CFN's 2011 NC State Preview previews NC State's 2011 football team thta will be led by seniors like tight end George Bryan.

NC State Wolfpack

Preview 2011

- Be Somebody. Blog About NC State Football
- Suggestions or something we missed? Let us know
- Follow us ...

- 2011 ACC Opener - Wake Forest Preview
- NC State at Wake Forest Lookahead

- 2011 NC State Preview | 2011 NC State Offense
- 2011 NC State Defense | 2011 NC State Depth Chart
- NC State Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 

By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Tom O'Brien
5th year: 25-25
Returning Lettermen
Off. 14, Def. 15, ST 0
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best NC State Players
1. DT J.R. Sweezy, Sr.
2. LB Audie Cole, Sr.
3. TE George Bryan, Sr.
4. LB Terrell Manning, Jr.
5. S Earl Wolff, Jr.
6. QB Mike Glennon, Jr.
7. RB Mustafa Greene, Soph.
8. S Brandan Bishop, Jr.
9. OT R.J. Mattes, Jr.
10. WR T.J. Graham, Sr.
2011 Schedule

Sept. 3 Liberty
Sept. 10 at Wake Forest
Sept. 17 South Alabama
Sept. 22 at Cincinnati
Oct. 1 Georgia Tech
Oct. 8 Central Michigan
Oct. 22 at Virginia
Oct. 29 at Florida State
Nov. 5 North Carolina
Nov. 12 at Boston Coll
Nov. 19 Clemson
Nov. 26 Maryland

Now that the Pack appears to be back, can it remain an ACC contender without its star offensive and defensive player?

It's been a tough uphill climb for fifth-year head coach Tom O'Brien, whose nine-win season in 2010 only brought his career record in Raleigh to the .500 mark. It was a solid campaign for North Carolina State, which came close to winning the Atlantic Division and defeated West Virginia for its first bowl win since 2005. However, two of the primary catalysts of the success, QB Russell Wilson and LB Nate Irving, are no longer with the program. Irving was a third round pick of the Denver Broncos. Wilson, one of the best quarterbacks to ever play for the Wolfpack, was never given an opportunity to return. In a somewhat curious decision, O'Brien grew tired of the face of his squad spending so much time playing baseball and opted to turn the page. Enter 6-6, 225-pound junior Mike Glennon, the undisputed key to the Pack's success in 2011.

The gem of the 2008 recruiting class, Glennon has waited patiently for this opportunity, evolving constantly. This is his time to live up to expectations and begin carving out a following after being largely forgotten since signing day. Although he's played sparingly and still has to prove it on Saturdays, his ability and potential are beyond reproach. He has all of the tools, both physically and intellectually, to bust on to the scene and become an instant sensation behind center. O'Brien, in particular, needs that to happen after essentially closing the door on Wilson. And the program, which isn't blessed with a ton of talent, also needs its young quarterback to be special right out of the chute.

NC State is at a bit of a fork in the road entering 2011. Sure, the Pack is fresh off its best season since 2002, when Philip Rivers was still an amateur. However, the immediate future is rather murky, with the fortunes of the upcoming season hinging heavily on a touted, yet unproven passer who's attempted just 52 career throws.

What to look for on offense: Greene energy. Regardless of the situation at quarterback, the Pack wants to establish a power running game, one of the staples of a Tom O'Brien team. However, ranking No. 95 nationally and averaging just 3.4 yards a carry a year ago cannot be repeated. NC State would like to unleash sophomore Mustafa Greene once he returns from a foot injury that required surgery in April. One of the highest-rated backs to ever sign with the program, he has the size and quickness to be the feature back this school has been seeking for years.

What to look for on defense: Pack attack. Regardless of the personnel mix, NC State wants to dial up the pressure from every angle possible. The defense is built on speed, quickness, and the timing needed to get into the backfield and in the face of the quarterback. The defensive ends are iffy, so bank on linebackers Audie Cole, Terrell Manning, and D.J. Green doing a fair amount of blitzing to support a secondary that needs all the help it can get from the rush. The Wolfpack will get burned on occasional, but hopes to offset it with an aggressive style that initiates money plays on defense.

This team will be much better if… the pass defense shows up for the first time since 2007. The Wolfpack secondary has been picked clean over the last three seasons, picking off only nine passes last year and two over the final seven games. With just about everyone back from last year's group, the expectations for improved play are high. If this unit disappoints again, it'll force the offense to partake in more shootouts than it prefers to be in.

The Schedule: The slate is set up nicely for a big start with Liberty and South Alabama wrapped around the ACC opener at Wake Forest, and then comes a winnable game at Cincinnati. With Central Michigan also to play, if the Wolfpack can beat Georgia Tech at home, a 6-0 start is likely before getting an off week. Three road games in four weeks, including dates at Florida State and Boston College around the North Carolina showdown, and then with Clemson and Maryland to close out, the finishing kick is a bear.

Best Offensive Player: Senior TE George Bryan. Russell Wilson loved playing catch with his tight end, as will Mike Glennon. Bryan will be looking for his third consecutive year as an All-ACC first teamer, making 35 grabs for 369 yards and three touchdowns a year ago. At 6-5 and 265 pounds, he has ideal size for matching up with linebackers and the soft hands to encourage the quarterback to look in his direction. An improving blocker, he'll have a chance to be one of the first tight ends selected in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DT J.R. Sweezy. Sweezy is one of those types of players that coaches wish they had more of on the roster. An unheralded linebacker when he arrived in Raleigh, he's grown into a playmaking, 6-5, 293-pound interior lineman. The emotional leader of the Wolfpack defense, he plays with constant energy and a non-stop motor, earning honorable mention All-ACC last fall with 46 tackles, 13 stops behind the line and a half-dozen sacks.

Key players to a successful season: Junior QB Mike Glennon. No surprise here. Not only is he replacing the Wolfpack's best player, Russell Wilson, but he's taking over an offense that's going to need him to be more than just a game manager. NC State doesn't run the ball especially well, which means balance is going to be a must in order to extend drives and reach the end zone. Fair or not, Glennon won't be afforded much of a honeymoon period. Despite still being rather green in terms of relevant snaps, he'll need to play like a seasoned veteran as early as this September.

The season will be a success if ... NC State wins eight games, approaching last season's mark. In the first year after losing an all-star quarterback, it'd be a positive statement if the Pack can keep the momentum going even without Russell Wilson calling the shots. While the Atlantic Division is likely out of reach, it should be able to manage a rather benign schedule that includes Liberty, Wake Forest, South Alabama, and Central Michigan before the break. Things get a bit thornier in late October and November, but back-to-back bowl games and another winning season are attainable for this group.

Key game: Nov. 5 vs. North Carolina. Coming off what figures to be a challenging trip to Tallahassee, the Wolfpack hosts its most intense rival, Carolina. The two programs are constantly vying for local recruits and top billing in the state. Although the Heels have been more successful in February, the Pack has dominated on the field of late, winning the last four games in the series and frustrating the heck out of Carolina head coach Butch Davis.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Scoring per game: NC State 31.8 – Opponents 21.3
- Fumbles lost: NC State 8 – Opponents 20
- First quarter scoring: NC State 104 – Opponents 35

- 2011 NC State Preview | 2011 NC State Offense
- 2011 NC State Defense | 2011 NC State Depth Chart
- NC State Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 

Pack Pride Top Stories