Camp O'Brien: Consistent Line Play

RALEIGH, N.C. -- For NC State to improve offensively in 2007 the Wolfpack must get better play out of the offensive line.

NC State lost two seniors at tackle in James Newby and Jon Holt, and Newby's left tackle position is being manned by redshirt sophomore Julian Williams.

Wolfpack offensive line coach Don Horton raves about Williams.

"He has tremendous work ethic and a tremendous drive," said Horton. "He gets better everyday. He's young and he's going to have some growing pains, but he's a good football player. He's fun to coach and fun to be around.

Williams enrolled at NC State in 2005 as one of the top recruits in the incoming class. A three-star prospect out of New Bern (NC), he inked with the Wolfpack over offers from North Carolina, Virginia Tech, East Carolina, Notre Dame, and Maryland among others.

"He has tremendous work ethic
and a tremendous drive."
At 6-foot-5 and 292 pounds, Williams has great size and athletic ability, but he has yet to take a snap in a college football game and that is a concern because he will protecting the blindside of the Wolfpack's quarterbacks. With that being said, his dedication and work ethic impresses Horton.

"He's a serious kid," said Horton. "He wants to be good. He does all the little things and all the extra things. He's a dedicated young man."

The Wolfpack will count on seniors Kalani Heppe and Luke Lathan at left guard and center respectively.

Heppe has battled injuries throughout his career, but has started 17 games including 10 in 2006. The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder is a converted center and the Pack's most experienced returning lineman.

Back in the middle will be the 6-4, 292-pound Lathan, who stepped in for Leroy Harris over the last four games of the season. He was projected to start the year at center, with Harris likely to have moved to guard, but had a major problem with a concussion suffered in fall practice and only ended up playing in eight games.

Horton is looking for leadership from his seniors.

"They work hard," he said. "They've worked hard to learn the offense, and they've been on the field here. They've got some experience. Those two guys have got to be our leaders."

NC State's most talented offensive lineman might be right guard Curtis Crouch. After being the only freshman to start along the lines in 2005, Crouch returned as a sophomore to start all 11 games he played in. A prep All-American from Fayetteville, N.C. the 6-foot-5, 335-pounder is experienced and talented, but is still working to get in top shape.

"He's still got to be more consistent."

"To be very candid, Curtis is still a little overweight," said coach Horton. "He's still carrying too much weight. He's still got to be more consistent. If he can do that, he will be a good football player. He's got some work to do."

Crouch has always had great size for the position, but it appears the new coaching staff would like him to be slimmer and even quicker.

"We want him to be able to move, play 60 minutes, be athletic, and be tough," Horton stated.

The right tackle was suppose to be redshirt sophomore Jeraill McCuller, who had a fantastic spring and summer. At 6-foot-7 and 330 pounds, McCuller has great size and surprising athleticism, and he keyed several big runs in the spring game. However, McCuller was arrested on July 21st and charged with driving while impaired, speeding and reckless driving. It is underdetermined just how he will be disciplined, and McCuller has been practicing with the team.

If McCuller misses any time, the likely replacement would be Garrett Kline. A 6-foot-6, 315-pound redshirt senior, Kline enrolled at NC State in 2005 as a JUCO All-American but he has yet to see action in a game for the Wolfpack.

"You've got a younger kid and an older kid," Horton said of his right tackles. "Neither of them have been on the field very much. Both are inexperienced, but both work hard. McCuller had a good spring... a good summer. We'll see what happens."

NC State is as talented as anyone in the Atlantic Coast Conference at tailback and wide receiver. There are some concerns at the quarterback position, but it really won't matter if there isn't more consistent play along the offensive line.


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