Watch Out!

This feature story is from the March 2009 issue of the Pack Pride Magazine and focuses on NC State's 2008 offensive scout team. To learn more about our publication and how to subscribe, click on the link inside ...

This feature story is from the March 2009 issue of the Pack Pride Magazine that will be shipping in a few weeks. CLICK HERE to learn more about the publication!

Watch Out!

The 2008 Wolfpack Scout Team Offense Took on an Identity of Its Own

Pack Pride Magazine
March 2009
WORDS: Chip Bremer
PHOTOS: Jeff Reeves

cout teams usually have the thankless job of simulating future opponents in practices against the first team units. However, because they are typically comprised of redshirt freshmen and sophomores, these teams also offer a glimpse of the talent that is on the way – and this year's offensive and defensive squads showcased a great deal of NC State's football future. Here is a look at the players who made up the 2008 scout teams, and the potential impact they could make in 2009 and beyond.

In the midst of NC State's dramatic mid-season turnaround this past year, the defensive unit began making significant strides from game to game. Many credit this improvement to the return of several key players from injury (Nate Irving, Alan-Michael Cash, Clem Johnson, etc.), while others believe it was a result of the players finally coming around to zone schemes implemented last season by defensive coordinator Mike Archer. But probably one of the most overlooked reasons is the fact that they were facing one of the toughest challenges every week in practice – the NC State Offensive Scout Team.

Usually, scout teams get little credit for the way they help prepare the starting units for upcoming games. But according to Defensive Graduate Assistant Jeff Archer, who runs the offensive scout team, the amount of available redshirting talent and the take-no-prisoners attitude of this year's scout squad helped pave the way for a successful defensive campaign down the stretch.

"The scout team's success helped our defense build momentum and gain confidence because the players got realistic looks each week," said Archer. "Most defenses aren't used to facing a team this talented in practice, and this group of guys wasn't going to put up with anything just because they were freshmen. These guys gave our defense a battle each week. It didn't matter who was across the line from them – they were going to hit someone in the mouth on every play!"

Archer, a second-year graduate assistant and son of the Pack's current defensive coordinator, professes the talent on this year's offensive scout team is more abundant than in previous years. However, what really set them apart was their work ethic and their determination to not only be the best simulation of an upcoming opponent's offense, but also the best at dominating their opponents. The scout team players even took on their own identity as a cohesive unit and prided themselves as a team that no defense would want to face.

"These guys didn't consider themselves scout team players – they were their own unit," said Archer. "This was their identity. They didn't care who they were going up against – they wanted to run it down their throats, pancake the person across from them, beat a defensive back deep – they wanted to succeed every single play. They all had a swagger, and they carried a big stick."

"Mike has grown tremendously working with us each week because he was able to build confidence going against the first-team defense on a daily basis."

Next season, several of them will be competing for playing time and perhaps even a starting spot – even though the offense has plenty of returning experience at virtually every position. Here's a brief look at the scout team offense by position:

Even though he hasn't yet taken a snap in a college game, every Wolfpack fan is familiar with Mike Glennon. The 6'6" gunslinger from Chantilly, Virginia has been labeled everything from Russell Wilson's heir apparent to the next Phillip Rivers. But to pigeonhole Glennon in such a way would be a crime. He showed in practice that not only does he have a cannon for an arm and pinpoint accuracy, he is also an effective leader whether as a drop-back passer or a scrambling quarterback.

His athletic ability and his flexibility in different playing styles helped earn him the Offensive Scout Team MVP honors this year – which is quite an accomplishment considering all of the other scout team standouts around him. By all reports, he is the most talented prospect NC State has had at the quarterback position in several years, and his experience on the scout team has helped him to build upon that reputation.

"Mike has grown tremendously working with us each week because he was able to build confidence going against the first-team defense on a daily basis," said Archer. "To be a great quarterback, you have to have that kind of experience. Russell went through the same thing last year working with the scout team. By going against those guys in practice, Mike not only embraced that leadership role, he also took on a competitive role as well."

