The Strength Of The Offense?

NC State released an updated depth chart at the 2012 ACC Football Kickoff and the most notable changes were along the offensive line where three positions had new starters. The good news for NC State is those starters aren't really "new."

NC State released an updated depth chart at the 2012 ACC Football Kickoff and the most notable changes were along the offensive line where three positions had new starters. The good news for NC State is those starters aren't really "new."

Why? Because the Wolfpack returns six offensive linemen with a combined 112 starts under their belts.

R.J. Mattes

"I think that there is an experience factor out there," offensive line coach Jim Bridge said of his group. "We've got a lot of guys with a lot of starts. With that said, why were they starting, because they were good or because they were the best? Does that come back to the fact that we didn't have enough offensive linemen in years past or that these guys are good?

"I think what matters is the product we put on the field this year, these guys have to prove they're good and prove they're good every week."

Leading the way up front is expected to be senior R.J. Mattes, who is now listed as the starter at left guard after spending 2011 at left tackle. Mattes has made 30 career starts at left tackle, right guard, and right tackle and could contend for All-ACC honors.

"R.J. is a special player because he's so versatile," said Bridge. "He's so long, he's so strong, he's got all that. He's a good football player who has experience. He's coming into his own as a leader and he's got an extremely bright future."

Rob Crisp

Replacing Mattes at left tackle is junior Rob Crisp. A highly-regarded recruit out of Raleigh (NC) Athens Drive High School, Crisp will now get a chance to show what he can do. He reportedly had a terrific spring, which seems to be backed up by the fact that he is now the starter at left tackle, perhaps the most critical position as he'll block Mike Glennon's blind-side, despite having the least amount of starts (3) among the top six offensive linemen.

"The game finally slowed down for Rob," Bridge said. "He's extremely talented, that's a no-brainer, but Rob finally figured it out to the point where he got it. He got it in a big way.

"The emergence of Rob Crisp is important to our offense. There were a lot of unfair expectations and, to me, Rob showed up at the right time. There are very few guys ready to play from day one, but he's got it now and he's ready to play every single down. He played violent, fast and smart in the bowl game, the way you would want every player to play."

There hasn't been a change at center and right guard respectively, where seniors Camden Wentz and Zach Allen reside. The duo has made an impressive 26 consecutive starts together, taking the field for the Wolfpack every game in 2010 and 2011.

Camden Wentz

Wentz is on the Rimington Award preseason watch list, which is given to the country's top center, and he has allowed just one sack in three seasons.

"He's a rock, and I mean that as the cornerstone," Bridge said of Wentz. "He's smart, he gets us on the same page. He's tough, he's everything you want in a center. He calls our offense and gets us in the right blocking schemes.

"He's a good communicator, he's a leader, the guys like him. He deserves to be a Remington Award candidate like he is. He's got a bright future."

Allen is the Pack's road-grader at right guard. The 6-foot-3, 328-pounder is known for his blocking ability in the rushing game, but he allowed just two sacks last year, with both coming in the loss at Cincinnati.

Zach Allen

"You have tough, mauling guards, and Zach is the epitome of that," said Bridge. "He is the guy who takes his lunch pail and his hard hat and does the grunt work.

"I've never been around a guy that smiles so much doing that work, being a grunt. You can tell how Zach's playing by the size of the smile on his face. He's been a consistent, stable part of what we've been doing and he really enjoys playing the game."

The starting right tackle is senior Andrew Wallace, who missed a big part of the 2011 campaign after undergoing ACL reconstruction following the 2010 season. He started all 12 games in 2010 but played in just two last season. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder is athletic and versatile to play anywhere along the offensive line, much like Mattes.

"Andrew went the entire previous year as the starter, and then an injury in bowl game prep took him out of that role," Bridge said. "He is an experienced guy and can go out there and play at a high level for us."

The presence of redshirt junior Duran Christophe is huge for the Wolfpack. Christophe, a 6-foot-6, 302-pounder, started all 12 regular seasons games last year at left guard, and he will now back up Mattes. Having a reserve with 13 career starts is certainly a plus.

Andrew Wallace

"Duran went all 12 games as a starter last year, and then the development of other players took him out of the bowl prep some," said Bridge. "He's a lot like Andrew when you think about it. He is an experienced guy who will need to play at a high level for us."

This is the deepest, most experienced offensive line that NC State has had under Tom O'Brien. Bridge, who is entering his second season as offensive line coach, seems pleased entering fall camp.

"Their experience level can help them anticipate and know more things than some of the newcomers," he said. "I'm excited about the potential of this group. The experience can really pay off if the guys do it."

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