NC State (0-0) vs. Central Florida (0-0)
Saturday, September 1, 2007
6:00 pm Carter-Finley Stadium
Central Florida Links
NC State Game Notes
THE SEASON O'PENER: O'BRIEN VS. O'LEARY
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).
Central Florida Game Notes
2006 Overall Record: 4-8 (.333)
C-USA Record: 3-5 (.375)
Basic Offense: Multiple
Basic Defense: Multiple
Letterwinners: Returning/Lost 40/21
Offensive Letterwinners: Returning/Lost 15/7
Defensive Letterwinners: Returning/Lost 23/8
Special Teams Letterwinners: Returning/Lost 2/5
Starters: Returning/Lost 19/6
Offensive Starters: Returning/Lost 8/3
Defensive Starters: Returning/Lost 9/2
Specialty Starters: Returning/Lost 4/1
Central Florida Scouting Report
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kevin Smith, RB – Smith enters 2007 as one of the top running backs in the country and helps make up a superior class of juniors that play the position across the nation.
Despite missing three games last season, he ranks eighth among junior rushers in career yardage and his average of 96.00 yards per game is the sixth-highest total in that class.
The Miami native's 2,112 career yards are the most in school history by a UCF rusher through his sophomore season. Smith was one of two running backs named to the coaches' preseason All-Conference USA first team.
He completed 19-of-22 passes (86.4 percent) for 270 yards and two scores in the season-fi nale against UAB - just his fourth start of the season and fi fth of his career. In the second-to-last contest of the year, he completed 16-of-20 (80 percent) attempts for 173 yards in relief duty at Tulane. The 35-for-42 effort (83.3 percent) in back-to-back games was good for a school record.
For the season, he went 108-of-166 and threw for six touchdowns in nine games. His completion percentage of 65.1 was the third-best single-season effort in program history.
Joe Burnett, CB – Junior cornerback/punt returner was selected by the Conference USA coaches as the league's Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year.
The reigning first-team all-league punt returner averaged 12.0 yards a return a year ago and has two career punt returns for touchdowns.
Leger Douzable, DL – Senior defensive end had a breakout season in 2006. In his first two years combined, the native of Tampa had just 21 tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss.
But during his junior campaign Douzable collected 32 tackles, 10.5 of which were for a loss, en route to earning third-team All-Conference USA honors by the league's media.
Although he split time between defensive end and defensive tackle last year, he was still able to lead the squad in sacks with seven.
Central Florida Game Notes
UCF OPENS 2007 CAMPAIGN AT NC STATE
The UCF football team will open its 2007 campaign on the road against NC State. It will be the fifth time the Knights have traveled to the state of North Carolina for a gridiron clash and will be the fi rst time facing the Wolfpack.
All-time, UCF is 58-62-1 in 121 first meetings, along with a 3-6 record during the George O'Leary era. The squad is 4-6 all-time against foes from the Tarheel State. The first four of those contests were played at the Division II and III levels with the last of those contests coming in 1987 when the Knights defeated Elon, 34-10. The last six meetings have all been against Conference USA foe East Carolina.
UCF snapped a streak of seven consecutive season-opening losses last season with a 35-16 victory over Villanova at the Citrus Bowl. NC State will be the first of four new opponents that UCF will face in 2007.
Even though it's the first match-up between the schools, both respective head coaches, UCF's George O'Leary and NC State's Tom O'Brien, have met 11 previous times in various roles during their careers. In only two of those occasions were both men in a head coaching capacity. They split those two meetings with O'Leary's Georgia Tech squad beating O'Brien's Boston College squad 42-14 in 1997, then reversing roles the next season as BC won 41-31 in Atlanta.
The Knights are no strangers to tough road openers, having faced Steve Spurrier in his South Carolina debut in 2005, No. 21 Wisconsin in 2004, No. 9 Virginia Tech in 2003, No. 24 Penn State in 2002, No. 19 Clemson in 2001, O'Leary's Georgia Tech squad in 2000 and No. 22 Purdue in 1999. The Wolfpack received votes in the USA Today Preseason Coaches' Top 25 Poll prior to the start of the 2007 campaign.
