Upon being announced as the new head coach at NC State, Tom O'Brien declared that the Wolfpack's search for football talent would start within the borders of North Carolina. With a full recruiting year now completed, O'Brien and company have made a resounding statement that they meant business.
The commitment of Jay Robinson High School standout R.J. Mattes this past weekend solidified NC State's position as the big winner in the in-state recruiting sweepstakes for the class of 2008.
Using Scout.com's postseason rankings of the top 40 prospects in North Carolina, the Wolfpack has landed nine of the top 30 and seven of the top 20. Virginia Tech is a distant second having landed five of the state's top 30 prospects.
The Wolfpack's haul is even more impressive given the fact that State suffered through a 5-7 season in 2007. However, State showed improvement down the stretch but more importantly, the Wolfpack staff was able to successfully sell their past at Boston College as being the future for NC State. O'Brien's ability to win consistently and graduate his players at BC was a huge selling point all year for the Pack and those facts were crucial in making State a major player for the prospects of 2008.
When looking at NC State's in-state recruiting as a whole, by all accounts, the Pack offered a total of 18 North Carolina seniors. To date, the Wolfpack has landed nine of that group. While not perfect, a 50% success rate is solid for a staff that had just one year to recruit the group and very limited time to recruit them as juniors.
When breaking the commitments down by position, NC State landed the No. 1 LB and top overall player in the state in Terrell Manning from Scotland County. R.J. Mattes' commitment gave the Pack the No. 1 offensive lineman in North Carolina. Brandon Barnes from Bunn High School committed to the Pack last summer and he is the state's top safety according to Scout.com. Crest High School's Dwayne Maddox gave State the No. 2 middle linebacker in North Carolina while Andrew Wallace of Olympic was rated as the third best offensive tackle in the state. Tobias Palmer from Northwood High School was another top 20 prospect and the No. 3 cornerback in the state. Although injured as a senior, Mario Carter from Independence High School was the consensus No. 2 tight end in North Carolina this year. Wakefield High standout TJ Graham gave the Wolfpack the No. 2 wide receiver in the state and Earl Wolff from Hoke County was considered to be the No. 5 safety in Scout's rankings.
The prevailing theme when O'Brien was hired at NC State was that his staff were tremendous evaluators of talent but didn't boast the ace recruiters needed to win over the blue-chip talent. That notion was thrown out the window after the Pack landed early commitments from Carter, Maddox, Barnes, Manning, Wallace and most recently Mattes. All six of those players boasted offers from the likes of Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Clemson and Auburn.
Assistant coaches Jason Swepson, Jim Bridge, Andy McCollum and Jerry Petercuskie were especially important with this particular group of players but the entire staff, from Tom O'Brien to the academic and support staff played a role in pulling off State's impressive haul of in-state talent.
Headed forward, every year brings it's own set of challenges but the future appears bright for NC State as it begins to turn the page to the class of 2009. Next year promises to be a little deeper than 2008 and already, it appears the skill positions will be a position of strength within North Carolina. That should work to the Pack's advantage as those spots will likely receive quite a bit of attention from the Wolfpack staff. Unlike the class of 2008, O'Brien and crew will have had the advantage of jumping on this crop of prospects early in their junior year. This gives the opportunity to build relationships at a much earlier stage and the ability to extend scholarship offers much sooner than with the current class. The unofficial kickoff to next year's recruiting will be on March 1st when the Pack hosts their annual junior day. Based on the results of this past year, Wolfpack fans have every reason to be ecstatic about the possibilities for the class of 2009.