Star Struck: Re-Ranking The Pack

Pack Pride takes a look back at the players departing NC State prior to the 2012 season. We review their ranking exiting high school and re-rank each based on their career at NC State.

Pack Pride takes a look back at the players departing NC State prior to the 2012 season. We review their ranking exiting high school and re-rank each based on their career at NC State.

George Bryan, Tight End
High School Recruiting Ranking: 3-star, No. 41 offensive tackle
Twice a first-team All-ACC selection and once a second-team all-league pick, Bryan will go down as one of the top tight ends in the history of Wolfpack football. The 6-5, 265-pounder from Castle Hayne, N.C., reeled in 123 receptions, the most ever by a State tight end and good for 10th-most in school annals. He added 1,294 yards and 17 touchdowns as well.
Elected a team captain in his final campaign, Bryan endured an uneven final season, but he turned it on late to help life the Pack to a bowl bid. He wrapped up the regular season with 30 grabs for 302 yards and four touchdowns.
Pack Pride's Re-Ranking: 4-star

Justin Byers, Cornerback
High School Recruiting Ranking: 2-star, unrated
A 6-0, 183-pound defensive back out of Charlotte, N.C., Byers was an important contributor earlier in his career, notching 14 starts. He shuffled around the secondary, playing safety and cornerback, but as the talent was upgraded, his role disappeared. In his final season, Byers notched no statistics and wasn’t even listed in the game notes from week to week.
Pack Pride's Re-Ranking: 2-star

Audi Cole, Linebacker
High School Recruiting Ranking: 2-star, unrated
One of O’Brien’s first big out-of-state coups, Cole was a high school quarterback with potential at a number of positions. After settling in at linebacker, the 6-5, 239-pounder from Monroe, Mich., turned himself into a high-quality Division I ‘backer. Moving from strongside to the middle as a redshirt senior, he posted 98 tackles, good for second on the team, along with 9.5 stops for losses, 3.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.

In 37 starts headed into the bowl game, Cole racked up 307 tackles, including 28.5 for losses, plus 13 sacks, 16 quarterback pressures, seven pass breakups, seven forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception in his career. He came to embody the quintessential O’Brien recruit—little fanfare or attention from the rankings services, but tough, versatile, athletic and productive.
Pack Pride's Re-Ranking: 3-star

Wayne Crawford, Offensive/Defensive Lineman
High School Recruiting Ranking: 2-star, No. 88 defensive tackle
A one-time Boston College recruit, Crawford followed O’Brien to Raleigh. The 6-3, 303-pounder from Philadelphia started on the defensive line, but shifted over to play a reserve role at guard and center for two-and-a-half years. However, due to a string of injuries along the Pack’s defensive front, he moved back to defense halfway through his final season, recording five tackles, including sharing a stop for loss, the rest of the way.

An important program guy, Crawford was extremely active in charitable activities and regarded as the ultimate team player, willing to play at any spot to help the squad.
Pack Pride's Re-Ranking: 2-star

Taylor Gentry, Fullback
High School Recruiting Ranking: unrated, walk-on
A former walk-on, Gentry is one of the feel-good stories thus far in the O’Brien era. The hometown product was a receiver in high school, but bulked up to 6-2, 250 pounds, turning himself into a quality fullback and a special-teams demon. Unfortunately, he was injured against Georgia Tech in a game that saw him play both ways, at fullback and at defensive tackle, and missed the remainder of the regular season. He still managed to lead the Pack in special-teams tackles for the third season in a row, while adding seven receptions for 42 yards and two touchdowns.

Though an appeal for a medical hardship has been filed on Gentry’s behalf, it is likely that his career will have ended in the Belk Bowl. In 18 starts, he notched 38 receptions for 313 yards and five touchdowns, though he never got a single carry. State hopes that Taylor’s brother, Zach, will continue the tradition of Gentrys wreaking havoc on opposing special-teams units for years to come.
Pack Pride's Re-Ranking: 3-star

T.J. Graham, Wide Receiver/Returner
High School Recruiting Ranking: 3-star, No. 140 wide receiver
A track standout with football skills, the 6-0, 180-pounder from Raleigh played immediately at State, stamping himself as one of the land’s very best return men from the start, earning honorable-mention All-ACC recognition as a rookie. As his career progressed, he became a more complete player, until he paced the Pack in receptions (39), yards (641), average (16.4) and receiving scores (five) in his final campaign. Along the way, he earned first-team All-ACC honors, delivered three straight 100-yard receiving games, was named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List as the country’s top wideout and became the conference’s all-time leader in kickoff return yardage.

