Oliver Could Be Pack's Next Local Target

In each of the past two years, the NC State coaching staff has offered a scholarship to an offensive lineman from Southeast Raleigh High School. In 2001, it was Leroy Harris. In 2002, it was Yomi Ojo. This year, another prospect has emerged, and all signs are pointing to the possibility that rising senior Robert Oliver could make it three in a row.

Oliver, a 6'4", 309-lb. behemoth, is well spoken and rather popular among his classmates and teachers. But don't let his off-the-field demeanor fool you. He approaches the game with a take-no-prisoners attitude that has made him one of the best linemen in the area. It has also helped him earn the nickname "Big Nasty" among his peers.

Led by Ojo and Oliver last year, the Bulldogs' offensive line contributed to a running attack that amassed over 3,000 yards last year with an average of 6.4 yards per carry. Now, head coach Chad O'Shea knows that it is Oliver's time to step up and carry the load.

"He should be the anchor of the offensive line," said O'Shea. "He's a 300-pounder that moves really well for his size. It's just a case of getting him ready to play 75-100 snaps a game. If he can do that, he'll be an excellent college lineman down the road."

Given his size and leadership ability, O'Shea is also considering using Oliver on defense as well as offense. "He's working that way," he said. "If we can get him in shape, I think he could be a force on both sides of the ball."

Oliver already has the weight he needs to become a solid lineman at the next level, and most of that is due to the extensive weight training program developed by O'Shea and Strength coach Jeff Occhipinti. The three-month program produced some of the school's best results in O'Shea's six years as head coach.

"We tested them before and after and the gains they made were just off the charts," he said. "We increased the intensity and the kids just got after it. This is the best we've ever done in the weight room."

But college coaches will want to see more than just significant weight gain, and Oliver knows it. "I need to work harder, be more aggressive and demonstrate my leadership abilities," Robert said. "I want to make a good impression this year."

As far as recruiting, Oliver admits that NC State and East Carolina have been recruiting him the hardest, but he makes no bones about the fact that he favors State the most at this point. Apparently, Harris and Ojo keep in touch with him, and it is because of them that the State coaches have kept close tabs on Oliver's progress.

"When Leroy and Yomi were here, they showed a lot of enthusiasm," Oliver said. "They helped you to keep your focus and told you what you needed to do. Today, they still keep in touch and they continue to help me."

So will Robert Oliver become the third straight lineman from Southeast Raleigh to get an offer from the Wolfpack? It's difficult to say for sure, given the limited amount of scholarships the coaching staff has on hand. But if Chuck Amato chooses to stay local with one of the grants he has set aside for an offensive lineman, you can be sure that Oliver will get a good, long look.

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