Earl Wolff knows he will be a marked man in 2007. Although he was recognized as one of the most talented players in his conference after earning first-team all-conference honors, the fact that he has verbaled to an ACC program will draw him extra attention.
|"I'm going to like it a lot... teams coming after me."|
"I'm ready for it," said Wolff. "I'm going to like it a lot... teams coming after me.
"I just want the ball in my hands as much as possible so I can make plays. I know I can bring it on defense... I try and play all over the field."
Hoke County plays in the strong 4A Mid Southeastern Conference, which features traditional powers Richmond County, Scotland County, the home of Terrell Manning, Jack Britt, Westover and Virginia Tech commitment Lorenzo Williams, and Douglas Byrd.
The Bucks finishing 5-7 in 2006 with a first-round playoff loss at Winston-Salem (NC) Mount Tabor, but they return 19 lettermen and Wolff has high expectations.
"I think we can do well," he said. "We've just got to go out there and do what we think we can do."
They will need a big year from Wolff. At 6-foot and 190 pounds, Wolff mainly played free safety for Hoke County in 2006, where he tallied six interceptions and returned three for touchdowns. Look for Hoke County head coach Greg Bryant to take advantage of his talents and play him all over the field.
"Earl is very explosive," said coach Bryant. "Anytime he can break a long run, and he is always making great plays on defense. He really flew under the radar.
"He had a good season for us as a junior, and I think he can be even better this year. He plays free safety for us, and he was one of our better running backs, but we did have a senior who was a pretty good running back and he ended up at Western Carolina after being our conference's Offensive Player of the Year.
"Earl returned kickoffs for us and played on a lot of special teams... he did it all, and he's going to do more of the same this year."
"I'm going to be playing free safety and a little bit of linebacker," said Wolff. "I'll be playing some running back and I will do all the returning on special teams. I think I'll be in the slot some... my coach just said he wants to get me the ball a lot.
|"I don't care where I play. I think I can play any of them in college."|
"There's a lot of guys I try and play like. At kickoff returner I want to be like Devin Hester, at running back I want to be like L.T., and at safety I try and play like Ed Reed."
The versatility to play all over the field also adds value to Wolff as a college football prospect. Because he has the size and athleticism to play several positions, he says NC State doesn't want to restrict him to just one spot. What position is he? He's an athlete.
"Coach Bridge was telling me that it's good that I'm labeled an athlete because if someone is at free safety when I get there I won't have to wait four years to come in and play," said Wolff. "If someone is at free safety I might play receiver. If someone is at receiver I might play running back. If someone is at running back I might play free safety.
"I don't care where I play. I think I can play any of them in college. It really doesn't matter that much to me as long as I get to play."
"I think he's going to play free safety or cornerback at NC State," said coach Bryant. "He's still raw, but Earl is very coachable. He just has so much upside. I think he's going to be a great college football player. NC State is a real good fit for him."
"He has great closing speed and he's going to blow up once he gets on the training table and a college weight program," coach Bryant added. "I think he brings a lot to the table as a free safety. He has a nose for the football, and he will really come up and hit you. He's so big, quick, and physical, we're going to probably use him some at outside linebacker this year. We play a lot of cover three and he will be able to drop back there and cover easily."
What does Wolff believe is his biggest strength on the football field?
"I just play hard," he said. "I want to keep playing hard. Even if we're losing... we played Richmond and lost by a lot of points, but even then I was still playing hard. That's what I try to do."
"Earl is just a great kid and a fierce competitor," said coach Bryant. "He's very polite and all of the teachers here just love him. He is the type of kid that you want to have on your football team."