Spring Spotlight: Offensive Line

Few offenses can be successful without a solid line, and for NC State's offense to take the next step the Wolfpack needs better production from this young, athletic unit.

  • SPRING SPOTLIGHT: QUARTERBACKS
  • SPRING SPOTLIGHT: TAILBACKS
  • SPRING SPOTLIGHT: TIGHT ENDS
  • SPRING SPOTLIGHT: WIDE RECEIVERS

    RETURNING CONTRIBUTORS
    #76 OG Curtis Crouch: 6'6 324 - Senior
    # C/OG Meares Green: 6'4 306 - Redshirt Senior
    #73 OT Julian Williams: 6'5 305 - Redshirt Junior
    #50 OT Jeraill McCuller: 6'7 330 - Redshirt Junior
    #70 OT Jake Vermiglio: 6'5 315 - Sophomore

    NC State loses two starters from last year's offensive line in Kalani Heppe and Luke Lathan but return five players who have started multiple games against ACC competition.

    Jake Vergmiglio

    Look for the Wolfpack coaching staff to try different combinations where they can potentially get all five of those players on the field in 2008.

    The most impressive last season had to be junior left tackle Julian Williams. At 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, Williams anchored the Wolfpack's offensive line by protecting the quarterback's blindside. His first year as a starter, Williams started eight games, playing in nine while missing three after injuring his knee midseason.

    Emerging when Williams went down was true freshman Jake Vermiglio. Hailing from Milford (NY) Prep via Michigan, the 6-foot-5, 315-pounder made three starts for the Wolfpack during his first season. He started at left tackle in the wins over East Carolina, Virginia, and Miami, excelling in all three, and rotated with Williams over the final three games of the year.

    His best performance came against two of the league's best defensive linemen. He was named Rookie of the Week after playing 77 offensive snaps against Virginia. Going up against ACC Defensive Player of the Year Chris Long for much of the day, he earned a grade of 85, limiting Long to five tackles and one sack and allowing quarterback Daniel Evans to have one of the best days of his career. With Vermiglio on the line, NC State accumulated 347 yards passing and 431 yards overall as the Wolfpack pulled off the upset win. He followed that effort up by squaring off against Miami's Calais Campbell, a potential first round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft and a two-time All-ACC honoree. Vermiglio kept the 6-foot-8, 280-pounder in check all game, limiting him to one tackle as NC State upset Miami 16-13 in Coral Gables.

    Vermiglio's emergence gives NC State some options as the Wolfpack could continue to rotate him and Williams at left tackle or slide one of them down to left guard to replace Heppe and get both on the field.

    Jeraill McCuller

    One notable position switch that could be a positive move for the Wolfpack is the decision to slide Meares Green over to center. The Wolfpack lost Lathan, a two-year starter, but the experienced Green could add stability to the position. At 6-foot-4 and 306 pounds, the former walk on started four games as a sophomore before starting all 11 games in 2007 that he played in. Working primarily at right tackle and right guard, if Green is able to make the move to center, that allows the Wolfpack to get him and Jeraill McCuller on the field at the same time.

    McCuller might have the highest ceiling of all the Wolfpack offensive linemen. At 6-foot-7 and 330 pounds, athletically he moves very well and is a massive specimen at right tackle. Last spring and summer he looked to be one of the bright spots on the Pack's offensive line, but he was arrested on July 21st and charged with driving while impaired, speeding and reckless driving. He didn't dress the first two games of the season, and after receiving some early reps against Wofford, McCuller injured his knee in the Clemson loss and missed another three games before returning against the Cavaliers. He started the final four games of the year, and should lock down the right tackle spot this spring. Just a junior, McCuller has the look of a potential all-league candidate.