UCF BREAKS HOME ATTENDANCE MARK IN 2006, SETS SIGHTS ON 2007
After nearly setting a home attendance mark in 2005 (142,401), UCF's record was easily surpassed in 2006 as 220,980 fans attended the Knights' seven games at the Florida Citrus Bowl. The old mark was established in 1988 when 153,343 attended seven UCF home games.
The record was actually broken following the fifth game in 2006 when the total reached 165,811. With the much-anticipated opening of Bright House Networks Stadium for the 2007 season, the attendance mark should once again be in serious jeopardy. The new on-campus venue will hold 45,000 and with six home games on the slate, attendance fi gures could reach upwards of 270,000.
The 2006 season marked the final one for the Knights at the Citrus Bowl and the UCF faithful turned out in record numbers as the third and seventh-largest crowds in program history came out to watch the Knights play. The 46,708 to attend the USF game (3rd) topped last year's USF road game in Tampa (45,319) by 1,389. The Friday night game against Pitt on ESPN drew 35,858 (7th) fans. The 76,108 in back-to-back home regular season games to start the 2006 campaign was the most in a two-game regular season home span in program history, topping the 75,313 that came to the Virginia Tech (50,220) and Louisiana-Monroe (25,093) games in 2000. In 2005, 84,613 came out to the postseason C-USA title game and to the Houston game (32,635) just before that on Nov. 5.
PLENTY OF EXPERIENCE FOR NEW COACHES
Head coach George O'Leary enters his fourth season at the helm of the Knights and he will have 17 of 22 starters back for the team's fi rst campaign playing on campus at Bright House Networks Stadium. Nine of those starters are on the offensive side of the ball, where the Knights will have to replace quarterback Steven Moffett and wide receiver Mike Walker.
On defense, the Knights have eight starters back, including the entire secondary which will be made up of a quartet of juniors. That foursome will be under the direction of first-year assistant Earnest Collins, who spent the previous four seasons working with the cornerbacks at Kansas.
Collins is one of five new assistants on O'Leary's staff at UCF as he is joined by Jim Freeman (offensive line), David Kelly (wide receivers), Jim Panagos (defensive line) and John Skladany (defensive coordinator). All the coaches except for Freeman were on board in time for spring drills where they brought renewed energy and enthusiasm to the squad. Freeman joined the staff in early July.
UCF AGAINST THE ACC
The season opener with NC State will mark the third time this decade the Knights open a campaign on the road against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent (2000 at Georgia Tech and 2001 at Clemson).
Current UCF head coach George O'Leary was in the same position at Georgia Tech for that 2000 matchup. O'Leary's Yellow Jackets were victorious, 21-17.
Savvy secondary Experience plays a huge roll on the defensive side of the ball, and the UCF secondary certainly brings a lot of it into the 2007 season. All four projected starters are juniors this season and ranked in the top five in tackles for the Knights in 2006.
Cornerback Johnell Neal accumulated a team-best 66 tackles a year ago, followed by free safety Jason Venson's 63 takedowns, strong safety Sha'reff Rashad's 53 tackles and cornerback Joe Burnett's 50 tackles. Neal (135), Venson (148), Rashad (84) and Burnett (113) have combined for 480 tackles in their UCF careers. In 94 career games, including 80 starts, between them, they have also racked up 17 interceptions.
Last year, the quartet was awarded with 25 pass break-ups and eight picks, including Rashad's team-high four INTs. Burnett leads the foursome with six career picks, followed by Rashad with five, Venson with four and Neal with two.
PAVE THE WAY
UCF features one of the nation's most experienced offensive lines. The group has more than 100 combined starts as four starters return from a year ago.
The starting unit includes a pair of seniors – tackle Josh Sitton and center Kyle Smith. Sitton has made 25-consecutive starts at right tackle. In 2006, Smith made starts at both left guard and center, but made the permanent move to the middle for this season. He paces all UCF linemen with 31 career starts. Junior left tackle Patrick Brown enters the campaign with 24 career starts, the most by any junior at his position in the country. The guard positions will be manned by junior L.J. Anderson and sophomore Jeramy DeVane. Anderson has 22 career starts and he made 10 of those a year ago. DeVane cracked the starting lineup at left guard for the final three games of his true freshman campaign in 2006.
