NC State Wolfpack
Preview 2012 - Offense
- 2012 NC State Preview | 2012 NC State Offense
- 2012 NC State Defense | 2012 NC State Depth Chart
What You Need To Know: Unlike this time last year, no one in Raleigh is talking about Russell Wilson, who went on to star for Wisconsin. The locals are too busy buzzing about the final year at quarterback of Mike Glennon, a top NFL prospect coming off an outstanding debut as the starter. He's a prototypical pocket passer, and arguably the program's best pure hurler since Philip Rivers was still on campus. Since the Wolfpack is going to be a little light on proven targets, save for WR Tobais Palmer, it'll further fuel Tom O'Brien's desire to grind the ball between the tackles. The head coach certainly has the parts to supercharge the 109th-ranked ground game that produced just three yards a carry. Last season's top two rushers, James Washington and Tony Creecy, have yet to exhaust their eligibility, and 2010 leading rusher Mustafa Greene is trying to work his way back from injuries and legal problems. Next to Glennon, the best news on offense is that five of last season's starting linemen are back in the fold. LT R.J. Mattes owns 30 career starts, the graybeard of a hard-working, blue-collar O-line. The one potential thoroughbred of the unit is RT Rob Crisp, a former five-star recruit poised to start playing like one now that he's an upperclassman.
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior WR Quintin Payton
Unsung star on the rise: Senior TE Mario Carter
Best pro prospect: Glennon
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Glennon, 2) Senior LT R.J. Mattes, 3) Senior WR Tobais Palmer
Strength of the offense: Quarterback, running back depth, O-line experience, third-down conversions, red-zone conversions
Weakness of the offense: The ground game, wide receivers, O-line production, big plays, turnovers
Senior Mike Glennon looks like a pro. He acts like a pro. And he possesses the arm of a next-level quarterback. The second-year starter is essentially waiting in the NFL on-deck circle, with one year of amateur eligibility remaining. Before the expectations went through the roof, it's easy to forget that last season was his first as the starting quarterback in Raleigh. He played well for head coach Tom O'Brien, who's compared Glennon to former pupil Matt Ryan, going 283-of-453 for 3,054 yards, 31 touchdown passes and a dozen interceptions. A classic, strong-armed pocket passer at 6-6 and 232 pounds, he sees the field well, and is improving at reading defenses. In the red zone a year ago, he was perfect, tossing 21 touchdown passes without a single pick. The Pack is hoping that his sizzling finish is a precursor of what's to come in 2012.
Junior Tyler Brosius is the undisputed backup for a second straight year. The hard-throwing 6-3, 233-pounder will look to solidify his spot as the successor to Glennon in 2013, when Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas also becomes available. Brosius got a taste of action in six games, going 8-of-13 for 56 yards and a touchdown, and should get a few more reps in preparation this fall.
Watch Out For .... Glennon to take another step forward in his evolution. Last season was his first as a starter, which was easy to forget after watching him on film in the Belk Bowl. With a season at the helm, he'll be even sharper and more effective as the face of the Wolfpack offense.
Strength: Glennon in the red zone. Once State drove deep into the opponents' territory, No. 8 was virtually automatic. His red-zone success rate was attributable to two key characteristics that help make him such a quality quarterback, his size and his poise under pressure. Glennon is a winner, meaning he does his best work during the most important stages of a game.
Weakness: Depth. With the decision of Brian Taylor to quit football, true freshman Manny Stocker has been elevated to No. 3 on the depth chart. Plus, Brosius has been on the field infrequently up to this point in his career. The bottom line in Raleigh is that the Pack can ill afford to lose Glennon for any length of time.
Outlook: NC State has done a fine job of rebounding from last year's transfer of Russell Wilson to Wisconsin. Glennon is a bona fide budding star under center, with the skill set to turn 2012 into his launching point to the NFL. He's the total package, from his passing ability to his maturity, which programs look for in a quarterback. Now, he has to go out and elevate the play of a receiving corps that's only marginally gifted.
As long as this is a Tom O'Brien-led team, NC State will want to pound the ball between the tackles, setting up the pass with the run. The coach might finally have the backs needed to fulfill his wishes. The top rushers from the last two seasons are expected back, creating an air of competition in the backfield. Senior James Washington did yeoman's work when pressed into action a year ago. The 6-0, 180-pound cutback runner wound up rushing for a team-high 897 yards and seven touchdowns on 227 carries, adding 42 receptions for 315 yards. More solid than spectacular, he's capable of carrying the load again this year if needed.
