Pack's in-state effort will be key for class of 05

Perhaps moreso than any other year, the Wolfpack's in-state haul could go a long way towards determining the success of the class of 2005.

While North Carolina has always been the centerpiece of NC State's recruiting efforts under head coach Chuck Amato, perhaps never has this coaching staff had more riding on their in-state efforts. Much of that has to do with the fact that North Carolina is unusually deep this year and, as a result, it's quite conceivable that the vast majority of the 2005 class will be of the home-cooked variety.

The Wolfpack breaks down the state into geographic regions with each assistant coach being responsible for a particular area. Early on, the Pack has gotten major contributions from the entire staff.

Defensive line coach Todd Stroud got his coaching/recruiting career off to a rousing start when he snagged DL/OL Gavin Smith from Wakefield (NC) High School earlier this year. Although still a junior, Smith projects as one of next year's top in-state players and is already feeling the heat from other schools hoping to get in the mix.

Another player Stroud has done a super job with is CB Jordan Hemby of Freedom High School in Morganton, NC. Hemby told Pack Pride, "He's (coach Stroud) really cool. We hit it off and I'm able to talk to him like he's my friend." Stroud will have his hands full as UNC, Virginia Tech and Clemson are all putting on the full court press.

CB coach Greg Williams could have a major impact on this year's class as he's established the Pack as a favorite for a trio of North Carolina's top prospects. Cameron Sexton from Scotland County High School in Laurinburg, NC and WR Geron James and Levin Neal from Ashley High School in Wilmington, NC all boast Wolfpack offers.

Sexton has narrowed his choices to Florida State, Virginia Tech, UNC, Clemson and NC State. However, Sexton told Pack Pride on Sunday that State has scaled back their interest somewhat since the commit of QB Mike Greco from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Sexton stated that he was very close to committing to the Pack prior to the Greco announcement but added, "I haven't heard much from them since."

Geron James has been extremely high on NC State since camping with the Pack over the summer. He earned an offer from State a little over a week ago, and, unless something dramatic happens between now and signing day, should be running with the Pack next fall. Virginia Tech could pose the biggest threat although Georgia and LSU are showing increased interest as well.

One thing NC State has demonstrated over the years is the willingness to stick with players they had offered scholarships to despite injuries. LB Lerue Rumph and WR Dajuan Morgan come to mind. A similar situation occurred earlier this year when CB Levin Neal fractured his tibia. The Pack coaches immediately signaled their intentions to stick with Neal and have been one of the constants, along with Florida State, throughout the 2004 recruiting season. Clemson, Maryland and Virginia Tech round out his top five.

Although he's the youngest member of the Wolfpack coaching staff, S coach Manny Diaz has had a huge impact on NC State's recruiting effort over the last several years and 2004 looks to be much of the same. The Pack made offers to teammates OL Julian Williams and ATH Montario Hardesty earlier this year and coach Diaz was reportedly on hand to see both in action last Friday night.

Williams appears to be a virtual lock for NC State although Maryland, Tennessee and East Carolina could get looks while Hardesty's recruiting could prove a little more difficult. Early on, NC State and Florida State were the teams to beat. The Noles have since slipped but Nebraska, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, UNC and Tennessee have joined the hunt. However, we feel a commit by Williams coupled with the ability to play relatively close to home could pay dividends for the Pack down the road.

Another player coach Diaz has done a tremendous job with is DE Everette Brown from Beddingfield High School in Wilson, NC. Brown had a great visit to Raleigh for the Ohio State game and that trip may have solidified the Pack as a major player for his signature later in the year. While we thought it very possible that Brown may ultimately end up playing out of state, the odds of Brown staying at home to play look much better now. Other schools in the mix here are Florida State, Virginia Tech, Tennessee and Georgia. Brown is a versatile player that could end up at LB, DE or TE.

OL coach Mike Barry was on hand this past Friday to see two of his top prospects up close and personal. TE Jonathan Hannah of South View High School and OL Curtis Crouch of EE Smith High School in Fayetteville, NC squared off against each other and both could very well end up donning the same uniform in 2005. Crouch has been a Wolfpack lean for months with Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and East Carolina giving chase.

TE Jonathan Hannah has all kinds of connections to NC State, not the least of which is the fact he's a member of the Pack Pride community. Even more importantly, coach Amato may have put out an ultimatum for his commitment earlier this year. He reportedly told another recruit in a joking manner, "if Hannah doesn't come to NC State, I'm going to break his leg." Given the size and speed we saw on display from Hannah last Friday night, we think that's unlikely to happen. However, teams like UNC, Florida State, Penn State, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma are in hot pursuit and this race could go down to the wire.

Pack QB coach Curt Cignetti is one of NC State's most relentless recruiters although his efforts in North Carolina may be a bit hamstrung this year. He's heading up the Wolfpack's efforts with all-americans, RB Toney Baker of Ragsdale High School in Jamestown, NC and QB Jonathan Crompton of Tuscola High School in Waynesville, NC. Both are considered to be top ten in the nation at their respective positions.

Back in July, Baker seemed all but signed, sealed and delivered to the Wolfpack according to some insiders. West Raleigh seemed like a perfect fit and Baker himself talked often about being the heir-apparent to RB TA McLendon. However, State very well may have lost Baker the day RB Bobby Washington signed with Pack. It is not a foregone conclusion that State won't ultimately land Baker but the odds have gone way down while Tennessee and Virginia have apparently emerged as the favorites. One thing is for sure- don't expect Cignetti to back off anytime soon. Baker should officially visit NC State later this year at which point, anything is possible- see DT DeMario Pressley.

QB Jonathan Crompton is committed to Tennessee and in all honesty, probably has been since he emerged as a legit, division one prospect a couple of years ago. However, the Vols emergence with two talented freshmen QB's has given the Cromptons reason to look around. At this point it is most accurate to say they are "developing" options versus "exploring" options. One of those schools in play is NC State, mostly because of the work of Cignetti. While no formal list has been announced, we believe NC State, Georgia, LSU and Purdue to be the primary schools Crompton could eventually "explore." Don't be surprised if Crompton makes an unofficial visit to NC State in late October or early November. For now, Crompton is solidly committed to Tennessee.

RB coach Dick Portee doesn't get the mention of some of the other NC State coaches when it comes to recruiting but he is certainly solid out on the trail.

He recently offered OL Andy Barbee from Crest High School in Shelby, NC and has the Pack out front with UNC. It looks extremely unlikely that Barbee will choose anyone other than the Wolfpack or Tar Heels. Barbee has already made one trip to Carter-Finley this year and Portee will work hard for a couple of return trips before the end of the year.

NC State followed Duke as the second team to offer WR Josh Briscoe of Burns High School in Lawndale, NC. Portee was on the Briscoe bandwagon long before nearly a dozen other schools decided to offer up scholarships. However, he may have his work cut out for him in his effort to beat out Tennessee for Briscoe's commitment. It's no secret that Briscoe and QB Jonathan Crompton are close friends. But even without the friendship, Briscoe has always been extremely high on the Vols. State will host Briscoe on an official visit on Oct. 23 but, unless there's a dramatic turnaround, it's hard to imagine Briscoe not suiting up in Knoxville next year.

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