The Wolfpack came out spirited in the opening practice, and it is obvious early that the leadership of this team will reside along the defensive line. The unit labeled by most analysts as the best in the country played with enthusiasm throughout the day and was able to get pressure in the backfield during 11-on-11's. Leading the way was the starting unit: Mario Williams, Manny Lawson, Demario Pressley, and John McCargo.
At the beginning of practice several players worked on fielding punts. A.J. Davis, Levin Neal, Tramain Hall, and Darrell Blackman were in the mix, but the two most surprising were incoming freshmen backs Toney Baker and Andre Brown. Both looked good during the drill, showing great hands and quickness. However, it will be tough for anyone to beat out Blackman and Hall, who are two of the ACC's best.
We quickly made our way over to the running backs during group drills, and with the talent at the position it is not surprising that running backs coach Dick Portee seemed to have a smile on his face all day. Featuring a talented junior and four high school all-american freshmen and sophomores, NC State probably as the most talented group in the country, albeit inexperienced. What stuck out the most? Just how darn big freshman Andre Brown really is. Brown, listed at 6-2 and 220-pounds on the roster, has to be closer to 240 pounds and just dwarfs the other tailbacks. Don't let the size fool you, as the former state player of the year is very explosive and has outstanding agility. He certainly turned some heads on day one.
Entering the year there are question marks along the offensive line and the first-team unit today consisted of James Newby at left tackle, Kalani Heppe at left guard, Leroy Harris at center, John Amanchuckwu at right guard, and Jon Holt at right tackle. John McKeon, Dwayne Herndon, and Derek Morris, three players projected to start along the offensive line, worked with the second team.
A surprising player seen in the offensive line rotation was redshirt freshman Gerard Miller. Miller, who played defensive tackle on the scout team last year, worked at left guard today and will remain on offense "for a few weeks" according to head coach Chuck Amato.
Freshman Jamelle Eugene was recruited to play cornerback for the Wolfpack after starring at halfback in high school. Where was he today? Working with the tailbacks, and he looked pretty good doing it. After an early fumble, Eugene was last seen finishing off a nice 35-yard run where he showed good burst to the outside.
It is safe to say freshman J.C. Neal will sleep well tonight. The newcomer worked out at wide receiver and safety today and looked smooth at both positions. He will make a solid receiver, but he has outstanding upside at the safety position.
Today's skill position first-teamers appeared to be: Bobby Washington at running back, Jay Davis at quarterback, T.J. Williams at tight end and Brian Clark, Tramain Hall, and Lamart Barrett at wide receiver.
"There you go Jay, there you go... beautiful." I bet State fans want to keep hearing offensive coordinator Marc Trestman make that statement to quarterback Jay Davis.
Block of the day? Right guard John Amanchukwu locked up tough outside linebacker Stephen Tulloch nicely on a well-designed screen during 11-on-11's. The block freed Bobby Washington for a 15-yard gain.
It looked like DaJuan Morgan and Miguel Scott worked at safety with the first team defense, but safeties coach Manny Diaz seemed to rotate his unit a lot today. With Morgan, Scott, Garland Heath, and J.C. Neal this group is as athletic and physically gifted as it gets. All they need is the experience and safety should evolve into a strength on the defensive side of the ball.
Levin Neal looks like he will stick at wide receiver. The Wilmington (NC) Ashley standout was recruited as a cornerback and wideout by the Wolfpack, but he was impressive throughout the day on offense. He gave senior cornerback Marcus Hudson all he could handle on a few occasions.
Sophomore tight end Anthony Hill has shed some weight and looks much quicker. He's got a chance to be a special player, as he has outstanding hands and can really move for his size.
Freshmen Kyle Newell and Geron James are imposing figures at wide receiver as each are pushing 6-foot-6. They both need to add a little weight, but should be nice targets for the quarterbacks. James really had some nice routes today, including a couple of streaks where he blew past the defenders.
With Lerue Rumph sidelined due to injury, Ernest Jones worked with the first team at "SAM" linebacker.
The Wolfpack will practice again tomorrow but the evening workout will be closed to the media.