2004 NC State Wolfpack Football Season Preview

<b>Head Coach:</b> Chuck Amato (34-17)<br><br><b>Last Season's Record:</b> 8-5 (4th place in ACC)<br><br><b>Last Bowl Appearance:</b> 2003 Tangerine Bowl (56-26 victory over <A HREF=http://kansas.TheInsiders.com>Kansas</A>)<br><br><b>Key matchup(s):</b> Sept. 18 <A HREF=http://ohiostate.TheInsiders.com>Ohio State</A> (ABC), Oct. 23 <A HREF=http://miami.TheInsiders.com>Miami</A>, Nov. 11 <A HREF=http://floridastate.TheInsiders.com>Florida State</A> (ESPN)

Star Power: T.A. McLendon, RB, Jr. 5-11, 225; Tramain Hall, WR, Jr. 5-10, 190; T.J. Williams, TE, Jr. 6-4, 250; Jed Paulsen, C, Sr. 6-3, 295; Mario Williams, DE, Soph. 6-7, 290 DE; John McCargo, DT, Soph. 6-3, 280; Andre Maddox, S, Sr. 6-1, 210; Pat Thomas, LB, Sr. 6-2, 230

Notable Additions: DeMario Pressley, Greensboro, NC (Dudley), DT, 6-2, 290; Darrell Blackman, Chatham, VA (Hargrave), RB, 5-11, 195; DaJuan Morgan, WR, Riviera Beach, FL (Suncoast), 6-2, 195; Gerard Miller, Vanceboro, NC (West Craven) DT, 6-4 265; RB Bobby Washington, Miami, FL (Killian), RB, 6-0 200

Notable Subtractions: Philip Rivers QB (graduation), Jericho Cotchery WR (graduation), Sean Locklear (graduation), Austin Herbert P (graduation)

Notable Returnees: Chris Colmer OL, Derek Morris OL, Leroy Harris OL, Richard Washington WR, Brian Clark WR, Reggie Davis RB, Manny Lawson DE, Freddy Aughtry-Lindsay LB, Oliver Hoyte LB, Stephen Tulloch LB, Lamont Reid CB, Dovonte Edwards CB, Marcus Hudson S, Troy Graham S

09/18/04Ohio State
09/25/04@Virginia Tech
10/02/04Wake Forest
10/09/04@North Carolina
10/23/04Miami (Fla.)
11/06/04Georgia Tech
11/11/04Florida State
11/27/04@East Carolina
Offensive Overview: Philip Rivers is gone and NC State must now find a quarterback to replace arguably the ACC's best ever signal-caller. Either junior Jay Davis or freshman Marcus Stone will win the job and both have a plethora of weapons around them. Running Back T.A. McLendon leads a strong group of running backs that also features talented newcomers Darrell Blackman and Bobby Washington. McLendon battled through an injury-plagued sophomore season after earning 1st team All-ACC honors as a true freshman. Juniors Tramain Hall and Richard Washington give NC State dangerous threats at the wideout position with junior Brian Clark and sophomore Chris Hawkins providing key depth. Junior T.J. Williams returns at tight end after earning honorable mention All-ACC honors in 2003. The offensive line may be the Wolfpack's strongest position, with Remington Award nominee Jed Paulsen at center and sophomores Derek Morris and Leroy Harris at right tackle and left guard respectively. Both Harris and Paulsen earned honorable mention All-ACC honors in 2003. The wildcard on the offensive line could be senior left tackle Chris Colmer who returns after receiving a medical hardship for the 2003 season. An All-ACC selection in 2002, Colmer garnered preseason All-American consideration before suffering a mysterious shoulder ailment in fall practice. With talent and depth at running back, wide receiver, tight end, and along the offensive line, NC State's quarterbacks should be able to perform well in 2004 and give the Wolfpack once again a very potent offense.

Defensive Overview: Last season was rough for NC State's defensive unit, as youth and inexperience hurt in more ways than one. With ten starters returning from an 8-5 squad and respected defensive coordinator Reggie Herring at the helm, a bright future begins now for the Wolfpack defense. The defensive line should be considerably better in 2004 with sophomore Mario Williams, sophomore John McCargo, junior Dwayne Herndon, and junior Manny Lawson returning after starting last season. Seniors Pat Thomas, a second-team All-ACC pick last season, and Freddy Aughtry-Lindsay anchor a strong group of linebackers that should be the backbone of the defense. Safety Andre Maddox, a first-team All-ACC pick and Jim Thorpe Award nominee, is the Wolfpack's top defensive player and a future pro. He'll be joined in the defensive secondary by seniors Lamont Reid, Dovonte Edwards, and Troy Graham. Junior safety Marcus Hudson returns after missing the 2003 season with academic issues and should provide key depth at cornerback and free safety. With talent at every position, expect NC State's defense to be much better in 2004.

Special Teams Overview: Special teams has been a strong suit of the Wolfpack the past four seasons and three reasons why were punter Austin Herbert, long snapper Danny Young, and kicker Adam Kiker. Herbert departs as the most prolific punter in school history, Kiker finished among the program's top scorers, and Young started every game at long snapper while in Raleigh. The Wolfpack may look to incoming freshman Tyler Lewis to take over some of the kicking duties. Lewis, a Parade and USA Today All-American, doubled as a kicker and punter for Albemarle (NC) High but will likely begin his career at NC State as a punter. Expect red-shirt sophomore John Deraney to do kickoffs and field goals this season after handling just kickoffs as a freshman. Blessed with a powerful leg, forty of Deraney's 75 kickoffs last season went for touchbacks. He also only improved as the season went on, kicking 36 of his last 55 kickoffs into the endzone, including 11-of-17 in his last three games of the regular season. Sophomore William Lee looks to handle the snapping duties following the departure of Young. Look for NC State to once again have a strong block unit led by specialists like Manny Lawson. Following in the footsteps of former Wolfpack star Terrance Holt, Lawson already has five blocked kicks in his career which is the fourth-best mark in school history. Wide receiver Tramain Hall returned two punts for touchdowns last season and should be amongst the league's best this year. Cornerbacks Lamont Reid and A.J. Davis enter the fall as the kick returners, with Reid having returned two kicks for touchdowns in his career. Under new special teams coach Manny Diaz, expect the Wolfpack to continue their tradition of being sound in the kicking game, an area that Coach Amato often refers to as a critical component in a game's outcome.

The Wolfpack will finish amongst the ACC's elite if... the defensive improves as expected and a leader emerges at quarterback. The ingredients are there for NC State to have a very strong defense, but can the talent come together quickly enough to develop as a strength? Look for Jay Davis or Marcus Stone to perform better than expected at quarterback, given the players that should excel around them.

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