Key Losses: Ray Brooks
How important was this spot in relation to other positions: Critical
Did the Pack meet their needs based on sheer numbers: A+
The Pack missed on: Travian Robertson (South Carolina), Derrick Morgan (Georgia Tech), Jamar Jackson (Florida State), Linwan Euwell (UNC), Byron Clear (Clemson)
How many may the Pack target for the class of 2008: 2-3
After signing just three defensive ends over the last two years and losing Ray Brooks in the off-season, this was a position that earned quite a bit of attention from the NC State coaching staff over the last year. When all was said and done, the Pack had landed a quartet of DE's that should give State a solid foundation with which to work over the coming years.
Few defensive players in the nation were more productive in 2006 than Mooresville (NC) High's JR Sweezy. The 6-5, 245 pounder finished off the year with an astounding 195 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, six sacks and four fumble recoveries. In his final two seasons, Sweezy totaled an eye-popping 310 tackles.
Sweezy is defined by his non-stop motor and toughness. He has a great frame and is simply tenacious on the field. Sweezy maneuvers through traffic well, gets off blocks and always finds a way to get to the ball-carrier. A linebacker in high school, this talented defender will likely project at defensive end for NC State although his versatility is what makes him special. He could very well play defensive tackle, tight end or even offensive line.
Perhaps nothing epitomizes Sweezy's hard-nosed ways more than his accomplishments in wrestling. He earned a number one seed in the 275-pound weight class for 3A and boasts a 36-2 record for the year. That toughness should serve Sweezy well as he makes the transition to division one football next year.
One player who operated completely under the recruiting radar this year was JUCO all-american Antoine Holmes from Lackawanna Junior College in Scranton, Pa. In fact, his name never surfaced until making an official visit with NC State back on Jan 19th. After returning home and discussing his college future with his family, Holmes committed to the Pack over interest from Florida State and Georgia.
In Holmes, the Pack landed a big (6-3, 290 pounds), dominating defensive end that earned conference defensive player of the year honors after collecting 44 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 11 sacks in 2006. Physically, Holmes is off the charts and boasts solid speed and quickness as well. Given his size, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Holmes could potentially play defensive tackle but we believe he'll start his career with the Pack at defensive end.
Markus Kuhn had more than a few Wolfpack fans scratching their heads when he committed to NC State back in January. All the way from Weinheim, Germany, Kuhn had made a trip to NC State last summer with a highlight tape in hand. Physically, Kuhn looks the part. He runs well and has a division one physique now. However, he is extremely raw and there are obvious questions about the level of competition he faced while at home in Germany. However, what is know is that Kuhn has a tremendous work ethic, thrives in the weight room and loves the game of football. If his football skills ever catch up with his physical ability- look out!
A linebacker for his Weinheim squad, Kuhn is used to moving in space and attacking the ball carrier. Those attributes should pay off for Kuhn as he adjusts to playing with his hand on the ground and zeros in on the offensive backfield.
Jeff Rieskamp from Elder High School in Cincinnati, Oh was one of two former Boston College commits that switched to NC State after Tom O'Brien accepted the head coaching spot with the Wolfpack. O'Brien made contact with Rieskamp in December of last year to gauge his interest in giving the Pack a look and offered him an official visit during the weekend of Jan 5th. After returning home and talking with his parents, Rieskamp changed his commitment to the Wolfpack.
As a senior in high school, Rieskamp recorded 56 tackles and nine sacks en route to all-state honors. Of all the defensive ends committed to NC State, Rieskamp probably runs the best- although he is admittedly the smallest of the bunch as well. A soft-spoken kid off the field, Rieskamp is all but easy going on the field. He is a solid tackler and very aggressive in his pursuit to the ball carrier. He will need to get bigger, particularly in his lower body but the keyword with Rieskamp is potential. By his third or fourth year in the program, he could be a player that becomes a household name for Wolfpack fans.