    The final returning player is the Pack's most experienced lineman, senior Curtis Crouch. Over the course of his first three years, Crouch has played in a ton of football games. As a true freshman, he played in eight games, including a start in the season finale against Maryland. In 2006, he was the youngest starter on the Pack's ofensive line, starting all 11 games in which he played. He followed that up by starting six of the first seven games in 2007, but after missing the Virginia game with an injury, Crouch served as Green's reserve at right guard the rest of the year. At 6-foot-5 and 325-pounds, Crouch has battled weight problems much of his career, and even with Green moving to center expect Crouch to have to battle the newcomes for the right guard position in 2008.

    POTENTIAL IMPACT NEWCOMERS
    #74 C Andy Barbee: 6'3 310 - Redshirt Junior
    #55 OT Desmond Roberts: 6'4 295 - Redshirt Freshman
    #93 OL John Bedics: 6'4 295 - Redshirt Senior
    #91 OL Ted Larsen: 6'2 285 - Redshirt Junior
    #61 OL Matt White: 6'6 360 - Senior
    #71 OG Gary Gregory: 6'4 305 - Redshirt Sophomore
    #54 OG Henry Lawson: 6'3 285 - Redshirt Freshman
    #60 OL Ahmad Jaradat: 6'4 290 - Freshman

    Ted Larsen

    Andy Barbee isn't a newcomer, but because of Lathan he received minimal snaps in 2007. A redshirt junior out of Shelby, North Carolina, he will battle with Meares Green for the starting center position.

    NC State came really close to playing Desmond Roberts during his true freshman season, but in the end he ended up redshirting and that allowed him to add strength and muscle to his frame. Capable of playing any position along the offensive line, Roberts is currently listed as an offensive tackle and he is expected to back up both spots. Roberts was one of NC State's top recruits in the 2007 class, choosing the Wolfpack over offers from North Carolina, Penn State, and Virginia Tech among others.

    Two wildcards are Ted Larsen and John Bedics, two upperclassmen who played defensive tackle for the Wolfpack in 2007. The duo started three games, recording 22 total tackles. Larsen added three sacks while Bedics picked up one. Both players will likely work at offensive guard, and if they buy into the move they could contend for playing time at either left or right guard.

    Sophomore Gary Gregory, senior Matt White, and two freshmen, Henry Lawson and Ahmad Jaradat, should add depth along the offensive front.

    KEY BATTLES
    With five positions up front, there are a few interesting battles to watch over the next six weeks.

    Curtis Crouch

    The obvious one is at center where Barbee and Green are expected to battle. Barbee has played center all of his career, including three-years as a starter for Shelby (NC) Crest High School. He has plenty of experience playing center, but no real game experience on the college level. Green has 16 career starts under his belt, so he is used to the speed of the game, but he has yet to play center in a college game. Can he handle the transition? Will Barbee step up and win the starting job?

    Look for Larsen or Bedics to challenge Crouch at right guard. Athletically, both of them are a cut above Crouch, but the senior has been a three-year starter at the position. Coming into spring practice in shape will certainly help Crouch's cause, but if either Larsen or Bedics are able to quickly adapt at guard it could be trouble for him.

    There should also be good competition at left tackle between Williams and Vermiglio. Both have proved capable of handling the position and are two of the Pack's best linemen. Don't be surprised if the "reserve" ends up moving inside just so he can get on the field.

    IDEAL SITUATION
    Ideally, the Pack would like to depart fall workouts completely healthy up front with a solid starting five in place. Moving Bedics and Larsen gives Horton some options, and Roberts, Barbee, and Lawson should factor into the equation as well.

    POST-SPRING PREDICTIONS
    Look for Julian Williams to lock down the left tackle spot with Jeraill McCuller being the man at right tackle. This spring, Meares Green will have every opportunity to become the first-string center, assuming he can handle the position change. He's played some center before and that should help. Curtis Crouch will come out of spring as the right guard after dropping some pounds and showing up in great shape. Don't be surprised if Ted Larsen makes a run at the left guard position, but as previously mentioned offensive line coach Don Horton could decide to play Williams or Vermiglio at this spot.


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