Did the Pack meet their needs- (A+) For whatever reason, defensive end has been a position that NC State has had very little problem recruiting. From Terrance Chapman and Shawn Price to Mario Williams, Ray Brooks and Manny Lawson, the Pack has succeeded in landing talented ends in nearly every class. State more than filled their needs with four solid signees in the class of 2005.
Did the Pack get who they wanted- (B) The Pack offered roughly eight defensive ends this past year and managed to land four of those. State missed on Courtney Harris (MIA), Ricky Jean-Francois (LSU), Everette Brown (FSU) and Vlad Richard (TENN).
Of all the defensive end signees, Matt Kushner (6-4, 250 pounds, 4.9-seconds in the 40) from Bethlehem (PA) Catholic High School may have been the most lightly regarded by recruiting analysts. However, talk swirling around the all-state selection is that the Wolfpack coaches are extremely excited about the lineman's potential. After three years of starting along the offensive line, Kushner finally got the opportunity this year to put all of his talents to work at defensive end. He certainly disappointed no one as he racked up 114 tackles and 10 sacks- astounding numbers for a defensive lineman.
Ironically, State's interest in Kushner was piqued while watching him play basketball alongside teammate Kyle Newell. He showed great footwork and quickness given his size and State began to evaluate him further. Shortly after the Pack decided to offer, Boston College followed suit and went all out to prevent Kushner's official visit to NC State on Jan 28.
What the Pack landed in Kushner is a versatile player with good size, a great frame and agility. Where he ultimately plays for NC State will be largely dependent on how big he gets. If he adds 20-25 pounds, Kushner could be moved inside on the defensive line. If he approaches 290-300 pounds, the offensive line- where Kushner is more polished- could be his destination. Given his current size, Kushner will start at defensive end. Although raw and still learning the position, physically, Kushner compares well with former Pack DE Drew Wimsatt.
Landing teammates or players with ties to current NC State football players seemed to be a theme with the class of 2005. State landed a huge addition to their offensive line when Garrett Kline of Lackawanna Community College pledged to the Pack last summer. Afterwards, they turned their attention to his talented teammate, Littleton Wright.
Wright (6-6, 245 pounds, 4.7-seconds in the 40) from Georgetown, Delaware was a preseason JUCO All-American and rated the No. 19 junior college defensive lineman in the nation by College Football News. His 9.5 sacks in 2004 was tops in his league.
What the Pack got is another player with a great frame and non-stop motor. Wright's best asset may be his long wing-span and quick first step. Probably generously listed at 245 pounds, Wright will need to add size and strength so a red-shirt year isn't out of the question despite being a JUCO signee.
One player unlikely to redshirt in 2005 is Chad Green from Hinds Community College in Raymond, Ms. While his talent is unquestioned, uncertainty remains regarding Green's academic standing. Should he not qualify, it's likely Green would return to North Carolina and finish off his AA degree at a community college before enrolling at State next January.
Academic concerns aside, Green is a rare breed of athlete that would fall into the Mario Williams class of defensive end. Although much smaller than Williams, Green has unbelievable speed, quickness and strength. In fact, several schools recruited Green as a linebacker this past year.
At 6-5, 240 pounds, Green finished off the year as the conference defensive player of the year and earned JUCO all-american honors. As imposing as Green is as a defensive end (88 tackles and 14 sacks in 2004), he has the physical ability that would make him look like a natural running at wide receiver. He has tremendous burst off the line, runs extremely well and is a relentless pursuer to the ball-carrier. Green will need to add some bulk, he reportedly weighed in the 230 range during his official visit, but size withstanding, Green is a player that could make a solid defense even better in 2005.
On the surface, one might expect Willie Young (6-5, 215 pounds, 4.6-seconds in the 40) from Hargrave Military Academy to redshirt in 2005. However, coach Amato stated at his signing day press conference that scenario was unlikely and added that Young was simply too good to sit.
Young, wiry at best, is a player that has simply made plays no matter the setting. He registered 65 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and 12 sacks as a senior in high school. Young moved on to Hargrave where the competition was a bit tougher and ended up collecting 47 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks this past season.
Young would remind many Wolfpack fans of former defensive end standout Carl Reeves. First and foremost he plays like a linebacker lining up as a defensive end. He has tremendous quickness off the line of scrimmage and has used that speed to blow past slower offensive linemen, often making him a one man wrecking crew in opposing backfields. He also runs extremely well and has been known to track down more than a few running backs from behind.
Whether Young can make the immediate transition to division one ball remains to be seen as he obviously needs to add bulk. However, all of the other prerequisites are there for Young to become a big time player in the years to come.