Camp Amato: "Fierce" Battle at Free Safety

<B>Raleigh, NC --</b> Amato's thoughts on the health of T.A. McLendon, the battle for the starting free safety spot, and his depth at running back among other notes are highlighted today.

Preparation for Richmond Underway
The team is operating under "game week" conditions this week in preparation for next week's season opener against Richmond.

What's the key for NC State's season opener? Fundamentals according to Head Coach Chuck Amato.

"We started yesterday preparing for Richmond, and we went a little further today," Amato said. "The first game's so hard for everybody. It's the same way for Richmond. The biggest thing we can prepare for is fundamentals... blocking and tackling."

"We've got work to do," Amato added. "This is number nineteen so we've got ten more practices."

The Wolfpack will practice tomorrow afternoon and have a dress rehearsal Friday evening. Players are off Saturday and Sunday with game week beginning next Monday.

Depth at Running Back... Finally
It's becoming a daily question for Coach Amato, and today he was asked once again about the health of junior running back T.A. McLendon and sophomore Reggie Davis.

"Reggie's done everything," Amato said. "T.A. came out Monday and did a little bit. He didn't feel good so we pulled him out, and he didn't do anything yesterday. He practiced today. He did some things today... he didn't do a lot."

With McLendon, Davis and freshmen Darrell Blackman and Bobby Washington, NC State has the most depth its ever had at tailback since Amato arrived five years ago.

"We have four scholarship running backs," Amato said. "We haven't had four scholarship running backs since I've been here. That's big because running backs take a pounding. To have that and be able to rest them... it makes practice more competitive. I keep reminding you guys you can't make the team in the tub."

"If you're in the tub, you're not practicing," Amato added. "There's somebody there that is. The other guy deserves to play."

With four talented running backs all capable of starting against Richmond, the Wolfpack has intriguing options at that position. Naturally the coaching staff would like McLendon to be healthy and ready to go, but if he's not there is finally enough quality depth to handle a McLendon injury.

"Fierce" Battle at Free Safety
With Head Coach Chuck Amato naming Jay Davis the starter at quarterback yesterday, you would think the major position battles would be completed. However, there's a competition waging at free safety between Troy Graham and Marcus Hudson and for the time being a minor change has been made.

"It's very fierce," Amato said. "Troy is really, really doing good. Marcus is such a good athlete. Right now we actually have Marcus on first-string and Troy's on second-string... and that's in base. When we go to nickel he's in there."

"You play so many teams that play three, four wide receivers," Amato added. "You play so much five DBs that he'll be in the game."

With Graham, Hudson, and All-ACC selection Andre Maddox at safety and Lamont Reid, Dovonte Edwards, and A.J. Davis at cornerback, Amato feels he has plenty of depth and competition to field a strong secondary.

"Competition makes them all better, and it gives the opportunity," he said. "Troy is learning both free safety and rover. Whoever starts is going to play probably no more reps than the guy behind him in that position just like at corner. We feel like we've got three quality corners, and we feel like we've got three quality safeties. We can roll them and feel comfortable. A guy like Maddox doesn't have to play 120 snaps in a football game."

Parting Shots

Red-shirt sophomore John Deraney is still handling both the punting and kicking duties... Left guard Leroy Harris is still nursing an ankle sprain... There's no doubt about it, sophomore Stephen Tulloch is going to play a lot this fall. "He'll be out there," Amato said. "He's going to play a whole lot."

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