For his career, Graham returned 134 kickoffs for 3,090 yards (23.1 yards per return) and two touchdowns, adding 65 punt returns for 626 yards (9.6 yards per return) and two more scores. As a receiver, he collected 92 receptions for 1,337 yards (14.5 yards per catch) and 10 more touchdowns. Not only did he finish as the school’s and ACC’s top kickoff return man, but he owns the State record for longest kickoff return (100 yards vs. Boston College) and single-game all-purpose yardage (336 yards vs. Cincinnati), and ended up fifth in school history in punt-return yardage. Graham also finished the regular season ranked second all-time at NC State and in the top 15 in league history in career all-purpose yardage (5,044 yards). For good measure, he was accorded second-team All-American status as a sprinter in track and field as well.

Graham became a more well-rounded player every year, while never compromising his status as a threat to take any kick the distance for the Pack. He’ll likely always be remembered for his dramatic punt return for a touchdown to help NC State to its fourth straight win over UNC in 2010, and his versatility should allow him to be regarded as one of top combo players in the history of the Wolfpack program.
Pack Pride's Re-Ranking: 4-star

Steven Howard, Wide Receiver
High School Recruiting Ranking: 3-star, No. 78 wide receiver
A graduate student out of Charlotte, N.C., Howard wrapped up his career with 41 catches for 383 yards and two touchdowns. However, the 6-2, 200-pounder will most likely be remembered more for his off-the-field exploits; a rousing story about his bond with a gentleman with ALS and his family emerged late in his senior season, earning Howard the eternal respect of all Wolfpack fans.
Pack Pride's Re-Ranking: 2-star

Markus Kuhn, Defensive Tackle
High School Recruiting Ranking: 3-star, No. 70 defensive end
At 25 years old, Kuhn is the elder statesman among Pack players, and his journey to Raleigh is a remarkable one. The 6-4, 303-pounder from Weinheim, Germany, essentially showed up on the doorstop of the Wolfpack’s Murphy Center, and five years later, he had emerged as one of State’s most important defenders.

Along the way, the graduate student redshirted the 2009 season in order to help space out scholarships better, and he played his unquestioned best ball in his last campaign. The versatile Kuhn played both end and tackle in his career, and he finished with 115 tackles, including 16 for losses, 6.5 sacks, 24 quarterback pressures, six pass breakups and one forced fumble, with 14 career starts. Not bad for a guy who came more than 4,000 miles with scant experience playing American football.
Pack Pride's Re-Ranking: 3-star

Dwayne Maddox, Linebacker
High School Recruiting Ranking: 3-star, No. 17 middle linebacker
One of O’Brien’s first key in-state recruits, Maddox arrived from Shelby, N.C., with a lofty pedigree. Forced into action immediately, he became a vital utility guy as his career progress, with the knowledge and ability needed to play all three linebacker spots for State. As a senior, the 6-2, 234-pounder filled in for Terrell Manning on the weakside when Manning was hurt, then finished the season on the strongside in place of the inured D.J. Green. His solid play down the stretch was essential to the Wolfpack’s run to bowl eligibility.

In 21 career starts, Maddox recorded 135 tackles, including 11.5 for losses, plus two sacks, eight quarterback pressures and three pass breakups. While he may never have emerged as the star many had predicted, he developed into a crucial contributor to the linebacking corps in all four years.
Pack Pride's Re-Ranking: 3-star

Terrell Manning, Linebacker
High School Recruiting Ranking: 4-star, No. 6 weakside linebacker
Manning was arguably NC State's top recruit in the 2008 class, as many considered the Laurinburg (NC) Scotland County standout to be the state's top prospect.

However, a serious knee injury he sustained in his final high school game forced him to redshirt as a true freshman and some wondered if it would prevent him from reaching his full potential.

