The September 1 matchup will mark the first ever between NC State and Central Florida, the sixth-largest school in the country with an enrollment of almost 47,000. Although NC State has never played the Conference USA school, it isn't the first time that head coaches Tom O'Brien and George O'Leary have stood on opposite sidelines as head coaches.
In 1997, O'Brien's first year as head coach at Boston College, O'Leary and his Georgia Tech team traveled to Chestnut Hill and whipped the Eagles, 42-14. The next season, however, O'Brien and his BC squad opened the season in Atlanta with a 41-31 victory over O'Leary and the Jackets.
O'Leary posted a 6-1 record over NC State during his tenure at Georgia Tech.
O'BRIEN ERA BEGINS
A new era in NC State football will officially begin on Saturday when the Wolfpack takes the field under first-year head coach Tom O'Brien. The 33rd coach in school history, O'Brien comes to the Wolfpack after a 10-year stint as the head coach at Boston College, where he posted more wins (75) than any other coach in that school's history.
O'Brien has coached games in Carter-Finley eight times during his career, but stood on the visitor sidelines for all eight. He traveled to Raleigh with the Virginia Cavaliers in 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1995 and with Boston College last season.
EVANS GETS STARTING NOD
After a heated battle throughout fall camp, Daniel Evans will return as the Wolfpack's starting quarterback for the season opener. The redshirt junior completed 62 percent of his throws in fall scrimmages, 65% in spring scrimmages.
Evans posted the 15th-best single season passing total in school history last year with 1,843 yards, even though he started just nine of the 12 games. His 163 completions ranked 13th on the single-season list, while his 307 attempts was the 11th-best mark in school history.
PACK SELECTS CAPTAINS
The NC State football team elected captains for the upcoming season on August 2, in the squad's first meeting of 2007 camp. In a players' vote, seniors John Dunlap, Marcus Stone and Martrel Brown were chosen to represent their teammates for the 2007 campaign.
"These three young men have shown leadership throughout spring practice and in our summer workouts," said head coach Tom O'Brien. "Their hard work and dedication earned them the respect of their teammates."
Dunlap, a wide receiver from Hollywood, Fla., boasts 1,032 career snaps, the second-highest tally on the 2007 offense. He was the team's second-leading receiver in 2006 and was the recipient of one of the most memorable plays in NC State history when he caught the 34-yard throw from Daniel Evans in the corner of the endzone with eight seconds remaining to defeat Boston College last season.
Stone, a tight end from Steelton, Pa., has been singled out for his unselfishness by his head coach and his teammates. A former quarterback, Stone moved to tight end last season and agreed to stay at that position for 2007. He has worked hard to add bulk and learn the techniques necessary for his new position.
Brown, a defensive end from Maxton, N.C., led the team with seven sacks a year ago, the sixth-best mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The former defensive tackle ranked second on the team in tackles for loss with eight.
He wasn't on the spring roster. He wasn't on the Wolfpack's list of signees back in February. But he will be lining up as NC State's starting placekicker on September 1. He's Steven Hauschka and although he's one of the newest members of Tom O'Brien's squad, he's also one of the oldest.
A Needham, Mass., native, Hauschka didn't play football in high school. He didn't play his freshman year at Middlebury College. Instead, he was a soccer player, whose football player friends urged him to bring his leg and try out for that sport as a sophomore.
In his first year, he broke the Middlebury record for field goals in a season, going 10-12 with a long kick of 41 yards. He also served as punter and earned conference Defensive Player of Week honors after one game for placing eight punts inside the 20.
After an unexpectedly successful career on the football field, Hauschka graduated from Middlebury this spring and took advantage of the NCAA's graduate transfer rule. After graduating with a 3.54 GPA in neuroscience, he is enrolled in graduate school at NC State and hopes to some day pursue a career in dentistry.
GOING WIDE, GOING TALL
NC State boasts two of the top 18 receivers in the ACC in terms of career receptions (Darrell Blackman, 51 and John Dunlap, 40). But the Wolfpack also boasts one of the tallest group of receivers in the league for 2007. NC State's group of wideouts averages a height of 6-1, with seven players at that position measuring 6-0 or taller and six standing better than 6-2.