The Pack's second-leading rusher from 2011 was promising sophomore Tony Creecy, who ran for 401 yards and a score on 103 carries, while catching 25 balls for 157 yards and three touchdowns. The 6-0, 196-pounder has a bright future in Raleigh, but might have to raise the bar to get more reps this fall.
Senior Brandon Barnes will once be available off the bench. The 6-0, 209-pounder has never come close to fulfilling his high school hype, a victim of injuries, but he will bring leadership, know-how and short-yardage toughness to the backfield.
With the graduation of Taylor Gentry, 6-1, 240-pound sophomore Logan Winklesis slated to take over as the team's fullback. The former high school wrestling champ from the state of Georgia spent part of last season recovering from a knee injury, and only appeared on 24 offensive plays.
Watch Out For .... the availability of sophomore Mustafa Greene. By midseason, any hope of a return from a foot injury had dissipated. The key recruit, who'd turned down offers from the likes of Alabama and Georgia, had debuted with a team-high 597 yards and four scores on 134 carries in 2010. More than just an elusive and physical runner, he also caught 30 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns, flashing soft hands out of the backfield. Off-field problems in the spring have further clouded Greene's future with the program.
Strength: Depth. All of a sudden, the Pack has become a program that can roll out multiple players capable of carrying the load on the ground, especially if Greene gets the green light. Washington played well in a feature role, and Creecy showed flashes in his rookie year. More than just solid runners, the back also have outlets hands, serving as reliable outlets in the passing game.
Weakness: Pop. Where are the big bursts through the line that bring instant energy to the offense? NC State is not home to a gamebreaker, housing more plodders and four-yard-a-carry guys. Of the team's 448 carries a year ago, not one went for more than 50 yards. Yeah, the 3.0 average per carry also factored in a bunch of sacks, but still spoke to the methodical nature of this ground game.
Outlook: The Pack has more quantity than quality at this point, but the formula might actually work in its favor. There's a deep enough stable of runners to wear down defenses, while ensuring that all of the backs remain fresh. Particularly if Greene can recapture his 2010 form, NC State can't help but to do better job than a year ago, when it ranked 109th nationally in rushing.
If QB Mike Glennon is going to continue his evolution into a star in 2012, he's going to need more help from the receivers. A lot more help. Last season's top two wideouts, T.J. Graham and Jay Smith, have graduated, leaving the Pack scrambling for answers. Eager to become the new go-to guy is 5-11, 175-pound senior Tobais Palmer, who's coming off a breakout season. The transfer from Georgia Military College started seven games, and produced 37 receptions for 496 yards and five touchdowns in his first fall of action with the program. He is a fantastic all-around athlete, the kind of playmaker who'll entice the staff to invent different ways to get the ball in his hands in space.
The program is excited about the potential of junior Quintin Paytonwho could be poised for a breakout year. At 6-4 and 210 pounds, he has outstanding size, long enough to play above defensive backs, and thick enough to beat the jams at the line of scrimmage. While he's only caught 11 passes for 145 yards in two years, his days as an understudy appear ready to be over.
Pushing Payton, and looking to be no worse than No. 3 in the rotation, is 5-11, 170-pound sophomore Bryan Underwood. He has great speed and the elusiveness to make him a natural out of the slot. Coming off the bench in 2011, he made 16 catches for 226 yards and two touchdowns, both coming in a huge game against Virginia. The Pack is looking for more consistency from its big-play second-year athlete.
Is this the year that TE Mario Carter plays like the former blue-chip recruit of the program? With the graduation of George Bryan, he'll have his best chance to date to fulfill his potential. The 6-4, 262-pounder has the excellent size needed to excel as a blocker and receiver, and the reliable hands to win the quarterback's confidence. Carter started two games a year ago, and finished with nine catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Watch Out For .... Carter to emerge as a viable weapon for Mike Glennon. Not only has he been in the system for five years, but he also has a good mix of size and athleticism to gain the edge on linebackers when running routes. The senior is capable of making 30 catches and five or so touchdowns, supporting a young corps of wide receivers.
Strength: Speed. The Pack is ready to unleash a good collection of athletes on opposing defensive backs. Palmer and Underwood, in particular, have outstanding jets, the fleet to stretch the secondary and pick up yards after the catch. Add in Payton's long frame, and NC State boasts an eclectic mix of measurables.
