Johnson: What have we learned?

It is halfway through NC State's 2008 season, and even Tom O'Brien doesn't know what his team's identity is yet.

"It's hard to evaluate because we had so many different pieces and parts in and out that we can't really tell who we are," O'Brien said. "Each week we're a different football team trying to put a gameplan together."

So the team might not have an identity yet, but that doesn't mean we haven't learned something about this year's team. Here a look at what we thought we knew, and what actually was true about the Pack through six games.

What we thought about the win-loss record:
The optimists among Pack fans thought the team might win seven games, the pessimist thought they might win three. Most thought that with a few breaks the team could compete for a bowl game. The ACC media picked the Pack last in its division, but as Tom O'Brien so eloquently put it, ‘consider the source.'

What we learned:
The Pack hasn't gotten any breaks so far. Barring some sort of miracle, seven wins isn't happening. Any hopes of that kind of breakout year rested on stealing one of the Clemson/USC/USF games and then beating Boston College, neither of which happened. A bowl eligible record isn't as impossible but has to be considered improbable unless this team gets a lot better over the bye week.

What we thought about the quarterbacks:
When the race was narrowed to three – Daniel Evans, Mike Glennon and Russell Wilson, there was a varied opinion on who was the best choice. But the general logic was Evans would be serviceable but not great while Glennon and Wilson had upside but were riskier choices. Oh, and we thought Harrison Beck would never see the field. The Wilson pick was not surprising and met by cautious optimism.

What we learned:
Evans has actually regressed as a quarterback, losing whatever confidence he had gained last year. Glennon won't see a snap, Beck has seen plenty – winning a game against William & Mary but performing less than spectacularly in all of his other appearances.

The good news for NC State is that Wilson appears to be the real deal. He was knocked out of the game against South Carolina and some thought he struggled versus Clemson. What he tried to do was limit mistakes. While he completed just 10-of-21 passes for 92 yards and a pick in his first full start, six of those passes were intentional throws out of bounds and he also had two drops. In his other 13 passes, Wilson completed 10 of them.

He really came on in his next two games. Facing two solid defenses in East Carolina and Boston College, Wilson completed 40-of-64 passes (62.5%) with four passing touchdowns, zero interceptions while averaging 214 yards through the air. Add in two scores on the ground and he's accounted for six touchdowns in two games, igniting a stagnant Wolfpack offense.

The most impressive feat may be that he has led the Wolfpack offense on two game-tying fourth quarter drives in the final four minutes of both games. Not bad for a redshirt freshman... and he looks to be improving.

What we thought about the linebackers and secondary:
It was pretty obvious that this was going to be an inexperienced, thin group of players when true freshmen and former walk-ons started appearing on the two-deep. Still, we thought the defensive line would be good enough to make up for some of the problems and that the unit would be able to at least hold its own.

What we learned:
For the first three games of the year it looked like the secondary would be good enough to get the job done. Then East Carolina had some success spreading out receivers while at the same time the Pack lost Nate Irving (who had been the team's best defensive player) and Alan-Michael Cash (its best defensive lineman).

South Florida and Boston College then torched the Pack for nearly 80 points and over 1,000 yards of total offense in two games.

The lack of depth and experience is really catching up to the back seven and if the front four doesn't get pressure NC State will continue to struggle on the defensive side of the ball.

What we thought about the skill position players:
After a strong ending to the 2007 season, Jamelle Eugene would be the leader, Andre Brown would give the team a one-two punch, and Toney Baker should be a factor as well.

In the passing game, NC State was expected to lean on tight end Anthony Hill, who was back after missing all of last year, and junior Donald Bowens, an emerging star at wide receiver.

What we learned:
Injuries have hampered the progress of the tailbacks and wideouts, but they have allowed younger players to emerge and show that the future is very bright for NC State on the offensive side of the ball.

Baker has yet to play and is out for the season. Eugene was injured in the team's final scrimmage and missed the first three games with an ankle injury. Andre Brown stepped up as you hope a senior would and has performed admirably through the first six games. With Eugene now back, the duo should be vital to NC State's success over the final six games.

At tight end, Anthony Hill hasn't been much of a factor. He was injured in the season opener, and missed the next four games before returning against Boston College. Redshirt freshman George Bryan has been the surprise of the offense. He is second on the team in receptions (15) and leads the team with two touchdown catches. Bryan is making a case for All-ACC honors, as among tight ends, he is tied for first in touchdown catches and tied for second in overall receptions. Bryan has had zero drops and continues to improve each week.

At wide receiver, Bowens' season ended before it started with a back injury. After a shaky start to the season, the wide receivers have began to make plays, particularly Jarvis Williams, Owen Spencer, and T.J. Graham. Williams is tied with Bryan for the most touchdown receptions on the team, Spencer leads the Wolfpack in catches (17) and yardage (323), and Graham has been a terror as a vertical threat and on special teams. Without a junior or senior in the current rotation, we're learning very fast that NC State should be scary good at wideout over the next few years.

What we thought about the offensive line:
That despite a make-shift line, the coaches so well renown for coaching great offensive linemen would gel this group together. The offensive line, if it played great, could make all the difference.

What we learned:
Expectations were right on target here, as the offensive line has recovered from a shaky start to put together several solid performances. Despite injuries to Curtis Crouch and Julian Williams, you haven't heard much about them in recent weeks - which means they are getting the job done.

What we thought about Tom O'Brien:
That he's a no nonsense coach that would get the program on track, but maybe not this year.

What we learned:
That he's a no nonsense coach that will get the program on track, but not this year. Oh, and he hates talking about injuries.

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