Did State meet their needs- (Grade A+) The first order of business was to secure 2004 commit Andre Brown. Mission accomplished. The Pack then set out to land North Carolina's top RB prospect for the class of 2005 in Toney Baker. Mission accomplished.
Did State get who they wanted- (Grade A+) From day one, Brown and Baker were priorities 1 and 1a for NC State. The Pack landed both and you can't do any better than that. State also targeted Antone Smith from Pahokee, Fla but that was always a huge longshot. The Pack also made offers to Richie Rich (UNC) of Wheeler, Ga, Montario Hardesty (TENN) of New Bern, NC and Conredge Collins (PITT) of Miami, Fla. Although all three may have started at RB for the Pack, it is also likely all three would have eventually played a different position for NC State.
Over the last five years NC State has earned the reputation of wielding a wide-open passing offense that prefers to spread the ball all over the field. How ironic that in the past three years, NC State has landed North Carolina's premier rusher each season, the top RB prospect in Florida (2004) and the top RB prospect in Pennsylvania (2003). Four of the five were named Parade All-Americans and three of the five were invited to the prestigious US Army All-American Bowl.
Andre Brown made a nationally-televised commitment to NC State in January of 2004 after a fierce recruiting battle with Virginia and UNC. However, Brown failed to qualify academically and the NC State coaches laid the groundwork for him to spend a year at Hargrave Military Academy to bolster his academic standing and football skills. Sometime after signing day East Carolina became heavily involved and worked feverishly to get Brown to change his mind and enroll in Greenville, instead, as a partial qualifier. At least one Rose High School coach reportedly pushed this scenario although Brown publically denied any interest in wanting to play his college football for the Pirates.
What the Pack got was an ultra-talented all-around athlete. Whether it be basketball, football or baseball, Brown excelled. At a ripped 6-2, 235 pounds, Brown still blazed a sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash this past December with a bevy of college coaches watching on. Speed is just one facet of Brown's game, however. He has tremendous strength, solid pass catching ability out of the backfield and enough elusiveness and toughness that he was Hargrave's kickoff return specialist this past year. While Toney Baker may be a purer RB, Brown brings the added elements of size and athleticism that should be a huge boost to the Wolfpack's RB corps in 2005. Although there are obvious adjustments Brown will have to make going from prep football to the college level, we expect this amazing athlete to eventually emerge as a huge cog in the Wolfpack offense of the future. In a press conference with newly hired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, Trestman stated that, during his career, he had never had a premier RB that could pound opposing defenses. He may have found that man in Andre Brown.
After seeing RB Toney Baker in person last year and watching film from his junior season, the staff at Pack Pride agreed that this was the most impressive RB we had seen during the time we have been covering recruiting. Before you even begin to break down his talents on the football field you have to start with Baker's super personality and character. Talking to Baker in person, you'd never know this was one of the nation's top players. In an age where high school players have seemingly taken on greater significance than NFL Hall of Famers, Baker is a throwback that allows his actions on the field to do the talking. Off the field he is the rare player that projects such an unassuming manner and humility- attributes that Wolfpack fans will certainly be drawn to over the coming years.
On the field, Baker is simply amazing. At 5-10, 218 pounds, he has good size. Boasting a 40-yard dash speed of 4.4 to 4.5 seconds, he has the speed to become a major division one player. However, Baker's talent probably begins with his vision. He often appears to know where he's going with the ball even before the handoff is made. Baker boasts the uncanny ability to feel where a running lane will develop and then has the quickness to burst through that hole. Once in the open field, Baker has shifty hips and the ability to make would-be tacklers look silly. Although it may be inaccurate to label Baker a burner, he certainly has the ability to take it to the house on any given play. Just as impressive as his elusiveness is the fact Baker knows when to duck his head, move the pile and take a two or three yard gain.
When you combine Baker's tremendous natural ability with his work ethic and desire to be the best, you have a player with the potential to one day have his name right up there with some of the great Wolfpack RB's of all time.