Wolfpack fans are already salivating at the prospects of a quarterback position battle that will rage all through spring drills. Even if Wilson maintains his starting spot behind center, you can bet Glennon will be ready to step in whenever the need arises.

Running Backs
When simulating an opposing offense, it always helps to have tailbacks that can offer multiple looks; and Archer had two such options in Brandon Barnes and Travis Leggett.

Much like Glennon, Barnes is a blue-chip recruit that arrived with a multitude of skills and a reputation as a game-changer. In practices, he showed all the tangibles of a dominant speed back – good quickness, lateral movement, great field vision – and he could potentially emerge as a serious threat catching passes out of the backfield. Even if he doesn't beat out the likes of Jamelle Eugene and Curtis Underwood for a spot on the two-deep next season, he will certainly make an impact on special teams or even third-down situations.

While Barnes was the slasher/speedster in the backfield, Leggett was the power back that nobody wanted to face. At 5'11", 210 pounds, Leggett is more like a freight train – and he's tough to stop once he gets going. The first-teamers on defense always knew they would have their hands full if he got the ball, and he soon earned a reputation as one of the toughest guys to bring down. Even though this walk-on from West Columbus High didn't get much recruiting attention, he has already turned heads at the NC State practice facility and will certainly be in the mix at tailback in the near future.

"Brandon was the quick, east-west back that would make you miss."

"Both of these guys were outstanding from day one and they did everything we asked them to do," said Archer. "Brandon was the quick, east-west back that would make you miss, and Travis was the north-south back that was not afraid to lower his head and run right through you. Each week, our opponents used different types of backs, and I was lucky enough to have both kinds to pick from."

At fullback, Archer had a mix of personnel throughout the year. At the start of the season, Donovan Counts was moved to receiver to help add depth at that position, so walk-on linebacker Asante Cureton moved over to play fullback for the first couple of weeks. Then, walk-on David Hyde joined the team and made an immediate impact with the coaches.

"He did a great job for us from the time he first took the field," Archer said of Hyde. "I really enjoyed working with David because he was a quiet kid who never played the position before and he was definitely up for the challenge of sticking his head in the chin of our starting linebackers."

The future at the position, though, is 6'2", 225-pound Colby Jackson, who had to sit out much of the season because of the injury he suffered during his senior season of high school. He didn't get to show much during practices, but his potential was certainly evident.

"When Colby came back from injury, he was very hesitant at first – which most freshmen in his situation are," said Archer. "But he has some raw talent, and will help this team tremendously in the next four years. He is going to be a load in the backfield once he grows into the position."

If there was one position the scout team may have lacked true blue-chip talent, it would be at receiver. Yet, Archer will tell you that having an experienced receiving corps comprised of seniors Evan Dooley and Andrew Evans and sophomore Paul Horst was probably the best thing for the entire unit because of how they took on leadership roles.

"Not only were those three guys the leaders of this group, they were also assistant coaches for me," he said. "They were veterans that have been here for a while, so they know how things are supposed to run. Sometimes it is very difficult to be able to get the right people in and show them the plays, but these guys handled it very well."

While all the receivers (including part-timer Donovan Counts) weren't heavily recruited athletes coming out of high school, they do possess solid skills, good hands and a solid feel for the game. Horst, in particular, was one who surprised coaches in practice. His skills and his leadership earned him Scout Team Player of the Week honors several times, and he has the potential to join the Pack's group of talented receivers in the near future.

"Paul is going to be a great receiver, and he's going to help this team in a few years," said Archer. "He has great hands and size and is definitely a leader who isn't afraid to get in someone's face."

Tight End
Another player with outstanding potential is tight end Mario Carter. When he first arrived on campus, he was still recovering from a knee injury that marred a promising senior year at Charlotte Independence. However he went right to work, adding bulk to his 6'4", 220-230-lb. frame, and learning the offense. By mid-season, he weighed somewhere in the 250-260 range, and had made a significant impact on the scout team. He demonstrated great hands and outstanding blocking skills, but there were other intangibles that set him apart.

