'01 Class Proving To Be Cornerstone Of Program

"We have dreams and these young men have dreams, and we hope that, between them and us, all of our dreams will come true."

"We have dreams and these young men have dreams, and we hope that, between them and us, all of our dreams will come true." With those words, coach Chuck Amato welcomed in a landmark recruiting class on Signing Day 2001. The 30-man haul was ranked among the country's top 15 by analyst Max Emfinger, ESPN.com, Prep Football Report and G&W Recruiting Report. Three seasons later, 16 of those players are listed on the two-deep depth chart for the Wolfpack, and 10 are starting.

The success of Amato's first full recruiting class – he had three weeks to put together the Class of 2000 after he was hired – can largely be seen as the first step taken by he and his staff to construct a program that has reached national prominence.

"We do have a lot of pride in our class; we were the first [full] Chuck Amato recruiting class," said center Jed Paulsen, one of four offensive starters from the Class of 2001. "So we take a lot of pride in that, and we're just trying to carry that on."

Many members of the group took varying paths at NC State. Paulsen was thrust into action as a rookie, a rare occurrence for an offensive linemen. Quarterback Jay Davis caddied for Philip Rivers for three years before finally getting his opportunity. Halfback Tramain Hall had to head to junior college after a snafu with admissions. Dovonte Edwards spent two promising years at receiver before being shifted to cornerback, where he has emerged as a starter. Marcus Hudson grabbed a prominent role as a starting cornerback as a true freshmen, was sidelined by academics after his sophomore year and is now trying to re-establish his reputation as a starting free safety.

"It feels like a decade [since he'd played before the opener]. I feel old now," said Hudson. "The cats I came in with are all seniors now, but I'm a junior. But I still feel like I belong with them, even though I feel like it's been a while, sitting out."

Along with Paulsen, Davis and Hall, right guard John McKeon is starting on offense in 2004. Receiver Sterling Hicks, tight end John Ritcher and tight end Avery Gibson will also play key roles this season from the class.

Defensively, six of the Pack's back seven is made up of members of the Class of 2001. Freddie Aughtry-Lindsay and Patrick Thomas bolster the NC State linebacking corps, while the experienced secondary could be viewed as the backbone of the new Wolfpack defense. Safeties Andre Maddox and Hudson and cornerbacks Edwards and Lamont Reid make up the defensive backfield, and all came in as part of the same signing class. Defensive end Renaldo Moses, defensive tackle Dwayne Herndon and safety J.J. Jones lend depth and experience from the same haul.

Davis, Hall, Hicks, Thomas, Maddox and Hudson were part of a group of 10 players from the state of Florida who elected to join Amato and assistant head coach Doc Holliday in Raleigh. The Pack turned plenty of heads by reeling in so many of the Sunshine State's finest players that year.

"In our wildest dreams, we didn't think we'd get that many down there, but we did," Amato said then.

"I didn't think we'd get the number of kids we did," echoed Holliday, who was named the nation's top recruiter in 2001 by PrepAtlantic.com. "I told Chuck all along that I felt we could go down to Florida and get three, four or five kids a year who could come up and help us win."

The Class of '01 marked the first warning shot over the bow that State sent to Florida's "Big Three" – Miami, Florida and Florida State. The Wolfpack's success showed that Amato & Co. would not step aside for the schools that traditionally own that area in recruiting.

"I told our coaches that I don't care who we have to fight," Amato said on Signing Day 2001. "I don't care if it's a big-name team or a little-name team. The worst thing that can happen is a prospect says no. That's the worst thing that can happen, but you never know if he'd say yes unless you take a shot at them.

"So we knocked heads, and I'm a hard head."

"Our standards are very high, both on the field and in recruiting," said Holliday. "We're going to go out there and battle the Miamis, the Florida States, the Nebraskas, the Tennessees, because in order for us to accomplish our goals, we're going to have to go after those types of kids.

"As Chuck said, we didn't back down from anybody."

On a team searching for an identity following the departure of all-everything signal-caller Philip Rivers, the Class of 2001 is seeking to provide it. Members still meet separately as a class at times to strengthen their bond.

"All those guys that we came in with, I've become real close friends with," Paulsen said. "They're some of my best friends in the world, and we're a real tight group."

And NC State's tight group of 2001 signees is well-aware that it could be up to them to carry a talented Wolfpack squad in 2004 – and validate why Amato's first full recruiting class could be considered the finest in the history of the school.

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