With their first full year recruiting at NC State, coach O’Brien and company put together an impressive list of players. Pack Pride takes a look back at some of the highs and lows, jewels and sleepers of the class of 2008.
Biggest recruiting battle won...R.J. Mattes from Jay M Robinson High School
Perhaps no other prospect on the NC State recruiting board had a more systematic approach to recruiting than Mattes. He identified five programs early on (NC State, UNC, Virginia, Clemson and South Carolina) and established that he would visit all of them before making a decision on a future school.
Almost from the beginning, word behind the scenes had Clemson as the early favorite and the buzz around Robinson High School during the school year was that the Tigers were the team to beat. Although NC State was on Mattes’ list, they appeared to be no better than third place in the early stages of the recruiting year.
As Mattes began taking unofficial visits during the season he attended the Pack’s matchup with UNC and it was clear that the atmosphere at that game caught his attention. That was important in the battle with Clemson because gameday atmosphere has always been a big part of the Tiger’s sell.
As December and the Shrine Bowl arrived, more and more talk seemed to surface indicating that NC State and Clemson had separated from the pack although most insiders still felt Death Valley would be Mattes’ ultimate destination.
However, the Wolfpack came into their final in-home visit with all guns blazing. They sold O’Brien’s history for putting offensive linemen in the NFL and the OL he had tutored that were still playing in the NFL playoffs at the time. In the final analysis, it was likely this visit that won Mattes over. After making an official visit to South Carolina a few days after this in-home visit, Mattes called the Pack coaches with his commitment.
When you look where State came from at the beginning of Mattes’ recruiting all the way up to un-seating Clemson as his favorite- this was the Wolfpack’s biggest recruiting battle won.
One that got away...Nick Becton from New Hanover High School
Even a couple of months after Becton decided to commit to Virginia Tech, this one still stings. Of all the prospects on the Wolfpack recruiting board, Becton may have had the most upside. While raw now, he has as a world of talent and athleticism and many felt Becton had NFL-caliber potential.
NC State came out strong with Becton and was the first school to offer him a scholarship. East Carolina and South Carolina were the next to fall in line with offers. Virginia Tech would make their pledge when Becton camped there in mid-July. Before all was said and done he would also pick up offers from Alabama and Penn State.
Throughout the recruiting process the Pack appeared to be the team to beat. The State staff connected well with Becton’s parents and it was known that they would factor heavily into his decision. Becton would drive up to State on his own to visit and realistically, it only appeared to be a matter of when, not if, Becton would commit to State.
However, a November trip to Blacksburg for VT’s game with Miami would all but evaporate any lead State might have had. The Pack was able to host Becton roughly two weeks later on an official visit and it appeared to go well but it was clear at that point that the Hokies had forged themselves as a major player.
After that visit, Becton headed to Virginia Tech for an official visit and from there to the Shrine Bowl where his VT recruiter found a way to be in the same restaurant as Becton’s parents and spend time with them. Warning signs of something being up surfaced when Becton indicated that he may cancel the rest of his official visits after his trip to VT.
While on his way back home from the Shrine Bowl, Becton called the Virginia Tech coaches and told them he was committing.
Curiosity factor...Ahmad Jaradat
Pack Pride has never followed high school football in Canada very closely. Well actually, we’ve never followed it at all. However, it’s likely that we will from here on out. The Pack showed interest in a couple of Candian linemen this year and offered Jaradat for a spot at center along the offensive line.
At 6-4, 290 pounds, Jaradat has good size. He also moves surprisingly well and shows quick feet for his size. He is a hard worker with a tremendous attitude- attributes that fit perfectly in coach O’Brien’s philosophy.
Admittedly, Jaradat didn’t play against the best competition and there will be a steep learning curve to adjust to division one football. However, his career got a jump start when he enrolled this past January and the early buzz on him as been positive. While it may be unlikely, it’s not impossible that Jaradat could see playing time before the 2008 season is over.
Jewel of the class...Mike Glennon
During this decade, NC State has landed some amazing high school talent. From Andre Brown and Toney Baker to Mario Williams and DeMario Pressley. You can now add Mike Glennon to that list.
When all was said and done, Glennon received virtually every honor that a high school prospect could earn. He was named a Parade All-American, a SuperPrep All-American and selected to play in the inaugural Under Armour All-Star game and was named the contest’s MVP.
He won a state title and was named all-state, the AP state player of the year and the coach’s state player of the year.
But beyond the honors and awards, what makes Glennon even more special is his easy going demeanor and down-to-earth personality. When talking to him, you’d never know he’s considered one of the top five prep QB’s in the nation. All Glennon wants to do is play and win.
Landing QB’s can be a crap shoot. For every “hit”, there seems to be five “misses” that go with it. While nothing is a guarantee, especially at a position as critical as quarterback- Glennon will come to State with everything a coaching staff could ask for. Should he go on to produce like Baker, Brown, Williams and Pressley, the Pack could become a formidable offensive team over the coming four or five years.
(Past winners- George Bryan, Andre Brown, TA McLendon, Mario Williams, DeMario Pressley)
Sleeper of the class...T.J. Graham
He didn’t put up huge stats as a senior and was rated just a two-star prospect by most recruiting services. As a whole, T.J. Graham didn’t make a huge splash on the recruiting scene throughout the year outside of his verbal commitment to NC State.
However, the fact is very few players in the nation are faster than Graham. He has Alvis Whitted type speed and as the cliche goes, you can’t teach speed. He obviously has a ways to go before his football ability catches up with his natural talent but if it does, Graham has all the potential to grow into an outstanding player for the Wolfpack whether it be at wide receiver, defensive back or on special teams.
It certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see Graham helping the Pack out on kick or punt returns as early as 2008.
(Past winners- Curtis Underwood, Manny Lawson, Jamesly Jean, Jeremy Gray, Matt Kushner)
Recruiter of the year...Jim Bridge
Make no mistake, landing a verbal commitment from a prospect is not the work of just one person. From the head coach to the support and academic staff, it is a team effort from the first day that a player is evaluated.
However, each recruiting coach is responsible for players in their geographical area and lead the charge once a Wolfpack offer is extended. In 2008, tight end’s coach Jim Bridge established himself as one of the nation’s top recruiters. His work was instrumental for the Pack, particularly in the state of North Carolina. He closed out the year by landing the state’s top offensive lineman and beating South Carolina for one of their state’s top lienbackers.
In all Bridge landed six prospects and beat some impressive teams on the recruiting trail along the way. He beat Clemson for Terrell Manning and R.J. Mattes, South Carolina and UNC for Sterling Lucas and Tennessee for Andrew Wallace. He also added Mario Carter and Earl Wolff. (Past winners- Tom O’Brien, entire Pack staff, Joe Pate, Curt Cignetti, Doc Holliday)