"Mario is a special player with a lot of talent, but what makes him special is his swagger. Once he gets stronger, his athletic ability will show people why he is going to be a great tight end."

"Mario is a special player with a lot of talent, but what makes him special is his swagger," said Archer. "In football, you have to have a little bit of swagger, and I think his comes from the success he had in high school. Mario's size and speed is going to help the future of this program. Once he gets stronger, his athletic ability will show people why he is going to be a great tight end."

Carter was joined by junior Loid Atkinson, a 6'5", 235-pound walk-on from Wilmington who was also an experienced scout team member from previous years. Having Carter and Atkinson in on multiple-tight end sets not only helped the defense prepare for those plays, but also indicated that the Pack might not be as thin at the tight end position as some thought early on.

Offensive Line
Having talented freshmen like Glennon, Barnes and Carter is one thing, but as Archer pointed out, the one unit that really stood out and made the offensive scout team so effective was the offensive line. Headlined by 2008 recruits R.J. Mattes (6'6, 295 lbs.), Zach Allen (6'3, 300 lbs.) and Andrew Wallace (6'5, 280 lbs.), this line turned out to be as tough and physically-imposing as any the Wolfpack defense would face all season.

"I knew it was going to be a fun year from that first week of practice and I saw these guys going up against the starting defense and wanting to run right over them," said Archer. "They weren't afraid to have a few altercations here and there, and they would definitely get in the face of some of our defensive guys. They went hard on every play, giving a more realistic look each week – and it made our defense that much better."

The play of Mattes, Allen and Wallace, in particular, turned heads all over camp. Archer refers to them as his "war daddies" because of the way they fought in the trenches, and Coach O'Brien even commented at times that they would likely challenge for positions on the starting offensive line next year. All three of them demonstrated superior footwork and blocking techniques that will make them dominant performers down the road.

"Everyone knows that football games are won in the trenches," said Archer, "and to have those guys on the scout team as freshmen, I was very, very lucky."

"They were fun to coach, and they're going to be fun to watch. Just seeing these guys pancaking our own defensive starters in practice – you have to think NC State's in good shape heading into the future."

Mattes took most of the snaps at left tackle, while the guard positions were manned by Allen and Wallace. Redshirt freshman Henry Lawson centered the line, but often wore a red jersey signifying that he may need to be pulled at any time to play on the line with the first- or second-team offensive unit. The right tackle position was manned by a combination of redshirt sophomore Gary Gregory (who also wore a red jersey) and freshman walk-on Cameron Hardesty. The 6'6", 290-lb. Hardesty was not as heavily-recruited as some of his line mates, but he has the potential to become a part-time contributor in the mold of current senior and former walk-on Meares Green.

"They were fun to coach, and they're going to be fun to watch," Archer said of his linemen. "Just seeing these guys pancaking our own defensive starters in practice – you have to think NC State's in good shape heading into the future."

A Bright Future
With so much talent on this year's offensive scout team, it's hard to imagine many of these players returning to the same duties next season. At least six (Glennon, Barnes, Carter, Mattes, Allen and Wallace) are expected to challenge for starting positions in the spring, and several more could at least see the field on special teams. But the thing that really sets them apart is their pride in making everyone around them better football players. If that attitude can be translated to the field next season, the immediate future for Wolfpack football will be as bright as it has been in years.

"Again, I was very lucky to be with such a great group of guys – guys who wanted to work hard and be successful in every phase of the game," said Archer. "These guys can go toe-to-toe with any other scout team in the country. If they can stay together, this group of guys WILL win an ACC championship before they graduate."

This feature story is from the March 2009 issue of the Pack Pride Magazine that will be shipping in a few weeks. CLICK HERE to learn more about the publication!

Pack Pride Top Stories