WHO IS NEXT?
For the second consecutive year the Knights' leading wide receiver was drafted within the top four rounds of the NFL Draft. Last year it was Mike Walker who was selected in the third round by the Jacksonville Jaguars after his record-breaking season for the Knights. The Orlando native set the UCF single-season record for receptions a year ago with 90. He also hauled in 1,178 receiving yards and had five 100-yard receiving games.
In 2006, Brandon Marshall was selected in the fourth round by the Denver Broncos after he led the Knights with 74 catches for 1,195 yards.
Walker filled Marshall's shoes admirably a year ago, now the Knights and new wide receivers coach David Kelly will have to find a player or players to replace Walker's production.
Junior Rocky Ross is likely one of the top candidates as he was second on the team with 36 receptions and 531 receiving yards in 2006 and came on strong towards the end of season, racking up back-to-back 100-yard receiving games on the road at Memphis (6 for 135) and at Tulane (9 for 124).
Senior Javid James is the veteran of the bunch and ranked third on the team with 24 catches and 278 receiving yards in 2006. His breakout game was vs. Southern Miss, when he had career-highs in receptions (7) and yards (70) and also scored his first-career touchdown.
Junior Willie Thornton is the only other member of the unit to have caught a pass as a collegian. Thornton has four career touchdowns for the Knights.
The rest of the unit is made up of senior Sergio Joachim and 10 freshmen. Three of those freshmen redshirted a year ago, while Kelly ushers in seven rookies that also could be counted on to contribute during their first year in the Knights' program.
HEAD COACH GEORGE O'LEARY
We started Aug. 1 with preseason and are rounding this week off. I know that the players and coaches are real excited to get this first game under wraps. Right now, as far as the team is concerned, we are winding down with the game plan and are getting ready to go to Raleigh, N.C. I have been there many times and it (Carter Finley Stadium) is a great venue.
What have been your experiences with the Atlantic Coast Conference?
The ACC I think is one of the better conferences in the country from top to bottom. It is well staffed with good football coaches and good players. Anytime there is a conference championship, it gives everybody a shot. I think the ACC has changed. When I was there Florida State was starting to rule the roost a little bit. There was only the one conference. Now, you see a lot different teams popping up like Wake Forest. It is a good and well attended conference as far as fan base and is a well coached conference.
What did former NC State coach Chuck Amato bring to the Wolfpack?
You never know, sometimes it is chemistry. I think Chuck Amato recruited very well. He had some real talented players up there. I know that some of the players he took out of Florida were really a talented group. The two or three running backs that they play are good enough to play on Sundays. They recruited the right people. Sometimes it is like a freight train where you just cannot stop bad things going on as much as you work at them. I think that Chuck did a lot of good things, like improving the look of the stadium. When the administration makes a decision to move on, there is not much you can do as a coach except hope that you have friends elsewhere.
How does the new NC State coach, Tom O'Brien, affect your preparations for the week?
It is hard playing the first game because you really do not have the tape. The tape we have is obviously from Boston College and NC State looking at the talent base from last year. They brought defensive staffs in from other teams, so that is what you have.
How do you prepare for the first game of the season?
I always look at your first game in that you are only as good as your base defense and base offense because it is a game of adjustments. The one thing that I think is a plus from previous years is that we do have a lot of players that have experience in playing and starting football games. It is a lot easier to make adjustments with those kids, than these young kids that are big-eyed to begin with when they walk into a stadium for their first college game. We will play some freshmen, there is no question there. Right now, I believe that the veterans that have played for us have really taken charge on the field. This is what I have seen different from past years.
How has Kevin Smith changed from his freshman year?
I think that Kevin Smith is a very good running back. Kevin has gotten stronger. He is bigger. He is a very smart football player. One thing about Kevin is that he does not know just his position, but a lot of the positions. When a play does not work, he knows exactly what happened when he comes to the sideline. As a freshman, he did not know what was wrong. Last year was a little better. This year he tells me that guard did not get his hat where it belongs. He knows what is going on and is not afraid to speak up, which is why I like Kevin. Whether right or wrong, he will speak up. Especially today with peer pressure, I do not see a lot of kids standup for what is right or wrong. He will speak up when kids are wrong and even when he is wrong which I appreciate.
