CFN: N.C. State Preview

N.C. State struggled out of the gate in Tom O'Brien's first season, but it came back strong late in the year. While this year's team won't be flashy, it should be more sound with a few great players, like TE Anthony Hill, on both sides of the ball.

- 2008 CFN NC State Preview | 2008 NC State Offense 
- 2008 NC State Defense | 2008 NC State Depth Chart 
- 2007 CFN NC State Preview | 2006 CFN NC State Preview 

Head coach: Tom O'Brien
2nd year: 5-7
12th year overall: 80-52
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 12, Def. 13, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 25
Ten Best State Players
1. DE Willie Young, Jr.
2. DT Alan-Michael Cash, Jr.
3. RB Jamelle Eugene, Jr.
4. TE Anthony Hill, Sr.
5. RB Andre Brown, Sr.
6. WR Donald Bowens, Jr.
7. LB Nate Irving, Soph.
8. CB Jeremy Gray, Sr.
9. RB Toney Baker, Jr.
10. OG Curtis Crouch, Sr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 28 at South Carolina
Sept. 6 William & Mary
Sept. 13 at Clemson
Sept. 20 East Carolina
Sept. 27 South Florida
Oct. 4 Boston College
Oct. 11  OPEN DATE
Oct. 16 Florida State
Oct. 25 at Maryland
Nov. 8 at Duke
Nov. 15 Wake Forest
Nov. 22 at North Carolina
Nov. 29 Miami

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 5-7

Sept. 1 UCF L 25-23
Sept. 8 at Boston Coll L 37-17
Sept. 15
Wofford W 38-17
Sept. 22 Clemson L 42-20
Sept. 29 Louisville  L 29-10
Oct. 6 at Florida State L 27-10
Oct. 20
at East Carolina W 34-20
Oct. 27 Virginia W 29-24
Nov. 3 at Miami W 19-16 OT
Nov. 10
North Carolina W 31-27
Nov. 17 at Wake Forest L 38-18
Nov. 24 Maryland L 37-0

With a rocky first season now in the rear view mirror, head coach Tom O’Brien is ready to enter the next phase of his rebuilding plan at NC State. While the talent gap with the rest of the league persists, a lack of familiarity with the coach and his expectations does not.
O’Brien spent much of his first season assessing the personnel he inherited, breaking the players out of bad habits, and putting his stamp of discipline on the program. Despite being saddled with a dearth of top-end athletes across the board, even if there were some great ones here and there to work around, several injuries, and a dismal quarterback situation, the coach nearly guided his rag-tag bunch into the postseason following a 1-5 start. A four-game winning streak wound up being not quite enough to land a bonus game, but it did provide some momentum for a wayward program that had lost 12 of its previous 13 games.  
To be a player in the ACC, NC State knows it needs to elevate the overall level of skill and talent, particularly under center. It’s going to take time, meaning fans should be patient with O’Brien’s blueprint for success at the school. Remember, Boston College was in shambles when the coach arrived, but when he left, it was a model of stability and success, especially in the postseason.

Even though patience might be preached, it might not be necessary. Few coaches do more with less than O’Brien, and he has quickly changed around the culture and the discipline of the program. While past Pack teams could come up with a monster win here and there, and then choke away the gimme, O’Brien should have his team going the other way, beating everyone it should while hoping to steal a game or two against the bigger boys.

With O’Brien’s style of coaching, and considering all the other good programs in the conference, the program might not get the Mario Williams-type of prospects on a regular basis like it did under Chuck Amato, but that’s not a big deal. O’Brien will keep getting his guys, and he’ll keep winning with them.
What to look for on offense: How quickly rookie Mike Glennon can get up to speed. He’s only a freshman, but he’s also the eventual savior for an offense that’s been pining for a big-time quarterback since Philip Rivers graduated. Does he take over in 2009, or can he actually overcome a huge disadvantage in experience to surpass four middling veterans? While it’s unlikely Tom O’Brien will give him the ball for the opener at South Carolina, don’t be shocked if the Glennon era begins at some point early on.  
What to look for on defense
: The front four. To make progress on defense, State needs to keep as many plays as possible from reaching a suspect back seven. Fortunately, the defensive line has enough quality to help out its brethren at linebacker and in the secondary. On the outside, Willie Young has emerged as one of the ACC’s fiercest pass rushers. On the inside, Alan-Michael Cash is a disruptive run defender who gets penetration. End Markus Kuhn and tackle Antoine Holmes are solid supporters, giving the Wolfpack a defensive line capable of generating a push and limiting the time quarterbacks have to throw.
This team will be much better if… it avoids injuries. A year ago, NC State was a weekly MASH unit, stifling O’Brien’s ability to develop any continuity or chemistry within the two-deep. At most positions, the Wolfpack simply doesn’t have enough depth to endure a repeat of 2007, needing to stay healthy in order to use last season as a stepping stone.
The Schedule: It's tough early, not that bad late. Going to South Carolina and Clemson in the first two weeks is hardly a way
to boost the confidence of a still rebuilding team, and non-conference home games against East Carolina and South Florida will be interesting, but the season will be made or broken in a three-week midseason stretch hosting Boston College and Florida State wrapped around an off-week. A second half stretch of three road games in four would seem tough, but the games are against Maryland, Duke and North Carolina along with a week off to rest up.
Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Jamelle Eugene. At the beginning of last season, Eugene was a third-stringer, a spare part in a loaded Wolfpack backfield. By the end of last season, he was the program’s best offensive weapon, leading the team in rushing and finishing second in receptions. He topped 100 yards versus Florida State, Virginia, and North Carolina, no small task considering the lack of support he got up front. 
Best Defensive Player: Junior DE Willie Young. Everyone knew the physical talent was there, but for Young, the light went on last year. A physically gifted speed rusher with an explosive first step, he racked up 48 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, six sacks, and 24 quarterback hurries. If he continues to work on and off the field, a spot on the All-ACC team awaits. 
Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Daniel Evans. Or whoever gets the ball from O’Brien. With Jamelle Eugene, Andre Brown, and Toney Baker back in the fold, the running game should be so much better than last year. Give them competent play behind center, however, and they’ll be fantastic. The Pack needs balance and fewer mistakes at quarterback to begin making strides on offense.
The season will be a success if ... the Pack reaches .500. There are no delusions of grandeur here, as NC State attempts to create momentum under O’Brien and his staff. A bowl game would be fantastic, but not the only measure of success for the program. If the Pack can improve on last year while being more competitive against the ACC’s better schools, it’ll qualify as something to build on for 2009.  
Key game: Sept. 20 vs. East Carolina. If the Wolfpack has any hopes of copping a bowl bid, it can ill-afford a repeat of last season’s 1-5 start. With tough road games at South Carolina and Clemson in September, the visit from the rival Pirates is a game the Pack has to win. If it fails to hold serve, the season could start circling the drain.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Average yards per carry: Opponents 4.3 – NC State 3.0
- Second quarter scoring: Opponents 125 – NC State 74
- Red zone scoring: Opponents 45 of 54 (83%) – NC State 29 of 41 (71%)

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