A Chance To Heal

The Wolfpack is hoping to come out of a bye week with a new look. And that isn't a far-fetched concept because there's a chance that several players who've been ailing with injuries could be ready for full-speed participation.

The most pressing area continues to be the defensive line. Defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy was pretty much a nonfactor in his second game back from a foot injury, but end Brian Slay came back with a vengeance against Central Michigan

"It's great we're getting this week off," Slay said. "If we can get healthy and get some people back, I think we're a dangerous team."

Getting to this week in the season almost seemed like a goal for the Wolfpack because it figured there would be a chance to regroup and replenish the active roster.

It also comes as a convenient time for decisions regarding potentially redshirting some players. Most notably is the situation with sophomore running back Mustafa Greene, who hasn't played yet this year because of offseason foot surgery.

Injuries have been the theme of the first half of the season, overriding almost everything except how those physical setbacks have crippled that defense.

Solid outings for quarterback Mike Glennon, who took over after the well-publicized offseason departure of Russell Wilson to Wisconsin, have been overlooked at times. Glennon has been a bright spot on the team, regularly drawing praise from coach Tom O'Brien.

O'Brien said there have been enough encouraging aspects of the team's play in reaching a 3-3 record.

"If we can build on that when we get people back healthy," he said of the key to the second half of the season.

-- CB David Amerson, a sophomore, has averaged one interception per game this season. His six interceptions lead the Atlantic Coast Conference. The last time an N.C. State player racked up as many as six pick-offs in a season came in 1998.

-- With RB James Washington rambling for more than 100 yards in the past two games, the Wolfpack could have more options regarding the running back position and whether to bring back RB Mustafa Greene, who has been out since the start of the season with a foot injury. Greene was expected back as early as the start of October, but that time has passed.

Washington's emergence has come about with more opportunities. "The biggest thing for him was yards after contact," coach Tom O'Brien said of the recent increase in production.

BYE WEEK MISSION: The Wolfpack need to find out who'll be available from a health perspective going forward as some injured players are expected to be ready to return to key roles following the layoff. Addressing defensive breakdowns will be a priority as well and there are numerous examples to use as motivation, including a late-game 77-yard touchdown play for Central Michigan in the most-recent game. "It will give me something to bang at them all week in practice," coach Tom O'Brien said.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Wolfpack has strictly ACC games remaining, with three home games and three road assignments. Because two of its victories are against Football Championship Subdivision teams, N.C. State must reach the seven-win mark to qualify for a bowl. That means winning four of its remaining six games. The slate includes unbeaten Clemson and once-beaten North Carolina and previous Top 10 team Florida State.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It'll give me something to bang at them all week in practice." -- N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien on the team giving up a long touchdown run late in the victory against Central Michigan.

The Wolfpack should have some questions answered regarding QB Mike Glennon, who never started a college game until this year. He has been steady, and now it's a matter of developing more receivers to go with WR T.J. Graham. The Wolfpack could still stand to find more ways to utilize TE George Bryan, whose impact has been limited so far this season despite his all-conference credentials from the past and the preseason. While the running back situation appears unresolved without RB Mustafa Greene (the projected first-stringer out with an injury), there appears to be enough firepower in place with RB James Washington and emerging redshirt freshman RB Tony Creecy.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The defense has largely been a disappointment, but there have been signs that this group can still become the difference-makers that had been expected. The linebackers returned to full strength with LB Terrell Manning back from minor knee surgery and the secondary has started to fall into a play-making mode. The issue with the defensive backs has been yielding too many big-yardage plays. The whole discussion of the defense usually starts with the injury-ravaged line, but that group is starting to regain its strength in numbers.

-- FB Taylor Gentry doesn't figure to be back on the field on the defensive line again after he was forced to miss a game with an ankle injury. Even though the senior doesn't have a carry in his career, he has factored into the passing attack on offense and he's the team's stalwart on special teams. He filled in on the injury-riddled defensive line as a two-way player in the Oct. 1 game against Georgia Tech until suffering an ankle injury that occurred while he was blocking on offense.

-- TE George Bryan snatched his 15th career touchdown pass in the Oct. 8 game against Central Michigan. On the school's all-time list, that puts the senior in a tie for fifth place for touchdown receptions, sharing that spot with Owen Spencer and Koren Robinson -- both former receivers.

-- LB Audie Cole has been described as a calming voice on a defense that has endured constant disruptions in personnel. Cole is a veteran and he's among the team's top tacklers for the third year in a row.

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