when Shelby (NC) Crest wideout Reggie Wilkins abruptly decommitted from North Carolina and committed to NC State.

"I wanted to play for coach (Tom) O'Brien," Wilkins said in a statement released by Crest football coach Roy Kirby. "I've become pretty good friends with this year's recruits and some of the guys that are already there."

Recruited by Wolfpack linebackers coach Andy McCollum, rumors persisted that Wilkins personally favored NC State but family pressure led to him originally picking the Tar Heels.

"I like what Carolina has to offer."

Two weeks later, he would schedule an official visit to North Carolina and NC State had to know that the commitment wasn't solid.

"Even thought I de-committed and committed to State, that doesn't mean I've knocked Carolina out of it," Wilkins told Inside Carolina. "[UNC] is still in my top choices."

"I guess the depth at the receiver position played a role in my decision," Wilkins told Pack Pride. "I think I have a shot at more playing time as soon as I get to State.

"When I committed to coach McCollum he was jumping up and down and excited. When I was at the State-Carolina game, I was talking to coach O'Brien about it, and he just hugged me. He said he doesn't just hug everybody so that made me feel good about my decision."

Wilkins took January official visits to Louisville and NC State before heading to North Carolina for his final trip. Going into the visit he maintained that he was committed to NC State.

"I'm committed to State," he said. "I don't really know what it would take to change my mind. I'm just going to go on the visit to Carolina.

"I guess Signing Day is when it will be official because I'm already committed to State."

The tune changed again a few days later. Wilkins committed to UNC on January 25th.

"I'll be signing with Carolina," Wilkins said Monday afternoon. "That's where I'm committed. I told [the UNC coaches] I was coming and I de-committed [from NC State].

"I like what Carolina has to offer, how they will use me, and how I can get a good education there."

Wilkins redshirted as a true freshman.

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