Biggest Recruiting Battle Victory: Kenderius Whitehead
NC State desperately wanted to sign an elite defensive end in the class of 2012 and that goal thrust them into the hottest recruiting battle of the year.
With close to two dozen offers, Whitehead narrowed his focus to just three- NC State, Clemson and Georgia. The Pack was able to persuade him to take an official visit to Raleigh with teammate Jarnor Jones although expectations for success at the time were quite low. The thought at the time was that Whitehead was simply accompanying a friend on the visit and virtually no one gave State much of a realistic shot to sway him.
However, a couple of key things happened on the visit. Whitehead made a very strong connection with head coach Tom O'Brien and State offered the major he was looking for- Computer Science.
While Clemson and Georgia experts alternated in proclaiming their teams the favorite, it was the Wolfpack that had quietly emerged as the team to beat. Once Whitehead made a return visit to State with his mother, it was all but done.
Whitehead did follow through with an official visit to Clemson afterwards and the Wolfpack coaches withstood an all out assault from the Georgia coaching staff. However, despite the Tigers and Dawg's best effort and a MLK coaching staff that seemed intent on Whitehead going anywhere but NC State, the Pack held on. In fact, Whitehead didn't go to school the two days leading up to signing day so he wouldn't be pressured by people at his school. Equally interesting was NC State's decision to send Whitehead's letter of intent to his house instead of sending it to the school, which is customary.
On signing day, Whitehead formally signed with NC State which gave the Pack one of the day's biggest recruiting surprises.
Past Winners: Mike Rose, David Amerson, Asa Watson, R.J. Mattes, Desmond Roberts, and Kyle Newell
One That Got Away: James Summers
James Summers was a big NC State lean and a proclaimed Wolfpack fan although that fact hasn't always played to the Pack's advantage historically. After delaying his commitment at the suggestion of his high school coach, Summers finally committed to NC State in April, 2011.
Summers remained a solid commitment to NC State for months although he would routinely mention along the way that UNC was still in his ear.
The Shrine Bowl and an official visit to State came and went and the Pack appeared to be in good shape. However, UNC was able to land an official visit with Summers in late January which threw his recruiting up in the air.
Tom O'Brien and Mike Reed had an in-home visit with Summers on the Monday after his official visit to UNC and Summers told the Wolfpack coaches that he was still committed. Carolina head coach Larry Fedora visited Summers on Wednesday and that meeting helped flip Summers to the Heels.
In the end, it wasn't about Summers liking UNC better than State. It was simply a player choosing a school that would give him the best shot to stick at his preferred position. Summers looked at the Pack and saw five quarterbacks ahead of him. He evaluated UNC, and felt he could compete for a starting spot as a freshman. That fact (believable or not) played the biggest role in his commitment to UNC.
Past Winners: Vad Lee, Reggie Wilkins, Edwin Herbert, Nick Becton, Matt Simms, and Dorian Munroe
Curiosity Factor: Desmond Owino
How often does a player come along with absolutely no experience as a football player but ends up with a half dozen scholarship offers? Such was the case with Raleigh (NC) Sanderson defensive end Desmond Owino.
At 6-5, 235 pounds, Owino has a college-ready frame and you see glimpses of his potential when you watch his highlight film. He has virtually no technique and got by in 2011 on nothing but sheer athletic ability. Owino can flat out motor and once he develops a knowledge of the game, the sky will be the limit for how far he can go.
A redshirt year in 2012 is almost a certainty but Owino is definitely one of those players you could see developing into a monster defensive lineman by his third year in the program.
Past Winners: Maurice Morgan, Theo Rich, Darryl Cato-Bishop, Ahmad Jaradat, and Audie Cole
Class Jewel: Kenderius Whitehead
There's no doubt that Whitehead was NC State biggest recruiting battle won and the jewel of the 2012 class. He was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and 24/7 sports and was selected to play in the Semper Fidelis all-star game.
He virtually had his choice of colleges from around the southeast region and his decision to commit to NC State was a shock and provided the Pack with some positive recruiting press.
Whitehead also gave the Wolfpack the caliber of player at defensive end that has eluded them over the last several years.
Past Winners: Niklas Sade, Rob Crisp, Bryan Underwood, Mike Glennon, George Bryan, Andre Brown, T.A. McLendon, Mario Williams, and DeMario Pressley
Class Sleeper: Niles Clark
Perhaps because he committed so early in the process, Clark was barely a blip on the recruiting radar outside of those who follow NC State during 2011.
However, during the state playoffs there were few better in the state of Georgia and if that's any indication of what he can bring to Raleigh then Clark's future looks extremely bright.
In one game he blocked a crucial extra point. In another, he had a pick six that proved pivotal in a win for Lassiter. He held four-star junior Carlos Burse to three catches, Maryland signee Amba Etta-Tawo to just one reception and Georgia commit Blake Tibbs to three catches.
While smallish at 5-10, Clark is a tremendous athlete, is physical, and has plenty of experience playing in zone coverage, which State utilizes often. He will have the luxury of learning behind an experienced group of corners once he arrives at NC State. If he can translate his success against some of Georgia's top talent to the collegiate level, Clark may prove to be the latest O'Brien sleeper to excel.
Past Winners: Ty McGill, Logan Winkles, Deion Roberson, T.J. Graham, Curtis Underwood, Manny Lawson, Jamesly Jean, Jeremy Gray, and Matt Kushner
Recruiter Of The Year: Jerry Petercuskie
For the second year in a row we're naming recruiting coordinator Jerry Petercuskie our top recruiter. With seven prospects signed, he nearly doubled the production of the next closest coach on the Wolfpack coaching staff. Equally impressive is the fact that Petercuskie landed players from North Carolina, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and a transfer from Colorado State.
Unlike other coaches that have designated areas of the country to recruit, Petercuskie literally recruits from coast-to-coast and that paid big dividends in 2012.
Petercuskie was key in landing both of NC State's quarterbacks. He was one of the first BCS-level coaches to identify Manny Stocker's ability and offered him shortly after camp. Petercuskie also jumped on Colorado State quarterback Pete Thomas once he announced his decision to transfer and helped land him over UCLA and Vanderbilt.
Petercuskie heads up the Wolfpack's prep and junior college recruiting and that paved the way to commitments from defensive tackle Deylan Buntyn (originally signed with Winston-Salem State), linebacker Robert Caldwell (turned down an Iowa offer) offensive lineman John Tu'uta and offensive lineman Quincy McKinney (originally signed with South Carolina). These signings were crucial because they accounted for three of NC State's four commitments along the offensive line and Caldwell's decision to pick NC State proved critical because of the Pack's immediate needs at linebacker.
Perhaps Petercuskie's biggest recruiting victory was landing defensive tackle K'Hadree Hooker. He picked State over offers from Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech among others. Hooker would go on to become one of the Wolfpack's biggest salesmen throughout the 2011 recruiting year and has the ability to play early in his career.
Past Winners: Jerry Petercuskie, Mike Reed, Jim Bridge, Tom O'Brien, entire Pack staff, Joe Pate, Curt Cignetti, and Doc Holliday