How would you judge NC State head coach Tom O'Brien?
Tommy is a very solid football coach, fundamentally sound. He always has big offensive lines to control the ball in the run game and very good play action. The quarterback usually makes good decisions. My history with him started when he was at Virginia as an assistant coach, then at Boston College as a head coach. I have been to NC State about seven or eight times to play and have played him seven or eight times when I was at Georgia Tech. They are a typical ACC team that runs the ball and has good depth.
When you look at any team, I think everybody has skilled athletes at our level. The difference between most teams is the offensive and defensive lines where dominant guys are needed that take a man and a half to block or can tie up a guy one-on-one.
Last year's recruiting goal was for athleticism and speed. The UCF depth chart shows Kamar Aiken and A.J. Guyton listed at the wide receiver position. Have they outplayed the upperclassmen?
I do not know if it is outplaying them. I think that when they have opportunities, they are able to make plays. They are only so many opportunities given on the field in practice. It is hard because the receivers cannot drop a ball or make a mistake, since they are always being evaluated. They made less mistakes and less drops. That is the purpose of practice. I have to go with the people that were more productive.
I think that the freshmen that we recruited were exactly that I thought they would be. They are very talented individual athletes. Freshmen-wise, the further away from the ball they are, the easier it is to play early because the athletic ability takes over. It is tougher when getting inside the tackle position because strength and experience are needed. The freshmen that we did recruit are a talented group.
We are going to travel with eight receivers and Javid James is a part of that eight. The key to everything is productivity. A couple of those guys can play different positions that make them more valuable.
How is the team looking forward to the first game on Saturday at NC State?
They are tired looking at me and the guys that they are hitting every day. I think that they practiced really well today, the sense of urgency was there. I do see great effort, which gives them a chance to be productive on the field. The big thing I look for on both sides of the ball is communication. Today, I heard a lot of talking going on as far as tendencies and reminders in coverage calls. It is a good sign showing that they have their heads where they are supposed to be.
How would it be to come home to open the new stadium after a win?
No question that would be great, but it makes it a lot easier to be around me during that second week. Having an open date with a sour taste in your mouth is not a good situation. I have already given the kids off Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week only because I think that they need it to get their feet on the ground with school. This is the best team that we have had here overall in every facet, from strength to speed. I hear the guys constantly picking each other up. That is what you want. I have always thought that is what was missing in the first couple of years because we were constantly trying to find leadership. This senior group has been here now for four years.
How has Kyle Israel progressed through the summer and training camp?
I think that Kyle is productive kid like most quarterbacks and reminds me of (UCF quarterbacks coach) George Godsey. He is a smart kid that will move the chains, but cannot get himself into a lot of mistakes. He is not able to get out of the bad play all the time. He makes good decisions and throws the ball on time. Last year over the final three games, he did not make too many mistakes. We self inflicted some of his wounds during the East Carolina game last year by missing some field goal kicks and did not play well defensively.
Are you any more excited about this season with the opening of Bright House Networks Stadium?
I am, but I am more concerned that everyone else is getting things done. I worry about the little things and the big things will take care of themselves. I am excited for our fan base. On Saturday (at UCF fan day), they were really excited to be around the new stadium. It is a big deal. I think the whole dynamics of this campus is going to change. It really is from a fan standpoint a place to call home. We are trying to get better as a football team in a tough state with other schools having legitimate traditions. The only way to get them is to beat the teams that you are not supposed to beat. These non-conference games are the way to get recognized. Our conference plays a lot of BCS teams, but we need to start winning these games, not just play them.
The school has done everything that I spoke to them about when I was hired. During the summer, I have said that it is time that we have to start doing our job. Players should be thankful for all the facilities that they have and coaches getting the players to do what they were supposed to be doing. The only pressure that is on me is what I put on myself. I do think that it is time to start winning. Not just win, but win consistently. I thoroughly expect to do well in the conference. We should win the games that we are supposed to win and take everyone else into the fourth quarter to see what happens. We need to start winning, which solves a lot of problems.
NC State Two-Deep Depth Chart
|2007 NC State Depth Chart|
Thanks to NC State and Central Florida Athletics for much of the information in this preview.