Pack Pride takes a look at some of the highs and lows, jewels and sleepers of the class of 2007. During a year of transition, new head coach Tom O'Brien managed to hold together much of the class assembled before him and added a few of his own priorities to this year's recruiting class.
Biggest recruiting battle won... OL Desmond Roberts...The Pack knew from the start that they'd have a battle on their hands to land Roberts. He earned an early offer from South Carolina which was followed quickly by scholarship pledges from UNC and NC State. In the Pack's favor from the beginning was Robert's familiarity with the Wolfpack and his hopes of majoring in Engineering. He camped with NC State three years in a row and had become quite fond of former OL coach Mike Barry. When Barry left for the NFL it opened the door somewhat for other schools. UNC and Virginia Tech became the Pack's biggest threats over last summer but an unofficial visit from Roberts and his mother all but solidified him for the Pack and he made his commitment to State official on August 8th.
That would become just the first chapter in the effort to land Roberts in Raleigh, however. When NC State fired head coach Chuck Amato in November, Robert's commitment was thrown into question. He never officially de-committed and much of the credit for that was due to early connections made by new head coach Tom O'Brien.
State hosted Roberts on an official visit in early January and probably hoped to solidify his commitment so that he would cancel any future trips. However, he stayed true to his word with the coaches at Virginia Tech and Penn State and made official visits with both.
The Hokies, in particular, put on the full court press and probably had the best shot of any school to change Robert's mind. They landed his final visit but after a couple of days of mulling his future, Roberts decided to stick with his original commitment. On January 30th, he solidified his pledge to the Pack.
One that got away...QB Matt Simms...From Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, NJ, Simms appeared to have recruiting behind him when he committed to Louisville last August. He had quite a bit of familiarity with Boston College from camping at BC for two summer but, interestingly, didn't list the Eagles as one of his top schools upon committing to Louisville.
Everything stayed status quo for Simms until Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino bolted for the NFL in January- thrusting the US Army All-American's future into question.
Because of his knowledge of Simms through BC's camp, newly hired Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien threw his hat into the ring and landed an official visit with Simms in late January.
Simms and O'Brien were shown together on national TV and all indications were the talented QB had a great visit in Raleigh. Just days before he would make his final decision, most insiders felt the Pack had emerged as the team to beat.
However, Simms pulled a mild shocker when he re-committed to Louisville during a phone call with new head coach Steve Kragthorpe.
Curiosity factor...LB Audie Cole...At 6-5, 215 pounds, Cole certainly doesn't seem to fit the mold of your average linebacker. In fact, when making a quick scan of the Boston College roster, the vast majority of Eagles' ‘backers are 6-2 and shorter. So obviously, head coach Tom O'Brien and TE coach Jim Bridge saw some particular attributes that led them to project this high school star quarterback onto to the defensive side of the ball.
One reason may have been Cole's speed. He has been timed under 4-7 seconds in the 40-yard dash and was known to be a much more effective runner than passer while leading his Monroe (MI) squad.
Cole also spent time working at safety as a senior and actually earned all-league honors for his work on defense. Obviously, the ability to play in coverage shows that Cole has the talents to work in space.
Perhaps the factor most in his favor to succeed at linebacker is his reputation for being a tough, hard-nosed player that was known for being a load to tackle. He's also a wrestler which should serve him well when going head to head against some of the nation's best running backs in the ACC.
Jewel of the class...TE George Bryan...He may not have earned lofty recruiting rankings but Bryan, from New Hanover High School in Wilmington, NC was a major get for the Wolfpack early last year. Word from State's camp was that Bryan was one of the top five in-state players on their board. He also earned offers from every school that received his film.
When watching Bryan flexed out on offense at receiver, you quickly forget this is a player weighing in at 260 pounds. He runs fluidly and has very good flexibility given his size. Bryan has tremendous hands and does a great job of catching the ball in traffic.
At the Shrine Bowl held last December, Bryan didn't get a chance to catch any passes but he proved to be a formidable and impressive blocker. He more than held his own when going up against some of South Carolina's best defensive linemen.
While some have projected Bryan as an offensive tackle, he will begin his career as a tight end at NC State and given the Pack's depth concerns, could factor onto the depth chart quite early in his career.
Bryan chose NC State over scholarship offers from UNC, South Carolina, Clemson and East Carolina.
(Past winners- Andre Brown, TA McLendon, Mario Williams, DeMario Pressley)
Sleeper of the class...RB Curtis Underwood...Locally, Curtis Underwood was known as an all-world running back that could single-handedly take over a game. On a national level, Underwood barely scraped out a two-star ranking from Scout.com. While Underwood was barely a blip on the recruiting radar outside of New York, that probably sat just fine with Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien.
Underwood had an official visit planned with Boston College before O'Brien made the transition to NC State and the Pack's new head coach wasted no time in getting western New York's top player to Raleigh.
Within hours after completing his official visit to NC State, Underwood had pulled the trigger on a commitment to the Pack.
With rising junior running backs Toney Baker and Andre Brown on the depth chart, there will be little pressure on Underwood which should give him ample time to mature and grow into the Wolfpack system. But make no mistake, this is a talented player.
At 6-0, 210 pounds, Underwood has been timed as low as 4.44-seconds in the 40-yard dash. He rushed for better than 2,000 yards as a senior displaying an impressive combination of power, speed and shiftiness. Underwood has deceptive speed that causes opposing defenders to take bad angles. He has tremendous leg drive and strives to gain every available yard.
Perhaps the most promising aspect of Underwood's arrival in Raleigh is the fact that there will be no need to rush him into the running back mix. Barring any unforeseen injuries, offensive coordinator Dana Bible and running back's coach Jason Swepson should be able to ease their newest back into the Wolfpack system.
(Past winners- Manny Lawson, Jamesly Jean, Jeremy Gray, Matt Kushner)
Recruiter of the year...Head coach Tom O'Brien...With only about three full weeks to get out on the road and meet with recruits and an incomplete staff with which to work, O'Brien's results were stellar given the circumstances.
He focused on solidifying the previous commitments and managed to secure them all minus Linwan Euwell and Jonathan Hannah.
Rather than target uncommited prospects he was unfamiliar with, O'Brien chose, instead, to go after players he had recruited while at Boston College. Of the 10 uncommitted players that ultimately made official visits to NC State during the month of January, O'Brien landed eight of them- missing only on QB Matt Simms (Louisville) and OL Arthur Ray (Michigan State).
O'Brien's ability to bridge the gap between the old staff and the arrival of his new crew of assistants proved critical in allowing State to put together a respectable signing day class last Wednesday.
(Past winners- entire Pack staff, Joe Pate, Curt Cignetti, Doc Holliday)