Did the Pack meet their needs- (A+) Building depth along the offensive was the No. 1 priority for the NC State coaching staff with the class of 2005. They set out to land somewhere between six and eight new linemen and finished with seven.
Did the Pack get who they wanted- (A-) Except for Doug Palmer who was offered late in the recruiting year- Andy Barbee, Garrett Kline, Curtis Crouch, Julian Williams and Jeraill McCuller were all early recruiting targets for the Wolfpack and the Pack managed to snag them all. State did miss on a few offensive line prospects, including Ronnie Wilson (FLA), AJ Trump (MIA), Simon Codrington (FLA), Mike Oher (OM) and Chris Barney (MIA)
The fact that NC State will boast four all-american RB's in the backfield in 2005 has received quite a bit of fanfare in recent weeks. However, all the talent in the world means nothing without the horses in the trench to bulldoze the running lanes. It is clear that the Wolfpack placed a premium on size when it began scouting offensive linemen for the class of 2005. When the dust settled on signing day, the Pack had landed an OL class that averaged 6-5, 307 pounds- including four linemen over 310 pounds and four that measured 6-5 or better.
One of the surprise additions to this year's class was former Tennessee OL Brandon Jeffries. Exiting high school, Jeffries was a 6-4, 265 pound five-star consensus all-american. His strength, quick feet and ability to dominate on the high school level resulted in a torrent of college scholarship offers. Jeffries eventually selected the Vols over NC State, South Carolina and UNC.
The jump from high school to college was not a smooth one for Jeffries, however. Although he possessed a frame that most felt would easily support another 30 pounds, Jeffries found adding bulk to be elusive and he soon found himself buried on the Tennessee depth chart.
Unhappy with his situation in Knoxville, Jeffries left the Vols and for a while, contemplated giving up football. However, the weight that had eluded him after graduating high school began to build after a year away from football. Jeffries began training again and made contact with the NC State coaching staff. NC State OL coach Mike Barry knew of Jeffries' potential from his days at Tennessee and the Pack decided to offer.
Jeffries, now at 6-5, 313 pounds will have two years of football eligibility left at NC State so time is of the essence if he is to make an impact in college. He showed all the talents needed while in high school- solid footwork, good strength, long arms and an aggressive nature. However, he will now have to show he can do the same at 310 pounds while going up against defensive ends that are equal in size and strength.
In this age of instant information, OL Garrett Kline showed that it is still possible to keep a secret. He verbally committed to NC State last June and somehow managed to keep it under wraps until September.
At 6-7, 315 pounds, Kline is one of NC State's largest OL signees in years. Perhaps most impressive about Kline is his flexibility and knee bend given his size. He plays nasty, runs well and was a JC all-american at left tackle for Lackawanna Junior College this year.
Of all the OL signees, Kline has the potential for the earliest impact. He has the size and two added years of maturity to challenge for a spot on the depth chart at one of the tackle positions in 2005.
The Wolfpack hadn't targeted a true center prospect since landing Jed Paulsen back in 2001. They got a chance to look at the state's best when Andy Barbee of Shelby (NC) Crest High School camped at State over the summer. After watching his progression as a senior, the Pack made an offer after his fifth game of the 2004 season.
Barbee (6-4, 290 pounds) is a technically sound center with experience snapping in the shotgun. While looking at Barbee off the field, he comes across as an easy going, unasssuming guy but strap on the pads and he knows how to get after it. He was one of the few bright spots along the offensive line for the NC squad at the Shrine Bowl. Barbee attacks the defender and also does a great job of pulling and getting down the field.
Adjusting from high school to college offensive lineman can be one of the most demanding transitions and, often, can take quite a bit of time. However, we think Barbee certainly has the tools to become a contributor for NC State in the near future.
Of all the offensive line signees, Jeraill McCuller may be the rawest but he may also possess the greatest upside. McCuller played in a private league in high school where he dominated with ease. At 6-7, 330 pounds, he is a mammoth lineman with an outstanding frame and the prototypical wingspan of an offensive tackle. However, the learning curve and adjustment period for McCuller may be a little longer and tougher than the other line prospects.
Whereas McCuller has been able to live off of his size as a prep star, he'll need to get much stronger, more aggressive and increase his flexibility before he'll be ready to contribute for the Pack. However, the all-district lineman has a super attitude and if he perseveres, could blossom by years three and four.
While scouting film from the Shrine Bowl held last December, the Wolfpack staff reportedly came away extremely impressed with OL Doug Palmer from Douglas Byrd High School in Fayetteville, NC. Although he didn't receive a lot of attention from recruiting analysts in the region, Palmer was well known by the Shrine Bowl staff as one of the Cape Fear region's top linemen.
Palmer will most likely project as a guard in college. On the field he lined up as a left tackle in high school- spending the vast majority of his time on run blocking. Palmer is explosive off the ball and plays low. While not the biggest offensive lineman you'll find, he uses his size well and does a great job of getting his hands on the defender. Palmer will have to continue to get stronger and will need to refine his pass blocking skills as well.
Curtis Crouch of EE Smith High School in Fayetteville, NC was probably the most highly regarded of the offensive linemen inked by NC State. Scholarship offers and visits to Oklahoma and Florida only accentuated Crouch's recruiting status but proximity and familiarity were huge factors that weighed in favor of NC State.
Like all of the offensive line commitments, Crouch possesses the raw makeup to one day become a big-time collegiate lineman. At 6-5, 315 pounds, he is a monster. But at the same time, Crouch hasn't even begun to scratch the surface of his potential. At times he was dominant in high school and was a major factor behind EE Smith's 12-3 season. However, Crouch will need to get much more aggressive and consistent once he arrives in Raleigh. He moves well and has the natural strength to one day become a starter for the Pack. How soon that happens will be up to Crouch.
Of the high school signees, Julian Williams from New Bern (NC) High School may be the most talented. He has a super frame but most impressive is his athleticism and ability to get out and move. Many observers forget that his high school teammate, Montario Hardesty, racked up many of his 2,000 rushing yards behind Williams.
At 6-4, 290 pounds, Williams could eventually become a guard at NC State although tackle is a possibility as well. Off-season knee surgery will slow down Williams' progression over the summer but he is a player with all the tools to become a force for the Pack. He manages to get under defenders and stays with his block down the field. He's also solid in pass blocking because he moves his feet well and doesn't play lazy. Look for Williams to be an early challenger for a spot on the offensive line two-deep early in his Wolfpack career.