Class of 2008 Review: Offensive Line

Pack Pride takes a look back at how the NC State coaches fared recruiting the offensive line for the class of 2008.

Offensive Line

Signees:

- Sam Jones...6-5, 290 pounds...Hargrave Military Academy

- R.J. Mattes...6-6, 260 pounds...Jay M Robinson High School...Concord, NC

- Andrew Wallace...6-5, 270 pounds...Olympic High School...Charlotte, NC

- Zach Allen...6-2, 300 pounds...Tift County High School..Tifton, Ga

- Ahmad Jaradat...6-4, 290 pounds...Catholic Central High School...London, Ontario

How important was this spot in relation to other positions: Critical...The Pack needed talent and depth added to their offensive line and this was a major need for the class of 2008.

Did the Pack meet their needs based on sheer numbers: A

The Pack missed on: Nick Becton, Wade Weibert, T.J. Johnson, Jonathan Cooper, Andrew Mitchell, Michael Via

How many may the Pack target for the class of 2009: 3-4

In all, the Wolfpack inked one offensive lineman that projects at center (Jaradat), two that will likely play tackle (Wallace and Mattes), one that projects at guard (Allen) and another that could play either guard or tackle (Jones). While there were obviously some misses along the way this past year, NC State put together a solid class of linemen for 2008 and had to be thrilled with the final results.

Sam Jones, originally from Fuquay-Varina, was a commitment to NC State under the former Wolfpack coaching staff. Despite growing up a UNC fan, Jones received an early State offer from then-DL coach Todd Stroud. However, the Tom O’Brien regime didn’t immediately re-offer Jones and he ultimately went unsigned last February, in part at least to some degree due to his academic status.

Jones would enroll at Hargrave for 2007 and played extremely well. His long arms and frame would seem better suited for offensive tackle but he moves well enough to also play offensive guard. Regardless, the State coaches liked the progress they saw and made an official offer to Jones in September. While on his official visit in December he committed to State but still flirted with Florida State and East Carolina afterwards. About a week before signing day Jones solidified his pledge to NC State.

Jones is a player that carries his weight amazingly well. He has impressive physical skills given his size and should mature into a consistent contributor for State with time.

Andrew Wallace was one of the more interesting recruiting stories of the year. He came virtually out of nowhere to pick up early offers from Buffalo, Maryland, Miami and Illinois. Interestingly, the in-state schools didn’t get heavily involved until some impressive showings during the combine circuit last spring.

After great showings at the Scout and Adidas combines, Wallace picked up additional offers from South Carolina, UNC, Tennessee and NC State. He would make camp trips to several schools but his visits to NC State and Tennessee would propel the Vols and Pack to the top of the list.

An admitted Wolfpack fan growing up, Wallace struggled with his decision for several weeks during last August. However, the Pack really turned up the recruiting heat and in an ironic twist, Wallace actually told Pack Pride about his commitment to the Pack before ever notifying the State coaches.

What the Wolfpack coaches landed was a player who is raw as an offensive lineman but boasts immense natural ability. Few players Wallace’s size can run the way he does and he has the quick feet that should help him to succeed at offensive tackle. Like Sam Jones, Wallace is a player that is nowhere near what he can become a couple of years down the road. Once he improves his technique and dives full-time into State’s strength and conditioning program, Wallace could become a major contender for playing time.

Last October, NC State recruiting coordinator Jerry Petercuskie headed into Canada and honed in on two offensive linemen. Corey Watman and Ahmad Jaradat landed on the Wolfpack recruiting board. However, it was Jaradat who would come away with an offer when he made his official visit to NC State in December. He would commit to the Pack during his visit and gave State the center prospect they had been looking for in the class of 2008.

Since enrolling early at NC State in January, there has been some buzz indicating that Jaradat has adjusted well and is doing a solid job in off-season conditioning workouts. That, along with the opportunity to participate in spring practice will give Jaradat a leg up on the other offensive linemen that made up the class of 2008.

Probably the biggest adjustment for Jaradat will be the monster jump in talent level that he will face coming from Canada. But the good news is that Jaradat enters NC State a little older than his counterparts and physically, has all the tools to make a run at early playing time. He has a nice frame and size for center and boasts tremendous natural strength- an asset that should only get better with time. Jaradat moves well and has the physical skills that should mesh well with Don Horton’s offensive line schemes.

While on paper it would appear to be a no-brainer that Jaradat would redshirt in 2008, we think he’s one of those sleeper players that, should he get some playing time this season, we certainly wouldn’t be surprised.

One coach referred to Zach Allen as a “motor grader” on the field and that appears fairly accurate. Playing against solid competition in Georgia week in and week out, Allen was considered one of the Peach State’s top offensive linemen. However, his height or lack thereof, likely prevented him from becoming a more highly recruited player.

Like Jaradat, Allen is a player that we feel has the potential to really surprise people down the road. He wasn’t highly recruited, not highly rated and often times that’s enough to propel a player forward to prove the experts wrong.

We’ll concede that Allen doesn’t have prototypical height but he makes up for it in other areas. He’s able to create good leverage on defenders by getting under them and establishing a push. Allen pulls well and moves his feet which is probably a couple of the main reasons NC State was so attracted to him. He does a good job of locking onto defenders and taking them out of the play but will need to improve on getting to the second level. Allen is also a little further ahead in the run game and will need time to refine his technique in pass protection. As he further develops physically and adjusts to the complexity of college football, Allen could one day be another “two-star” player that went on to have a solid career in college.

While signing day was fairly uneventful for NC State, if there was a shocker it was the inking of RJ Mattes. As it turned out though, the surprise actually came earlier in January. While his commitment to the Wolfpack over Clemson has now been well-documented, it can’t be understated how important Mattes’ decision was to NC State. Year after year State has been oh-so-close with numerous blue-chip offensive linemen only to be spurned at the last minute. Landing the talented lineman was a major step in the right direction for the Pack and Tom O’Brien’s desire to build a dominant offensive line.

Of all the offensive line signees, Mattes is clearly the most advanced from a technique standpoint. He is extremely proficient in his knowledge of the position and has been ultra-successful on the high school level because of that. Perhaps at no other time was that more evident than his performance against DL DaQuan Bowers at the Shrine Bowl last December. Mattes kept the Clemson commitment in check all day, something none of the offensive linemen at the Under Armour All-Star game could accomplish.

Mattes is equally adept at pass and run blocking. He generates a solid push in the run game, not so much because of his lower body strength but because of his pad level, hand placement and footwork. In the passing game, he moves his feet well and is able to utilize his hands to keep defenders out of the pocket and away from the QB.

While he will obviously need to learn much more to transition to college, what actually may determine how soon Mattes hits the field for NC State will be his physical development. The good news is he is not a player that the Wolfpack coaches will need to break down before rebuilding his physique. Instead, Mattes will need to simply work on getting stronger, particularly in his lower body while maintaining or improving his flexibility and agility.

It would appear likely that Mattes will redshirt in 2008 but if he is able to make the physical gains necessary, he is a definite candidate to see some playing time in 2009.


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