Did the Pack meet their needs- (A+) Wide Receiver wasn't a huge need for the 2005 season but it will be by the time 2006 rolls around. The Pack more than met their needs and, at the wideout position, landed arguably their most versatile and talented position group. State has tried the last couple of years to add a tall, rangy receiver to it's repertoire and they succeeded in meeting that goal by landing Kyle Newell (6-5) and Geron James (6-4).
Did the Pack get who they wanted- (A) Kyle Newell of Bethlehem, Pa, JC Neal of Camden, SC, Geron James and Levin Neal of Wilmington, NC were all top priorities for State early in the recruiting process and the Pack managed to land them all. The Wolfpack did miss on Richard Goodman (FSU), Louis Murphy (FLA) and Lavar Lobdell (SYR).
The wide receiver class of 2005 is one of the most versatile group of players landed by the Pack in years. All have the talent to eventually become major contributors at wideout. However, several also have the versatility to excel at other positions.
Kyle Newell (6-5, 225 pounds, 4.6-seconds in the 40) would have to be considered the jewel of the class. Boasting better than 30 scholarship offers from around the nation, Newell was recognized as a four-star prospect by Scout.com while SuperPrep named him an all-american. What the Pack landed was an athlete with tremendous physical attributes. He is a tall, lanky player with good speed, tremendous jumping ability and amazing, all-around athleticism. Newell could pose serious matchup problems for smaller defensive backs given his physical nature, reliable hands, jumping ability and height.
Perhaps one of Newell's most impressive attributes is his versatility. He possesses the frame to add bulk and eventually grow into the tight end spot. Virginia recruited Newell as a LB and he certainly has all the prerequisites to one day play on defense- although it most likely he would line up at defensive end given the Wolfpack's defensive scheme.
As a side note to Newell's recruiting, the all-american apparently found himself attracted to NC State's laid back recruiting approach. The Pack never pushed Newell and that was a factor in State's favor. Newell also desired to play in a warmer climate and academics were a huge factor as well. Newell's dad owns a Master's Degree from Rutgers so the classroom was always a major consideration.
After ripping off a 4.25-second 40-yard dash at a Shrine Bowl Combine last spring, it looked as though Levin Neal (5-11, 185 pounds) could emerge as one of the nation's top prospects. As a junior he was one of NC's best wide receivers as he hauled in 45 passes for 840 yards and 10 touchdowns. A broken ankle before the start of the 2004 season sidetracked Neal's senior campaign but the Pack never wavered in their loyalty.
What NC State landed was a cat-quick receiver with a solid build and equally impressive vertical leap (32-inches). Neal has good elusiveness but his straight-line speed is most impressive. Like Newell, Neal has the versatility to ultimately play several different positions for NC State. He could become a weapon on special teams but also has the hips and quickness of a CB. Wideout will be Neal's early destination but we wouldn't be surprised to see Neal at defensive back, either part time or full time, at some point in his career.
JC Neal didn't catch a lot of passes in high school but that's just what the plan calls for once he arrives at NC State. Comparisons are often unfair but one can't help but notice the athletic and physical similarities between Neal and former NC State WR Koren Robinson. Both were physically comparable exiting high school and both had similar running styles as their team's featured running back.
Name any attribute you're looking for in a wide receiver and Neal most likely has it- toughness, aggressiveness, speed, athleticism and a great attitude. If there's one aspect that Neal will need to improve on it's simply to get bigger and stronger to withstand the rigors of division one football.
Neal completes the trio of versatile wideouts landed by NC State. He will start his career as a slot receiver most likely but could vie for a spot on special teams as well. Neal's athleticism and natural ability may keep him on offense but we love his potential as a safety. He has tremendous instincts as a defensive back and wowed those who watched him in action at the Shrine Bowl when he picked off two passes and dropped Pack signee Toney Baker rather rudely for a loss of three yards.
Of the four receivers landed by NC State, Geron James (6-4, 180 pounds) may be the purest wideout of the quartet. Like Newell, he gives the Pack the added weapon of matching a tall, rangy receiver with great jumping ability against a smaller defensive back. Interestingly, NC State QB Marcus Stone's signature throw in high school was the fade pattern and James could emerge as a serious target for just that route down the road.
James is not a burner but he is deceptively fast. He ran a solid 4.5-second 40-yard dash for the NC State coaches at last year's football camp. He has long running strides but impressive shiftiness in the open field. James is wiry now and will need to add strength but he could be a big-time performer for the Wolfpack in the years to come.