Manning started slowly in 2009, but would emerge as a two-year starter for the Wolfpack as a redshirt sophomore and redshirt junior. He finished his junior season with 76 tackles and 14.5 tackles for a loss. He also recorded 5.5 sacks, five pass breakups, four forced fumbles, three interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. His emergence was a major factor to NC State's success, and Manning was tabbed a second-team All-ACC selection following the season.

Most analysts had him listed as one of the top returning defensive players heading into 2012, but Manning elected to declare for the NFL Draft, where he was selected in the fifth round by the Green Bay Packers.

Pack Pride's Re-Ranking: 4-star

Mikel Overgaard, Offensive Tackle
High School Recruiting Ranking: 2-star
A transfer from Snow College, this Weiser, Idaho, native played both tackle spots at different times during his two seasons in Raleigh. The 6-6, 289-pounder started 14 games for the Wolfpack, allowing eight sacks as a senior, but also playing a vital role in helping the Pack score 93 points in its final two regular-season games this year.
Pack Pride's Re-Ranking: 2-star

Jeff Rieskamp, Defensive End
High School Recruiting Ranking: 2-star, unrated
Representing the first notable get out of O’Brien’s home state of Ohio, Rieskamp developed into a high-energy grinder for the Pack. Unfortunately, injuries hampered his production, rendering his a what-might-have-been career. The 6-3, 245-pounder suffered a shoulder injury in the first game of his final season, and he never hit the field again.

For his career, Rieskamp posted 51 tackles, including 7.5 for losses, four sacks, 25 quarterback hurries, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery. His non-stop motor and pass-rushing capabilities were missed this season for the Wolfpack.
Pack Pride's Re-Ranking: 2-star

Jay Smith, Wide Receiver
High School Recruiting Ranking: 4-star, No. 29 wide receiver
Smith was highly regarded coming out of high school in Norfolk, Va., and while he never capitalized on that billing, he did seize his opportunity in his final season. He entered 2011 with just 22 career grabs for 221 yards and one score, but he easily eclipsed those totals in his last year, putting up 36 receptions for 347 yards and four touchdowns.

The 6-2, 209-pounder started 14 games in his career, securing 58 grabs for 568 yards and five touchdowns. Smith’s physical style and willingness to venture over the middle made him a popular—and important—target of quarterback Mike Glennon’s this season.
Pack Pride's Re-Ranking: 3-star

J.R. Sweezy, Defensive Tackle
High School Recruiting Ranking: 2-star, unrated
Overcoming some early issues with maturity, Sweezy became a team captain and a model player by his final season. Unfortunately, injuries slowed him in his last go-around, knocking him out of four games and limiting his repetitions throughout the year. The 6-5, 293-pounder from Mooresville, N.C., brought intensity and key leadership down the stretch, however, as the Pack rallied to gain a bowl berth.

Sweezy wrapped up the regular season with career numbers of 82 tackles, including 21 for losses, 11 sacks, 32 quarterback pressures, three pass breakups, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in 19 starts. He was an honorable-mention All-ACC choice in 2010, and he anchored the middle of the Pack defensive line throughout his time in Raleigh.
Pack Pride's Re-Ranking: 3-star

Curtis Underwood, Jr., Running Back
High School Recruiting Ranking: 2-star, unrated
Underwood’s story appeared to be over after last season, when he appeared destined for a transfer to a lower division of football. However, an injury to incumbent starter Mustafa Greene led the Pack to invite Underwood back, and the 5-11, 220-pounder from Lackawanna, N.Y., wasted no time making an impact. In the first game of the season, he tallied a career-best 114 yards. He would go on to miss three games with a foot injury in the middle of the year and somewhat surprisingly—and despite a hefty 5.2-yards-per-carry average—never got back into the tailback rotation.

For his career, Underwood put up 497 rushing yards on 112 carries, with two touchdowns, while adding five receptions for 43 yards and another score. Beyond the number, he’ll most likely be remembered as a guy who came back to the program when he was really needed, which endeared him to most Pack fans.
Pack Pride's Re-Ranking: 2-star

Reviewing The Class
Number of players under rated exiting high school- 4
Number of players over rated exiting high school- 2

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