The NC State recruiting class of 2003 was widely considered by most experts as one of the nation's ten best and quite possibly, the best in Wolfpack history. Most members of that impressive haul spent this past season red-shirting and working out with the Pack scout teams. StateFans recently caught up with Wolfpack grad assistant Chad Jamison to find out how the group has progressed over the past year and which players Pack fans can expect to see making contributions in 2004.
Jamison, assigned to coach the defensive players on the scout team, wasted no time in quickly pointing out that LB Ernest Jones could be a potential star in the making for NC State. The speedy ‘backer's career took a short detour in 2003 after an early-season ankle injury but all indications are he is ready to take a huge step forward this season.
"Ernest is a kid that could really contribute because he's constant energy and he can really run," said Jamison. "He's a guy that may end up getting more playing time than any of those other guys (on the scout team) this year. He got a little ankle injury last year but he's going to get a lot of time in there at LB. But Ernest is definitely a speed guy. In fact, he may run as well as some of our Safeties."
Another newcomer to the Pack defense last year was DL Martrel Brown and he wasted no time in wowing the coaches with his athletic ability. He also proved the ability of the State coach's to identify talent that had gone widely unnoticed by other college coaches and recruiting gurus.
"When we tested all the freshman last fall when they first come in, he tested the best of any of them as far as physical abilities," said Jamison. "In fact, I think he had the longest broad jump of any of those guys and that included backs and receivers. He's sort of a guy that no one knew out of high school but he's a really good athlete. He's also bulked up some- I think he might be up to 265 (pounds) now. He'll get even bigger and stronger this summer."
Jamison added that another big body, originally slated for the defensive line, had caught the coaching staff's eye as well.
"I'll tell you another guy that really impressed us was Shane Lucas. He's probably not quite there as far as speed for a DL but he could play there, no doubt about it.
"However, he really reminds me of Shane Riggs. We've moved him over to Guard and I think he's a natural there. He had no problem moving over there at all. He's adjusted to it pretty good and he'll work on it some more over the summer. I think he'll be a good one."
Another offensive lineman that has impressed is Kalani Heppe. Heppe was one of the first commits to NC State in 2002 and he never wavered on his commitment to the Pack. Although he went somewhat unnoticed by recruiting analysts, due in part to his early commitment to State, it didn't take long for the talented lineman to make an impression on the Wolfpack coaching staff.
"We had Kalani at Center all of last year and he'll be a good one too," said Jamison. "He's put on some weight and he's a strong kid. He's one of those guys that when we run gassers at the end of practice, he'll be out ahead of all the offensive linemen. He's had a good leader by example (Jed Paulsen) to learn from."
DB Jimmie Sutton arrived at NC State after first committing to Texas. Considered by some as one of the top, pure athletes in the state of Florida coming out of high school, Sutton made the switch from wide-out to defensive back and according to Jamison, has the potential to become a major contributor in the Wolfpack defensive backfield.
"Jimmie's come along good. We've got him at DB but last fall he spent all his time working at receiver. He's a really good athlete too. I don't know that he'll figure in to that starting rotation but he'll get plenty of playing time because so many schools come out with four WR's."
Many State fans have been curious about the progression of DL Kennie Covington after his arrival in Raleigh from Jones County Junior College. Recruited as a LB out of high school, Covington blossomed into a talented DE in junior college and spent this past year acclimating to the rigors of division one football. He had a very productive spring and could definitely figure into the defensive line rotation next year.
"Kennie has been doing real good," said Jamison. "He's a guy that I'm really looking forward to seeing how he progresses. He actually did pretty good this Spring and he's a guy that was there every day for us on the scout team and he did a good job of rushing off the edge for us. You know, we had Shane Lucas, Martrel Brown and Kennie Covington and that was a better defensive line than some of the teams we play athletically. I think Kennie could play DE or DT- it all depends on where we need him most because he could play either one."
Stay tuned as StateFans will present part two of our conversation with Coach Jamison tomorrow.