Weakness: Consistency. The staff has no beef with this group's athleticism, but can it deliver on a week-in, week-out basis? None of the receivers has ever been asked to be a go-to guy, but that's exactly what's about to happen this fall. The program needs to see better routes and fewer drops, or else the passing game is going to suffer the consequences.
Outlook: This is a big year for the NC State wide receivers. They have a huge opportunity, but with that opportunity comes an equally big responsibility. The Pack has the athletes, but now must mold them into consistent playmakers. With a player of Glennon's caliber behind center, the program does not want to squander this final year with an elite quarterback because the pass-catchers were unable to carry their weight.
The Wolfpack continues to have problems up front, a real no-no for a Tom O'Brien-led team. Hope for improvement at the point of attack comes in the form of four returning starters, and an experienced all-around two-deep. The job of protecting Mike Glennon's backside belongs to 6-6, 306-pound senior R.J. Mattes, the undisputed leader of the front wall. He's earned 30 career starts, flashing the versatility to play right guard, right tackle and now left tackle. Mattes has the long arms needed to punch pass rushers, and redirect their path to the pocket.
The staff plans to groom sophomore Tyson Chandler to be the heir apparent to Mattes at left tackle. Yeah, he's still raw, but at 6-6 and 340 pounds, has the massive presence to envelop opposing linemen, and dominate at the point of attack.
Next to Mattes at left guard will be 6-5, 304-pound senior Andrew Wallace. Or at least that's the hope. He has balky knees, to be sure, but also a lot of fight and leadership qualities that this group craves. After missing most of 2011 to recover from surgery, the hope is that he'll be ready to go at full strength in time for the opener.
If Wallace has any setbacks, look for 6-6, 302-pound junior Duran Christophe to quickly jump off the bench. He filled that role a year ago, starting every game before missing the bow game with an injury. He's an ideal option to have on the B team.
Back at the pivot will be 6-3, 301-pound senior Camden Wentz, a third-year starting center. He's been a rock for the Pack, yielding just a single sack in each of the last two seasons. He's durable, quick to get off the snap and fierce at the point of attack, always finishing his blocks until the whistle blows.
The leader on the right side will be G Zach Allen, who is back for his third year as the starter. The physical and durable 6-3, 322-pounder plays with good pad level, driving his man back in order to create space for the Wolfpack runners. Also a quality pass protector, he's yielded just six career sacks in more than 2,000 snaps.
Allen's alternate role this fall will be to mentor 6-3, 281-pound sophomore Cameron Fordham, his likely successor in 2013. The former blocking tight end began his career at LSU before transferring to NC State and appearing in a couple of games in 2011.
The time has arrived for RT Robert Crispto begin performing like one of the nation's top-ranked recruits of the 2010 class. The 6-7, 312-pounder has put down a foundation for the future by lettering in each of the last two years, even starting three games. However, the program is still waiting for him to fully turn the corner, and begin performing like the kind of tackle who was supposed to build a fortress on the edge.
Watch Out For .... Crisp's development. He was supposed to be different than the garden variety Pack lineman, but at the halfway point of his career it has yet to happen. While there's obviously plenty of time left, some are beginning to get a little antsy. The hope is that Crisp can become a rock on the right side, and eventually succeed Mattes on the left side.
Strength: Experience. Four starters are back. Four of those starters are seniors. And the second team is an experienced group. The Wolfpack is a seasoned collection of blockers that'll have no problem finding leaders in 2012. If these guys aren't ready for ACC pass rushers now, they may never be.
Weakness: Production. All of the returning starters in the world don't appear as if they'll be able to help this unit ability to win the all-important battles at the line of scrimmage. The Pack was rather experienced a year ago, yet still was 98th nationally in sacks allowed, and blocked for the nation's 109th ground game. For the sake of the entire offense, NC State has got to take a major step forward in the trenches.
Outlook: This is supposed to be the best O-line in the Tom O'Brien era, but will it actually come to fruition? While the program has the veteran bodies and familiar faces, no one stands out as an obvious All-ACC selection. And the recent track record here has not been positive. Even if State is better up front, it's still likely to struggle versus the league's better defensive lines.
- 2012 NC State Preview | 2012 NC State Offense
- 2012 NC State Defense | 2012 NC State Depth Chart