With the class of 2009 now in the books, Pack Pride takes a look back at some of the highs and lows, jewels and sleepers of the Wolfpack's latest recruiting effort.>
Biggest recruiting battle won...Asa Watson from Rock Hill (SC) High School
Watson was our choice for biggest recruiting battle won, not because the Pack beat out numerous big-time programs for his commitment, but simply because they invested so much in getting him to NC State.
The Pack identified Watson early on as one of their top targets regardless of position and went all out to get him to Raleigh. However, the road to that commitment wasn’t a given and there were several prior connections for Watson to other schools that complicated the issue.
Watson’s father played at Maryland and they were a heavy contender from day one. Watson’s brother played at Duke before transferring to Georgia. Additionally, academics were a huge part of Watson’s decision which gave Duke a solid chance.
Location came into play as the recruiting year wore on which reduced Maryland’s chances and raised the possibilities for the Blue Devils and Wolfpack. The ace for the Pack was during their preparation for the bowl game. State hammered Watson during that stretch with attention by letting him know they were an up and coming program with the results on the field to prove it.
Once Watson made his official visit to State, the coaches paired him with QB Russell Wilson and fellow South Carolinian LB Sterling Lucas. This was the move that went a long way towards sealing the deal. Personality-wise, they couldn’t have made a better match. Watson wasted little time in committing to the Pack after completing his official visit.
One that got away...DT Edwin Herbert from City College of San Francisco (CA)
Defensive tackle was clearly a major point of emphasis in the class of 2009 and no name was more important at the time than Edwin Herbert.
Herbert committed to Army out of high school but didn’t qualify academically and ultimately ended up as a Tennessee commitment. However, a coaching change at Tennessee opened the door with his recruiting and NC State immediately took center stage.
The Pack hosted Herbert on an official visit and afterwards, everything looked good for NC State although they were unable to secure a commitment.
Herbert would follow up his trip to State with an official visit to Arkansas although they weren’t considered to be a major threat at the time. The deal breaker would prove to be Florida. Herbert would visit the Gators while they were preparing for the national championship game and this proved too much for the Pack to overcome. Herbert, a four-star prospect according to Scout.com would commit to Florida before leaving from his official visit.
Curiosity factor...DE Darryl Cato-Bishop
Darryl Cato-Bishop flew almost exclusively under the recruiting radar for a couple of reasons. First, he played at a small private school in Massachusetts that wasn’t a regular stop for major division one colleges. Secondly, for much of 2008, Cato-Bishop wasn’t sure if he wanted to pursue a future in football or basketball. He boasted scholarship offers from several smaller colleges for hoops which gave him several options to consider.
However, it was an official visit to NC State that put any questions to rest for Cato-Bishop. He raved about the future of Wolfpack football which left no doubt the path he would choose for the next four or five years.
Athletically, Cato-Bishop was literally head and shoulders above the competition he played with and against in high school which made scouting him all the more difficult. He is a tremendous overall athlete which is supported by his achievements on the hardwood in addition to football. Cato-Bishop boasts great size but also the speed, agility and quickness to succeed whether it be at tight end or defensive end. It is safe to say he is a work in progress and his best days lie ahead but everything is in place for him to become a solid contributor for NC State down the road.
Jewel of the class...WR Bryan Underwood
This was a very difficult selection this year. Across the board NC State boasts so many commitments in this class that project equally- making this choice very tough.
However, the player we selected was Underwood. He may not be a five-star all-american according to the recruiting gurus but we believe he has the skill set to become a stellar player for the Wolfpack before all is said and done.
During the recruiting year he boasted early offers from Cincinnati and Colorado, followed by West Virginia and North Carolina. Tulsa, Texas Tech, Kansas, NC State, Boston College, Indiana, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Michigan followed.
However, it was a trip to NC State last spring that laid the foundation for a commitment from Underwood in October. Although somewhat smallish at 5-10, 170 pounds, Underwood gives the Pack one of the offensive weapons they were missing in 2008. Timed as low as 4.32-seconds in the 40-yard dash, he is a cat-quick receiver that should do well playing in the slot. His addition gives State more speed and quickness at the receiver spot with the potential to take shorter passes and make people miss once the ball’s in his hands.
While it’s certainly possible Underwood could see the field in some capacity in 2009, a redshirt year to get stronger and acclimate to the game may be a best case scenario. Regardless, in time we think Underwood will emerge as a household name with Wolfpack fans. (Past winners- Mike Glennon, George Bryan, Andre Brown, TA McLendon, Mario Williams, DeMario Pressley)
Sleeper of the class...DE Deion Roberson
This was probably one of the easier choices for the class of 2009. Headed into his senior year Deion Roberson was a player poised to emerge as one of the southeast’s big-time prospects. However, a severe ankle injury derailed those plans and left Roberson on the sidelines for the entire 2008 season.
Before the injury Roberson had been offered by Memphis, West Virginia, NC State, Louisville, East Carolina, Michigan State, Maryland, Iowa State, Georgia Southern and South Alabama.
Sources told Pack Pride that everything pointed to major powers like Florida, Alabama and Tennessee getting involved had it not been for the injury. As it would turn out, State would still have to fend off Auburn who made a late push although Roberson had no intentions from turning away from the loyalty shown by the Wolfpack.
The first order of business with Roberson will be for him to recuperate 100% from the injury. It is believed there should be no long-lasting effects from the dislocated ankle he suffered way back in September.
If and when he does return, look out. Roberson has all the natural skills to become a tremendous defensive lineman. He boasts very solid lower body strength and push and should give the Pack the run-stuffing, lane-clogging defensive tackle they need for down the road. Roberson is still fairly raw which, on the positive side, means he doesn’t have a lot of bad habits to break. Time with defensive line coach Keith Willis will do wonders for his progression.
Oftentimes it can take a little longer before you see the results from a defensive lineman. Strength and maturity are a big part of that equation and it takes time to get there. However, perhaps by later in year two and certainly in years three and four, look for Roberson to be a huge part of the Wolfpack’s defensive interior. (Past winners- TJ Graham, Curtis Underwood, Manny Lawson, Jamesly Jean, Jeremy Gray, Matt Kushner)
Recruiter of the year...Tight Ends coach Jim Bridge
Some schools like to boast that ace recruiter that gets the headlines and makes a splash nationally on the recruiting trail. NC State is not one of those schools. The Pack uses a team approach to recruiting with every piece of the puzzle being as significant as the next. From support staff to current players, to position coaches and the head coach himself- every person has their own special role in the recruiting process at NC State.
With that said, we reluctantly have to choose a recruiter of the year, if for no other reason than the fact we’ve been doing it for the last nine classes.
After landing players like RJ Mattes, Sterling Lucas and Terrell manning in the class of 2008, there was no let up from tight end’s coach Jim Bridge with the class of 2009.
He landed the Pack’s two four-star prospects in OL Denzelle Good and TE Asa Watson. In two years Bridge has landed four players from South Carolina after NC State had landed just one over the previous five-plus years. This has helped establish the Pack as a recruiting threat in a state where they had virtually no presence just a few years back.
The Pack’s emergence in Georgia has been well documented as well. Bridge’s success with DL Deion Roberson supported the tremendous job done in that state by LB coach Andy McCollum.
When all was said and done, Bridge would account for six of NC State’s 27 commitments. He was instrumental in landing in-state pledges QB Everett Proctor along with DE Sylvester Crawford as well as South Carolina WR Quintin Payton. (Past winners- Jim Bridge, Tom O’Brien, entire Pack staff, Joe Pate, Curt Cignetti, Doc Holliday)