Key Losses: Pat Lowery
How important was this spot in relation to other positions: Crucial
Did the Pack meet their needs based on sheer numbers: D
The Pack missed on: Melvin Ingram (South Carolina), Adam Herring (Auburn), Maurice Harris (Florida State)
How many may the Pack target for the class of 2008: As many as possible
In what has seemingly become a yearly ritual for NC State, once again, the Pack struggled recruiting the linebacker position. In the last four recruiting classes (including 2007) the Pack has signed just four linebackers. Each miss for the Pack has had it's own set of circumstances but there's no secret that the philosophy of the former staff was to emphasize the defensive end and defensive tackle spots. That may have played at least some part in the Wolfpack's woes at recruiting LB's. Under the new regime, the defensive linemen will likely funnel plays to the LB's which means State should have a better scheme to sell in the future. It is safe to say that State is at a critical point in regards to their numbers at this position.
Thomas Barnes was an all-state performer at linebacker for Dublin High School in Georgia. However, he was listed as a defensive back during coach O'Brien's signing day press conference so it appears he will likely begin his Wolfpack career in the secondary although an eventual move to linebacker would certainly seem reasonable.
With Barnes listed as a DB, the only linebacker signed in the class of 2007 was Audie Cole from Monroe (Mich) High School. Cole originally committed to Central Michigan back in November but reopened his recruiting when CMU head coach Brian Kelly headed to Cincinnati. Wolfpack Tight End coach Jim Bridge made contact with Cole during early January and offered him an official visit later that month. The staff had been familiar with Cole after evaluating him last summer at Boston College's camp. Upon returning home and discussing it with his family, he committed to NC State in late January.
At 6-5, 215 pounds and running the 40-yard dash in the 4.7-second range, Cole made his mark at QB for Monroe. However, his size, toughness and aggressiveness earned him a look at linebacker. Cole is very rangy and moves extremely well given he doesn't have prototypical size for a linebacker. He actually earned all-league honors this past year for his work as a safety which further demonstrated Cole's versatility and ability to make plays across the field.
It is rare for a linebacker to come in and make a huge impact as a true freshman and a redshirt year would probably be a best case scenario for Cole since he has basically no experience at the position. However, given State's overall lack of proven depth at the position, should he come in and show that he can make plays without blowing assignments and getting out of position, it's certainly possible he could see minutes as a freshman.