Jarvis Williams and Darrell Davis are the tallest of the wideouts at 6-4, while freshman Marcus Bond is the shortest at 5-9.
Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien is not the only member of the NC State coaching staff who had experience as a head coach at another NCAA Division IA school prior to this season. In fact, O'Brien is one of three members of the coaching staff who have been head coaches at the Division IA level. In addition to O'Brien's 10 years as head coach at Boston College, defensive coordinator Mike Archer was the head coach at LSU from 1987-90 and linebackers coach Andy McCollum was the head coach at Middle Tennessee State University from 1999-2005, as that school transitioned from IAA to IA.
In the Atlantic Coast Conference, only Clemson has as many coaches who have been IA head coaches before.
TAKERS, NOT GIVERS
Holding onto the football was not exactly the Wolfpack's forté in 2006. NC State ranked last in the ACC and tied for second-to-last in the nation in turnover margin, gaining just 12 turnovers and losing the ball 23 times for a -.92 mark.
Hopefully, those numbers will change dramatically in 2007. Last season, under Tom O'Brien's leadership, Boston College led the ACC and tied for second nationally in turnover margin, with 37 takeaways and 22 giveaways for a +1.15 mark.
And the school that tied the Eagles in national rankings? That would be Kentucky, which led the SEC with that same +1.15 mark, forcing 32 TOs and having just 17. Kentucky's defensive coordinator last year was Mike Archer, who is now directing the Wolfpack's defense.
NEW PLAYERS COULD SEE PLAYING TIME
Steven Hauschka isn't the only new player that made it onto the Wolfpack's first two-deep of the 2007 season, although he is the only newcomer listed as a starter (placekicker). Freshman Jake Vermiglio is listed as the backup at left tackle, while fellow freshman Desmond Roberts is the backup at right tackle. Junior college transfer R.J. Armstrong looks to get some playing time at tight end, while freshman Markus Kuhn is the backup defensive left tackle. Antoine Holmes, another JUCO, is listed second at right defensive end.
PRESSLEY, BLACKMAN PRESEASON PICKS
Defensive tackle Demario Pressley and wide receiver/kick returner Darrell Blackman were both named to the All-ACC preseason team, which is voted on by the league's sportswriters. Pressley has also been named to the preseason ‘Watch' list for the Lombardi Award.
Pressley, the second-most experienced player on the 2007 squad with 1,112 career snaps, had his season cut short a year ago when he injured his wrist in the UNC game. He also missed most of spring practice with a toe injury. Blackman ranks first in NC State history and second in ACC history with a 28.63 kickoff return average. He was a first-team preseason All-American according to Street and Smith.
HIGH RATE OF RETURNS
Senior Darrell Blackman enters his senior campaign with the chance to become one of the top kickoff returners in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference. For his career, Blackman has returned 40 kicks for 1,145 yards - a 28.6 yard average. That is the top career average in Wolfpack history and ranks second in ACC history.
Blackman, who was a first-team All-ACC performer as a specialist in 2006, has been named a preseason first-team All-American by Street & Smith. He currently ranks 12th among active league players in career receptions with 51, even though he has been at wide receiver just one season.
A BOUNTIFUL BACKFIELD
Tailbacks Toney Baker and Andre Brown joined an elite group of Wolfpack greats last season, when they each crossed the 1,000-yard mark in terms of career rushing. Only eight other times in NC State history had a pair of players each boasting at least 1,000 career rushing yards played on the same team.
Baker and Brown are the youngest 1,000-yard duo to ever play for the Pack, as both were sophomores when they reached that total.
Brown tallied 1,000 yards in just his 16th career contest, the eighth-fastest in school history, while Baker hit the mark in his 21st game, the 12th-fastest ever for a Pack back.
Entering their junior campaigns, the Baker/Brown tandem boasts 2,559 yards between them (1,234 for Baker and 1,325 for Brown).